Nonprofit opens $6M HQ on West Side


Courtesy WMCAT/Renee McCaul

A local nonprofit focused on art and tech opportunities for students moved into a new $6-million headquarters on the city’s West Side this week, a year earlier than originally planned.

The West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology, or WMCAT, has moved to 614 First St. NW in Grand Rapids.

The building is connected to a three-story parking ramp that also sits between the new Bridge Street Market and the Hendrik apartments.

WMCAT owns the 22,040-square-foot space, which makes up the entire top floor of a new three-story building, according to Jenny Griffin, development and communications manager, WMCAT.

After Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction built the building, Griffin said WMCAT purchased the top floor, as well as funded the floor’s build out, furniture, technology and fixtures.

The bottom floors are owned by Rockford Construction and will be occupied by tenants unrelated to WMCAT, Griffin said.

Griffin said the original move-in timeframe was summer 2019.

Once Bridge Street Market planned to open, summer 2018 became the new target open date.

The plan to move the date worked for WMCAT, because its $8.5-million capital campaign to fund the space, which started in 2016, was ahead of schedule.

The other $2.5 million was allotted for ongoing sustainability costs. Final numbers are not complete yet, though financing was not needed for the project, Griffin said.

The new space features many elements and amenities: four classrooms and one pharmacy lab for workforce development programming; training space inspired by Stanford University’s and the IBM Innovation Lab; a town hall and café area; and a gallery to showcase finished projects and host guest speakers and performers.

The space also features seven studios containing professional equipment and amenities, designed with input from students. Each studio supports numerous crafts: illustration and graphic design; ceramics; video game design and creative computing; photography; music production; fashion design; and video production.

“We engaged our students and staff in designing a space that is flexible and innovative,” said Daniel Williams, president and CEO, WMCAT. “This space tells students that ‘you matter,’ that belonging, community and connection are important. It’s a place that inspires creativity and values authenticity.”

Classes for adults and teens begin on Sept. 10.

At 12,000 square feet, the previous and first space at 98 E. Fulton St. in downtown Grand Rapids was proving too small and prohibiting program growth.

All the firms on the project are based in Grand Rapids.

The contractor for the WMCAT build out was Rockford Construction. Some furniture was donated by Steelcase. The architect was Lott3Metz Architecture. The interior designer was Custer, a Steelcase dealer.

The third-floor space is LEED certified, pending silver designation.


Founded in 2005, WMCAT works to provide West Michigan families with equitable access to visual arts and technology engagement, workforce development and social enterprise.

Through after-school and summer art and technology programs, WMCAT engages high school students in creativity and civic engagement.

WMCAT provides career training in the medical coding, medical billing and pharmacy technician fields to under-employed and unemployed adults.

It also has two social enterprise businesses: Ambrose, a commercial screen printing business; and Public Agency, a design thinking consultancy. 

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