Brownfield approval moves forward new MSU-affiliated medical innovation building

Demolished in 2015, the former Grand Rapids Press building, at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street northwest, accommodated not only the newsroom and editorial offices of the local newspaper, but also housed the printing press that churned out the daily paper from 1966 through 2004. Before moving into that building, which was designed by Daverman Associates, The Grand Rapids Press occupied a classic beaux arts building designed by renowned Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, from 1906 to 1966. Demolished as part of the misguided urban renewal frenzy in 1968, that building was designed to complement the historical Ryerson Building across from Veterans’ Park, which still stands as the main structure of the Grand Rapids Pubic Library.

As of the power of the local printed page gave way to the internet — and the Monroe Avenue building no longer served its original purpose — its demolition provided yet another opportunity to expand Grand Rapids’ burgeoning Medical Mile. This new chapter of Grand Rapids development history has transformed the cityscape as healthcare proves itself to be one of the country’s, and the City’s, most profitable sectors.

Last week’s City of Grand Rapids’ Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approval will provide approximately $29 million for the site and launch construction of the 200,000-square-foot Grand Rapids Innovation Park medical innovation building. The project is expected to attract $83 million in private investments and create 250 to 300 new jobs.

“This building is an opportunity for the private sector to have a presence in this Innovation Center building,” says Kara Wood, City of Grand Rapids managing director of economic development services. “The city as a whole benefits from the growth of Medical Mile and the added space for additional collaboration and innovation to occur.”

In 2015, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) provided a $1 million grant to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority that helped fund the Press building demolition and cleanup of contamination on the property.

“The site had the presence of various metals and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds in the soil and ground water in concentrations that exceeded the general residential cleanup level established by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,” Wood explains.

Michigan State University (MSU) completed the first building of the project — the Grand Rapids Research Center — in late 2017. Health Innovation Partners LLC is developing the new building, which will provide additional space to MSU as well as leased space to private sector partners.

“The growth of MSU’s presence here in the City is critical for a variety of reasons. It’s a continuation in the investment they made in the College of Human Medicine. It’s expanding their research and potential clinical trial space. And, it further solidifies their presence in the City and greatly benefits other partners who enjoy having MSU in the city.”

As the last step in the Brownfield approval process, the agreement specifically funds the cost of site preparation, infrastructure improvements at the property, and a 600-space vehicle parking ramp with some spaces available to the public.

“Medical Mile has impacted the City in a lot of different ways,” Wood says. “The investment has driven new job creation, higher quality healthcare, innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities, and certainly made the City and the West Michigan region a hub for high quality healthcare-related activity.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor

Photo courtesy City of Grand Rapids.

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