Proposed university prep school to add energy to revitalization of Grand Rapids' S. Division

The Grand Rapids University Preparatory Association has begun construction on a 53,000-square-foot building that could bring new energy to other revitalization efforts along Grand Rapids' South Division Avenue.

Joining other construction that is underway or recently completed, such as the Inner City Christian Federation's Wealthy/Jefferson project, Cathedral Square, and renovation of vacant buildings into Division Park Avenue and Serrano Lofts apartment buildings, the proposed $9.2 million project for the University Prep Academy (UPrep) will put a new face on a depressed area of the city.

UPrep, a Centers of Innovation school of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, is currently located in a building on the Central High School campus (111 College Ave. NE). The new facility at 512 S. Division could accommodate over 500 sixth through twelfth graders when at full capacity. The academy model is based on the successful University Preparatory Academy-Detroit, which has a 90 percent graduation rate with a high number of those students going on to college.

"This is the first school in Grand Rapids that will be built from scratch without any taxpayer dollars," says Grand Rapids Board of Education President Senita Lanear. "This school has a high expectation for graduation, college enrollment and college graduation, and these things are instilled in the students from day one."

A $3 million donation from Steve Van Andel, Amway Chairman, in memory of his wife Cindy Van Andel kicked off the fundraising.

UPrep opened in 2008, the result of the efforts of several business leaders who wanted to establish a college and career-oriented school in Grand Rapids, says Lanear. UPrep adds a grade level each year and now has 300 students in grades six through ten. The school will be a full middle and high school by 2013, says a media release from GRPS.

The new building will be EnergyStar certified and should be ready for occupancy by fall 2013.  The building was designed by Grand Rapids based architecture and engineering firm ProgressiveAE.

Source: Senita Lanear, Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education; media release, Grand Rapids Public Schools
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor