Dr. Norman Beauchamp, dean of the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University (left) and Rockford Construction CEO Mike VanGessel (right) Dr. Norman Beauchamp, dean of the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University (left) and Rockford Construction CEO Mike VanGessel (right) PHOTO: SYDNEY SMITH

Second phase of MSU’s Grand Rapids Research Center to help bring innovation to market

BY Sunday, December 16, 2018 06:55pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Dr. Norman Beauchamp hopes a new innovation center at the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center downtown will help get clinical discoveries to patients faster.

The second phase build out at the site will allow university researchers more easily to pair with private-sector companies, according to Beauchamp, who serves as dean of the College of Human Medicine.

MSU will be one of several tenants of the proposed new building, alongside companies from Chicago, Israel and Grand Rapids, as well as Spectrum Health, according to Beauchamp.

“We haven’t had partners working side by side that had the capacity to manufacture and distribute because that hasn’t been the focus,” Beauchamp told MiBiz. “We have the discovery (capabilities), and this takes the next step in getting it to people.”

The MSU board of trustees on Friday voted to move forward with a public-private partnership to pave the way for the next phase of development at the downtown Grand Rapids Research Center campus.

After requesting proposals in July and reviewing four final submissions, MSU selected developer Health Innovation Partners, a joint venture of Chicago-based MB Real Estate and Walsh Construction/Walsh Investors of Chicago and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction Co. Inc., to lead the project.

Beauchamp said the newly-formed partnership brought together “incredible expertise” and understanding of the Grand Rapids community, as well as knowledge of health innovation and access to “significant capital.”
MSU’s $88.1 million Grand Rapids Research Center opened in 2017 at 400 Monroe Ave. NW, the site of the former Grand Rapids Press headquarters.

Rockford Construction CEO Mike VanGessel said after serving as co-construction manager on the Grand Rapids Research Center, the company wanted to get involved again with the university’s project.

The proposed second building will likely be 200,000-250,000 square feet, VanGessel said. He declined to share cost estimates for the project.

According to VanGessel, renderings of potential design concepts exist, but the partners are not yet ready shared them. Still, he said the new building will keep with the design themes of the research center.

“There’s elements of it that will be a sister building of sorts,” he said. “We don’t want it to look out of place, yet we want it to be special.”

Rockford also will manage the building long-term via its property management group.

The addition of an innovation group at the research center helps to market West Michigan as a strong life sciences and medical device center, said Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids-based economic development agency.

The addition builds on the largest medical device industry cluster in West Michigan, she added.

The center not will only will help attract companies, but also highly skilled professionals, according to Klohs.

“It will continue to attract top talent in the region, including researchers and scientists,” she said. “They are well-paying, high-quality jobs. These folks come from all over the country and the world.”

As well, the center could help accelerate and commercialize the foundational research the university already is doing, said Kara Wood, economic development director for the city of Grand Rapids.

“It’s a critical piece — the innovation cycle — and will transform the health care innovation ecosystem in the city,” she said, also adding the new development on the Grand Rapids Research Center campus also will lead to growth of new local businesses and job opportunities.

Tax increment financing is available to the developer to construct a parking structure, which is required to meet city requirements. VanGessel envisions building a parking ramp with about 600 spaces in place of a current surface lot.

The campus also could include a future building along Monroe Avenue for additional program space to complements university research.

VanGessel said construction could begin in October 2019.

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