GRAND RAPIDS — Legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder paves the way for a new wave of higher education construction projects in Michigan, including two projects in West Michigan.
The capital outlay bill spreads $305 million in state funds to 18 projects across the state. With both state and university funds, the projects represent about $613 million worth of development and renovations.
Many of the projects getting funds involve science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) related facilities, which many said was an indication the state is taking a more focused approach to higher education investments.
Grand Valley State University is among those universities receiving project funds. The school received $30 million to invest in a new $55 million laboratory sciences building on its Allendale campus.
The new 145,000-square-foot building will host specialized labs for basic sciences as well as faculty and administrative offices.
If all the pieces fall as planned, the facility could be complete by 2015, said Tom Haas, president of GVSU. He said the university is looking at bonding and donor support to help finance the project, which shouldn't raise student tuition.
"This is the first capital outlay we've received in many years," Haas said. "The new building will definitely help us to better educate those in the STEM fields."
Haas said at the bill signing, the governor expressed that he is pleased that higher education plans to use the funds to invest in programs that support job growth.
"We are digging into the future for this project and it's the kind of thing we've been investing in for years," Haas said. "We are very much aligning with the future needs of the state."
Haas said the new project fits in to the university's "five, 15, 50 philosophy," which outlines new construction for the next five years, the next 15 years of programming and curriculum, and the lifespan and adaptability of the school's infrastructure over the next 50 years.
The university is also interested in growing its presences on Medical Mile. Haas said the university wants to expand the capabilities of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences building.
Property owned by the school just north of I-96 on the corner of Lafayette and Hastings streets is the site for another potential project, which Haas said would be a health professions building.
"We are looking at potential donors as well as our own savings for that project," Haas said. "It's still in the early stages."
Grand Rapids Community College is also among the seven other community colleges that received funding. The school received approximately $5 million toward a $14.2 million renovation of Cook Academic Hall.