Prein&Newhof celebrates 50 years of notable projects


Prein&Newhof provided drainage improvements and a natural treatment system for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, earning it the American Society of Civil Engineers Achievement Certificate of Merit in 2016. Courtesy Prein&Newhof

Prein&Newhof recently celebrated 50 years of serving West Michigan.

The full-service civil and environmental engineering firm was founded on April 21, 1969, by H. Edward Prein and Thomas Newhof. Both engineers and natives of Grand Rapids, Prein and Newhof worked together before partnering to begin their own venture.

Newhof attributed the birth of P&N to Prein. Newhof complained their design intent would only have the best results if they stayed with a project from start to finish. Prein suggested the two of them fulfill this goal by breaking off and starting their own business.

“I hadn’t thought that this was something that we should do at the time, but Ed did, and he convinced me to join him,” Newhof said. “For that foresight, I will always be grateful.”

The two packed up from their previous employer one Friday afternoon and opened in a rented space on the northeast side of Grand Rapids the following Monday.

“We showed up at our rented space … hoping that the phone would ring and we would get some business,” Newhof said.

The phone did ring that day, and their first project involved designing a foundation for a silo.

P&N’s initial practice included soil mechanics, structural design, water supply and distribution, and wastewater collection and treatment. Today, the company provides these same services as well as airport planning, design and consulting; environmental services; site design; marinas; stormwater modeling and management; asset management; landscape architecture; roads, streets and nonmotorized path design; surveying; computer-aided drafting; geographic information systems; surveying and construction observation.

The firm also has its own laboratory, where scientists perform water, wastewater and soil testing. It now has seven locations — Holland, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Cadillac and Traverse City — including its headquarters and laboratory, both in Grand Rapids.

P&N provided drainage improvements and a natural treatment system for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, earning it the American Society of Civil Engineers Achievement Certificate of Merit in 2016.

In the winter, GFIA sprays with a deicing solution for safety and compliance with Federal Aviation Administration standards. Prior to P&N’s work, the deicing fluids — consisting of propylene glycol — mixed with snowmelt would run off from the airfield before entering a nearby stream, known locally as Trout Creek.

The runoff, while nontoxic, produced a nuisance-level biofilm, consisting of algae, fungi and other aquatic organisms.

The Natural Treatment System technology P&N implemented uses detention, bacterial treatment, filtration and natural aeration to transform nutrient-laden stormwater into clean water before discharging it into the Thornapple River.

P&N also was part of the design team for the 14-story Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital at Spectrum Health in downtown Grand Rapids. The facility opened in 2011, but not before parking and pedestrian access issues were addressed for the small downtown site.

The design solution included a pedestrian bridge over Michigan Street connecting the children’s hospital with the Tower 35 office/parking facility and a pedestrian tunnel 40 feet below Michigan Street connecting the children’s hospital with the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion.

P&N’s responsibilities included the design of underground utilities, design for the 400-foot reconstruction of Bostwick Avenue along the west side of the hospital, construction survey for the building foundation and all site improvements and survey monitoring of the existing Spectrum Butterworth West Wing, which showed signs of settling after the existing parking garage was removed to make room for the new children’s hospital.

The project earned P&N the Engineering News-Record Midwest 2011 Best Health Care Project award.

Frederik Meijer Gardens’ expansion project also owes thanks to P&N. The project included an expanded and upgraded amphitheater with stone retaining walls.

Meijer Gardens hired Twin Lakes Nursery to construct the retaining walls that form the steps and seating areas. Twin Lakes then hired P&N to design the mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls in a manner that would support future amphitheater audiences while being readily constructable.

The Meijer Gardens expansion broke ground in 2017 and is expected to be complete in 2021.

P&N has worked on more than 30,000 projects and has employed 693 people since its inception. Prein passed away last year, having retired from the company in 1995. Newhof, now 83, still is active in the company.

“We are grateful to Ed and Tom for establishing not just this company but also the values which have guided us well through 50 years,” P&N President Tom Newhof said. “As we look forward, we are excited to continue to meet our clients’ needs, improving the quality of life for people across the state and providing a great place for our employee-owners to build meaningful careers.”

The owners established an employee stock ownership plan in 1994 so they could transition the company ownership to their employees. The plan also allowed them to fulfill their promise to each other that they would not be absentee owners and their desire that the company profits go to those who were working.

To help commemorate its 50th anniversary, P&N purchased 150 blue spruce seedlings, distributed one to each employee, with the company motto, “Seeing Farther,” on the packaging, for them to take home and plant in P&N’s client communities across the state.

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