Education, Health Care, and Real Estate

University considers health building for downtown parking lot

December 12, 2014
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GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences is located on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo via

The acquisition of a parking lot in downtown Grand Rapids is viewed as a key strategic move by a university to support the growth of its health care capacity.

Parking lot trade

Grand Valley State University’s Board of Trustees approved this week a property exchange and purchase deal with Spectrum Health along the Medical Mile.

The property deal involved trading GVSU’s .88-acre Lafayette Avenue parking lot for Spectrum Health’s 1.4-acre parking lot on Michigan Street, located next to the GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences.

The move is intended to give GVSU the opportunity to expand its nursing and health professions programs, including the possibility of a building on the site.

GVSU said that in exchange for Spectrum receiving a slightly smaller parking lot, the health system will also receive $1.85 million from GVSU in recognition of the size difference, location and appraisal of each land parcel.

The $1.85 million will be funded through university savings set aside for this type of transaction.

Thomas Haas, president at GVSU, said the two organizations started meeting several months ago to discuss how to create the talent needed for West Michigan and noted the parking lot next to Cook-DeVos would be advantageous for the university.

“We have a very good partnership with Spectrum,” Haas said. “I think it is a pretty creative way to have capacity for both of our institutions. In turn, we had a parking lot that was more adaptive for them to use. We noted the difference in the size of the properties and also the capacity for parking. I think both Spectrum and Grand Valley were very satisfied.”

David Hooker, chair of the board at GVSU, said the property exchange is a smart strategic move for the university’s future.

“Acquiring this property puts Grand Valley in a strong position to continue to educate the health care workers we need now and in the future,” Hooker said.

Demand for health care education

With the acquisition of the property next to the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, Haas said the university has the opportunity to transform the parking lot into a building roughly the same size of the existing health center to address a growing need for talent in health care-related fields.

“We do know that in the health professions there is going to be a very persistent demand — we are seeing that in terms of the application rates that are coming in,” Haas said. “We looked at the needs for the community, and we were able to partner in a very creative way. I think we have an opportunity to enhance and maybe even create additional programs.”

Several of the potential new programs could include post-baccalaureate opportunities and different health-related fields: public health, dietetics, doctorate of occupational therapy, bioengineering and medical imaging.

The collaborative deal with Spectrum Health lines up with the university’s mission to ensure Grand Rapids has an upward trend in attracting and retaining talent in the area, according to Haas.

“This really makes good sense for so many reasons, and the horizon looks very promising, because I know the investments made will impact generations ahead,” Haas said. “I think it is very exciting for me and for others at the university to look ahead and support our region. We have good partnerships with the other delivery systems — Van Andel Institute and Michigan State University, as well with their College of Human Medicine — and what we are really seeing is the ethos of Grand Rapids and West Michigan on being very collaborative and working creatively.”

Long-term plans

GVSU also plans on expanding its health programs over the next 25 years to property it owns north of the I-196 freeway.

GVSU has submitted a capital outlay request up to $30 million to help support future projects related to additional classrooms, laboratories and programs. It is currently on the list for consideration and will eventually be reviewed by state policy makers and state Legislature. 

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