The Federal Building at 148 Ionia Avenue will provide much-needed space for Kendall College of Art and Design to expand its programs, namely its sculpture and ceramics departments, which will get new equipment and classroom spaces. The fourth floor will serve as home to the Wege Center for Sustainable Design, founded by a $1 million gift from philanthropist Peter Wege.
Once the building project is complete, Ferris State University and Kendall will occupy three contiguous blocks in the city, cementing the school’s commitment to Grand Rapids, said Ferris State University President David Eisler.
Eisler exudes excitement about the “Old Federal Building” project, which is scheduled for a grand opening on May 1.
“This is not our building. This is Grand Rapids’ building,” Eisler told MiBiz on an exclusive tour in late March. “People got their mail here, went to the draft board here, took the oath of office or got their citizenship here. It’s the last great public building in Grand Rapids. It really is a treasure.”
Christman Co. is the construction manager and developer on the project. TowerPinkster served as the lead architect.
The fully restored building will enable Kendall College to expand its campus into 94,000 square feet of new classroom, studio and gallery space. The project also includes adding a sculpture park — designed by alumna Val Schmieder of Via Design — along Division Avenue.
Eisler said the project involved extensive renovation to all the windows and oak woodwork. All the mechanics are new, and the crews had to replace the basement floor with nearly 1 million pounds of concrete.
Moreover, the third and fourth floors, both of which had not been used since the 1960s, required extensive work. Eisler said the fourth floor was in the worst shape because of a severely leaking roof before the project started.
He said that the project because of its historic status had to comply with National Park Service requirements, which forced the university to adapt its plans for the Wege Center, in particular. The top floor will house the school’s Materials ConneXion, a computer lab and three classrooms.