Medical Mile Is Newsmaker Winner


    GRAND RAPIDS — The private investment the Van Andel family made to build the $60 million Van Andel Institute triggered a development frenzy on Michigan Street that transformed “Pill Hill” into the “Medical Mile.”

    2006 marked another year of significant private investment on the hill, with the start of the Michigan Street Development, which is the largest development in the city of Grand Rapids since the construction of Bridgewater Place. The project further seeds continued development that includes Mid Towne Village, the $4 million “Towers” parking ramp, the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Women’s Health Center of West Michigan and the Michigan State University West Michigan Medical School.

    For their collective vision and their investment in the Medical Mile, the partners in this development are saluted with the Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year Award, announced Monday at a meeting of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

    Christman Co. and RDV Corp. partnered to redevelop the Towers Medical Building site at 21 Michigan St. NE, along with the former site of the Burger King next door, into a $150 million, 700,000-square-foot medical complex on five acres called the Michigan Street Development, which broke ground last fall. The development’s footprint spans the north side of Michigan Street from North Division Avenue to Coit Avenue.

    The project consists of three medical office towers featuring 100,000 square feet of lab space, a 2,300-square-foot parking ramp beneath the complex, and Spectrum Health’s $78 million Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, which is being developed separately. The city’s parking services department, the state, Spectrum Health and the VAI are partners in the parking ramp portion of the project.

    “These projects will have economic impact far into the future,” said Carole Valade, editor of the Business Journal. “This region is changing, and the Medical Mile is a significant part of that change.”

    Christman spokesman Joe Hooker referred to the Newsmaker award is “a great honor” for the Michigan Street Development partnership. He said it also been a great honor for Christman Co. to have worked in partnership with RDV Corp. and the DeVos family on the initiative.

    “Over the past three years, hundreds of talented firms and individuals have contributed to the medical corridor project,” Hooker said. “With at least four more years to go on the project that number will likely grow to thousands. Once complete, construction jobs will be replaced by permanent jobs. Knowing that the project will provide smart strategic growth in the community and also have long-term sustainability, this investment decision has been extremely easy from day one.”

    Michigan Street Development was designed for “medical research-based tenants” rather than physician office groups. The Michigan State University Board of Trustees is expected to vote this month on whether to locate the MSU West Michigan Medical School there, presumably in the tower that will be situated directly across the street from the Van Andel Institute. MSU secured funding agreements with the VAI, Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Health Care in 2006 and purchased a 1.5-acre lot on the northwest corner of Michigan Street and College Avenue, one of two sites it will need for build-out of the school.

    According to the DeVos family, RDV Corp. joined Christman in the project because it “shares a commitment to the medical corridor and downtown revitalization.” Also, the family has a vested interest in the downtown area as a supporter of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and a leading supporter of the $190 million, 14-story Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, which is slated to open in 2010.

    “We are very proud of what’s going up in Grand Rapids,” said Dan DeVos, president and CEO of Fox Motors. “It’s a great place to be, and we as a family will continue to do what we can to support its continued growth and development.”

    “Partnerships will be the key to West Michigan’s revival,” said Publisher John Zwarensteyn. “This is an excellent example of what’s needed here.”

    The $50 million Mid Towne Village is an urban development encompassing four blocks just east of the hill, between the Ford Expressway and Michigan Street. Mid Towne will feature 235,000 square feet of retail, office and medical office space and as many as 32 brownstone-style residences ranging from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet. The development will be graced with a 15,000-square-foot Village Green featuring trees, benches, a reflecting pond and a fountain. Mid Towne was designed to attract young professionals, families and new businesses to the burgeoning medical district, according to David Levitt, head of Third Coast Development investor group.

    Within Mid Towne Village, work is under way on the $25 million Women’s Health Center of West Michigan, a facility its developers say will bring women’s health care to the forefront of the evolving Medical Mile. The 108,000-square-foot center is said to be one of a kind in West Michigan and one of only a handful of comprehensive care centers in the nation focused solely on women’s health. Ground was broken on the project last May, and the facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2008. The investors include several physician groups in Grand Rapids, as well as individual investors.

    Last year’s private investment on the Medical Mile will be followed by another huge private investment by the Van Andel Institute this spring when the institute begins the $160 million, 280,000-square-foot expansion of its existing 186,000-square-foot medical research facility on the hill. The expansion will be completed in late 2009.    

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