A partial rendering of the four-story building by Rockford Construction on the West Side at First Street and Seward Avenue NW. Courtesy WMCAT
An arts and technology nonprofit downtown is planning to double its footprint by moving to a new building on the West Side after it concludes a $7.5-million fundraising campaign.
The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology, or WMCAT, said today that it has raised $6.5 million of its $7.5 million Leave Your Mark campaign goal.
Honorary campaign chairs Hank Meijer, Doug DeVos and Jim Hackett, as well as a cabinet of business and community leaders have served as the Leave Your Mark campaign’s leaders, helping to solicit initial donations over the past year.
The campaign will now enter its public phase and is asking community members to contribute.
WMCAT also said an anonymous donor will match gifts "from this point forward" up to $200,000 to help it reach its final goal.
WMCAT is looking to raise the final $1 million, which will allow it to purchase the fourth floor of a four-story building in Grand Rapids at First Street and Seward Avenue NW. The building is being constructed by Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction. To make room for the new building, the building that has occupied the lot is being knocked down.
Daniel Williams, WMCAT executive director, said campaign contributions will be used for the acquisition and design of the new space and to create an endowment that will provide the nonprofit with greater sustainability into the future.
“We’ll have money to support the operations at the new location,” he said.
For the past 12 years, WMCAT has leased space in The Acton Building in Grand Rapids, at 98 Fulton St. E., to house all of its programming and operations.
“We’ve been lucky in continuing to grow, but in our 12th year, we’ve outgrown the space we are in,” Williams said. “It’s impeded our ability to pilot new programs.”
He said at 22,000 square feet, WMCAT’s new space will be double the size of its current location and support growth, allowing the nonprofit to expand its programming and serve more students and adults.
WMCAT will move into its new location no later than fall 2019. Its current lease is set to expire at the end of that year.
Williams said design plans have not been finalized for the new location, but he said flexibility and adaptability will be key in planning the space.
“We will have some classrooms and some shared space, but at the heart of it, it’s about creating a flexible space,” he said. “We don’t know what the technology trends are going to be in 10 years or what the workforce development trends and what jobs will be needed in 10 years, so we want to create a space that allows us to be as flexible as possible.”
"WMCAT is poised to contribute to the revitalization and continued excitement happening on the West Side of Grand Rapids,” Hank Meijer said.
Williams added that WMCAT is “excited about what is happening on the West Side.”
“There are really great organizations that are doing a lot of great work over there, and we are excited to join them,” he said.
WMCAT serves hundreds of students and adults each year with tuition-free programming.
Williams said the organization offers an adult workforce development program to underemployed and unemployed individuals. The program provides career training in the medical coding, medical billing and pharmacy technician fields.
WMCAT has a teen arts and technology after-school program for students enrolled in Grand Rapids Public Schools that includes classes in photography, illustration, video production, audio storytelling, ceramics, fashion and video game programming and design.
WMCAT offers daytime courses to students from other partner school districts and area charter schools.
The organization also has a robust social enterprise apprenticeship program.
Williams said that each year, five college-bound students are hired from the nonprofit’s teen program to serve as apprentices at Ambrose, WMCAT’s screen-printing business.
The students gain real-world experience in running a small business and receive support as they transition into college.
A variety of donors have led giving to the Leave Your Mark campaign: The James and Jane Welch Foundation, Meijer Foundation, The Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, The Wege Foundation, Steelcase, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Doornink Foundation, John and Nancy Kennedy and Kate Pew Wolters.
WMCAT also said that 100 percent of its board and staff have donated to the campaign.