VAI Project Starts Phase II


    Van Andel Institute broke ground April 12 on its $170 million, 240,000-square-foot, eight-story Phase II building expansion. When operating at capacity, the expansion will augment the existing 162,000-square-foot facility to support a $125 million annual research and education operation employing 800 researchers and administrative staff, and generating approximately 550 new jobs. 

    “Phase II is a continuation of our vision to have an impact locally on education, regionally on the economy and internationally on life sciences,” said David Van Andel, who announced the expansion in 2005 in celebration of the Institute’s fifth anniversary.

    Phase II, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly and scheduled for completion in late 2009, will be located directly to the west of the existing facility in downtown Grand Rapids. The expansion triples the laboratory space, currently focused on the genetic and molecular origins of cancer, and will allow VAI to broaden its research to include neurological disorders and other chronic illnesses.

    The expansion significantly increases the Institute’s capacity for commercialization efforts that complement its current basic and translational cancer research.

    “We’re expanding our work to include vital research into Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases.  And we’re stepping up efforts to translate research findings into therapies that will treat and even prevent disease,” said Van Andel Research Institute Director George Vande Woude.

    In addition to new research space, the expanded facility will house the new Van Andel Institute Graduate School in cellular and molecular biology, which will matriculate its first students in the fall of 2007. Students attending the new Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, currently under construction on an adjacent property, will also use space in the expanded VAI facility.

    “Grand Rapids is rapidly becoming a center for medical research, in large part because of the Van Andel Institute,” U.S. Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, said. “Thanks to the Phase II expansion, both our area and our nation will continue to benefit from groundbreaking discoveries at the Van Andel Institute, and our area will experience economic benefits.”

    VAI is a leader in the developing life science industry in West Michigan and helps to define Greater Grand Rapids as the western anchor of a life science research and resource corridor that stretches south to Kalamazoo and east to Detroit. It comprises two institutes Van Andel Research Institute and Van Andel Education Institute, which currently employ about 230 researchers, educational and administrative staff.

    As architect of record for Phase I and Phase II, New York-based Rafael Viñoly Architects PC created the original design for the future structure, the façade of which will mimic the cascading roofs and windows of the current VAI building.  Viñoly’s depth of experience and broad portfolio of award-winning work includes the Tokyo International Forum, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, and a much-publicized proposal for the World Trade Center site.

    “Completing this ambitious project is a dream come true to which we owe VAI’s relentless pursuit of excellence in scientific research and development,” said Viñoly.  “It is also a satisfaction to see how enduring the ideas were that informed the original building design. Nothing we are doing in this new phase has not been suggested by it.”

    The interior design will reflect the diversity of the staff, which represents 17 nations, and includes day-lit laboratories with a skylight roof offering the highest quality environment.

    The Phase II project team includes Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.; The Hunt Construction Group; Culhane & Fahrenkrug Consulting; URS; Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber; Materials Testing Consultants; and CommTech Design. CQ

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