Muskegon Community College sees the former Muskegon Chronicle building as a downtown hub for the school. Courtesy MCC
Muskegon Community College is in the process of investing $28.6 million in renovations and expansions on campus and in the core of the downtown district — its largest infrastructure investment since the 1960s.
The school’s board of trustees agreed recently on a $700,000 purchase agreement with The Herald Publishing Co. LLC and owners of the former Muskegon Chronicle building to acquire the facility and adjacent parking lot at 981 Third St. in downtown Muskegon. The acquisition is part of investment projects at MCC due to the growth in student population and programming.
The purchase agreement, which was signed Sept. 11, includes a 45-day due diligence process in which 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. There is basically a 45-day due diligence process,” said Nesbary. “Environmental concerns will be addressed, (along with) other issues that may arise, but we expect to resolve those easily between now and then.”
With a campus location in the downtown Muskegon area, the building will provide MCC with approximately 50,000 square feet of academic space. Renovations are expected to begin March 2015 if closing goes smoothly, according to a press release.
The renovations will range from minor updating to major renovation, depending on the part of the building, to support the needs of the technology and business programs locating in the facility. Including renovations, site acquisition and the design process, MCC estimates the cost of the overall project at $7.2 million.
“The building is largely an industrial building, which fits our needs very well, and actually we have been through the building multiple times,” said Nesbary. “There is a newer pressroom 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. …
“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.”
Several of the programs anticipated to relocate to the Chronicle building include 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 new location will be convenient and desirable.
“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,” said Nesbary. “There is a lot to do in downtown Muskegon and having a facility there will help our students in many ways.”
Acquiring the building is part of four major renovation and investment projects taking place at MCC, according to Nesbary.
Based on multiple community surveys the past few years indicating a need for increased space, and a master strategic planning process beginning in 2010, MCC is investing approximately $28.6 million to meet the needs of its growing enrollment. The acquisition in downtown was considered key to MCC’s 2010-2015 strategic plan.
“It is part of an overarching strategy that the college has to help absorb the growth in students that we have experienced really since the mid-’60s. The college, back in the mid-1960s, enrolled roughly 2,000 students, and now we enroll roughly 5,000 students,” said Nesbary. “That is a significant growth, but our physical footprint, our square footage, has grown by about 40 percent. It became clear that there were some needs of our students that weren’t being met by simply not having the space they need.”
The four investment projects include: renovation and a newly constructed addition to the Stevenson Center as the MCC Science Laboratory Center; the acquisition and renovation of the former Muskegon Chronicle building; renovation and expansion of the Bartels-Rode Gymnasium and Health Center; and expansion and remodeling of the Overbrook Theater.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held earlier this month for the $9.6 million science laboratory building at MCC, which is being built by Clark Construction and was designed by Kingscott Associates and BMA Architects. When completed, the building will include a 19,000-square-foot addition to provide instructional and laboratory space for approximately 18 programs.
The $6.2 million renovation and expansion of the Bartels-Rode Gymnasium and Health Center is anticipated to be completed in 2016.
The $6.1 million creative and performing arts center is expected to be finished in mid- to late 2016. An Arts Center Committee comprised of students, faculty, staff, community members and board representatives is finalizing the planning and construction details of the new arts center.
With a total $28.6 million budgeted for the four projects, Nesbary said the college is seeking additional financial support from various sources including internal development, state appropriation and federal funding.