The former Muskegon Chronicle building sits in downtown Muskegon. Courtesy Muskegon Community College
A community college is planning to expand into the core of a lakeshore town by acquiring a former newspaper building to accommodate its growth in enrollment and programming.
Muskegon Community College, or MCC, said last week that it has signed a $700,000 purchase agreement with The Herald Publishing Co., the owners of the former Muskegon Chronicle building, to acquire the facility and adjacent parking lot in downtown Muskegon, at 981 3rd St.
With the agreement, MCC has selected the site for the "urban campus" it has been planning for downtown Muskegon.
The purchase agreement includes a 45-day due diligence process, when the college will address any concerns that may arise regarding environmental issues and building inspection.
Dale Nesbary, president at MCC, said the college anticipates closing on the agreement by early November.
“The purchase agreement has been accepted by the Herald corporation, but we haven’t closed yet,” Nesbary said. “Environmental concerns will be addressed, other issues that may arise — but we expect to resolve those easily between now and then.”
MCC plans to re-locate several academic programs to the approximately 50,000-square-foot building: applied technology, electronics, industrial technology, renewable energy, entrepreneurial studies and experiential learning opportunities.
With the main campus of MCC located roughly three miles outside the heart of downtown Muskegon, Nesbary said the students and programs occupying the building will be centrally located in the business district of the area.
“They will be much more closely aligned to the business community by physical location, and they will have an opportunity just in terms of being near restaurants, being near performance venues,” Nesbary said. “There is a lot to do in downtown Muskegon and having a facility there will help our students in many ways.”
The building is expected to see renovations begin in March 2015.
The renovations would range from minor light updating to major renovations, depending on the part of the building, to support the needs of the technology and business programs locating to the downtown space.
MCC anticipates the cost of the overall project would be $7.2 million, including site acquisition, the design process and renovations.
“The building is largely an industrial building, which fits our needs very well and actually we have been through the building multiple times,” Nesbary said.
“There is a newer press room, which was built about 12 years ago. There will be very few renovations of that space. It is effectively new. Then there are some spaces that have been built over the last 15 to 30 years that are still somewhat industrial in nature.
“Then there is an older section of the building that was, interestingly enough, constructed in 1928, the year of our first graduating class, and two years after the college opened.”
The acquisition of the former Muskegon Chronicle building is one of four major construction projects MCC is investing in as a result of strategic planning that began in 2010 and multiple community surveys.
Overall, the infrastructure investment is budgeted at $28.6 million and includes a newly renovated and expanded science laboratory center, health center and arts center.