Sneak peek at $90M Secchia Center, Michigan State University's med school in Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood

Members of the media received a sneak peak at the completed Secchia Center, the new home of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. The tour showcased one of the most advanced – and beautiful – energy-efficient structures in West Michigan.

Construction of the $90 million state-of-the-art facility strategically situates the building at 15 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, to maximize exposure to daylight and views of the city and Grand River.

A four-story atrium faces west with windows that frame nearby Bridgewater Place like a photograph.

"This is the 'living room' of the building," says Elizabeth Lawrence, assistant dean and project lead for the Secchia Center. "This is the focal point where students will gather."

Honey-colored wood, custom designed tile art, sage greens and burnt oranges fill the 180,000-square-foot building with warmth. Daylight streams through the windows, and a smart lighting system illuminates spaces only when light levels are low.

The building features 25 "exam rooms" where students learn how to interact with patients by "treating" standardized patients – actors hired to follow a script of medical maladies. Several empty rooms will be configured to fit the needs of the students and can simulate a room in a nursing home, a patient's house or a hospital.

The pristine lines of a five-story wood and glass staircase zigzag upward through the center of the building, open from top to bottom, creating an eye-catching sculptural effect.

On each floor, study pods, open spaces with comfortable couches, and alcoves with tables and chairs provide communal and semi-private areas where students can study and engage with each other one-on-one or in groups. Two lecture halls enable students from MSU's other six campuses to attend classes taught in Grand Rapids via video conferencing.

The college expects some 250 students this year, and predicts that many of them will complete their residencies in West Michigan after graduation.

"Last year, 17 of our 30 graduates stayed here for their residencies," says Margaret Thompson, M.D., associate dean.

The building is named for MSU alumni and lead donors Ambassador Peter and Joan Secchia. Funding for the project comes entirely from private donations, bonds and other sources, says Lawrence.

The architect of record is URS Corporation, the design architect is Ellenzweig of Cambridge, Mass., and the Christman Company constructed the building.

The college plans a public open house from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, September 11.

Source: Elizabeth Lawrence and Margaret Thompson, MSU College of Human Medicine; Wondergem Consulting

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected] Development News tips can be sent to [email protected]