Construction, Education, and Real Estate

College opens $7.2M learning lab downtown

January 23, 2017
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GRCC Early Childhood Learning Laboratory partial rendering
A partial rendering of the now-completed Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory in downtown Grand Rapids. Courtesy GRCC

A local college has opened a 24,000-square-foot facility downtown that aims to meet the needs of its child development students and preschoolers.

Grand Rapids Community College opened the Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory at 210 Lyon St. NE on Saturday.

The $7.2-million project broke ground in the summer of 2015.

Layout and features

The one-story building is divided into two halves joined by a community space — one side for preschoolers and one side for infants and toddlers.

GRCC Laboratory Preschool Director JaneAnn Benson said the building also provides classroom space and observation booths on both sides for GRCC child development and education students, as well as faculty offices, private meeting rooms and space for community gatherings.

Each classroom has access to the outdoors, and the building has a children’s library, lockers and designated spaces for students.

Benson said the building won’t entirely replace the learning spaces for child development and education students.

“Like in a biology class, you have your class, and you have your lab,” she said. “We’re the lab.”

The general education and non-lab-related classes for child development and education students will continue to be held in other GRCC buildings.

Laboratory Preschool

The new building will house the Laboratory Preschool program, which was formerly located in First United Methodist Church, at 227 E. Fulton St., since 1974.

Benson said the Laboratory Preschool program allows GRCC child development and education students to learn about how to care for children from six weeks old to six years old and is designed to provide “great services” for children.

She said the preschool's enrollment includes “students’ children, community children, neighborhood children, some here through grant programs for children” and some who are children of “doctors and higher-income individuals."

She said the building was “40 years in coming.”

 “(The First United Methodist) space wasn’t designed for early childhood — or for college students," Benson said. “We shared the space daily with the church on evenings and weekends, and we didn’t have space to meet privately with students or families and certainly not the community.

“Now, early childhood care providers from the community will meet here to learn and share practices that best support children and families.”

She added the building will give the Laboratory Preschool room to grow.

“We will be increasing the number of children we serve, particularly vulnerable infants and toddlers,” Benson said.


The building was named in honor of Phyllis Fratzke, who began the Laboratory Preschool and GRCC’s child development programs.


Grants from foundations and donors funded $3.5 million of the $7.2-million project.

Supporters include Amway, the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, Frey Foundation, Jandernoa Foundation, Kate Pew Wolters, Sebastian Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

GRCC’s Plant Fund and bond financing also provided $2.2 million toward the project.

Additionally, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported the construction with a $1.5-million low-interest loan.

Firms on the project

The project’s architect was Stantec in Farmington Hills.

Stantec also did the building’s interior design.

Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction was the project’s contractor.


Grand Rapids Community College was established in 1914.

The college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes.

Classes are held at GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties and through distance learning.

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