Grand Rapids is teeming with innovative people and companies. Young professionals recognize the city as the ideal jumping off point for their careers. Entrepreneurs see the tremendous value in leveraging the ample resources available to bring their ideas to life. And along the Medical Mile, which encompasses an expansive stretch of Michigan Street east of the Grand River and just south of Interstate 196, groundbreaking research is transforming the healthcare industry.
It’s no surprise that Michigan State University (MSU) chose the Medical Mile as home base for their College of Human Medicine at the Secchia Center. That decision kickstarted the real estate development efforts that have led to the genesis of the Grand Rapids Innovation Park (GRIP). GRIP is a healthcare innovation hub that encompasses the Grand Rapids Research Center, Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building (DMMIB) and 430 Monroe Avenue, which will become home to Perrigo Company plc’s new North American Corporate Headquarters after construction is completed in 2022.
The vision for GRIP is grand: Generate an environment in which a variety of industries – education, healthcare, hospital systems and private industry – can collaborate to license, manufacture, distribute and commercialize health innovation with speed to market. Achieving such a bold vision requires the perfect partner along with a bit of ingenuity.
From the onset, Mike Mraz, president of real estate development at Rockford Construction, knew his team could provide the level of expertise and service needed to make GRIP a reality.
“In terms of the delivery model and our comprehensive platform, which includes real estate development, financing, construction and property management services, we were completely confident in our ability to bring this to life,” Mraz said.
Recognizing the complexity of the work, Rockford helped form Health Innovation Partners (HIP), a real estate development joint venture (JV) between Rockford Construction/Rockford Development, Walsh Construction/Walsh Investors, Murphy Real Estate Services, Harrison Street and MSU. Collectively, the group selected a public-private partnership (P3) approach to develop the project. P3s allow public institutions, like universities, to team up with private industry partners who are well equipped to handle the significant capital outlay and allocation of risk associated with large-scale projects like GRIP. They also allow work to be completed with enhanced speed and efficiency.
Without the P3, MSU may have had to engage in other efforts to finance the work, such as a long-term fundraiser. But through the expertise of HIP and Rockford, the development kicked off successfully and has been moving forward ever since.
“P3s require plenty of innovation and creativity,” said Melissa Collar, Rockford’s chief counsel and vice president of strategic partnerships. “But being a thought leader is something that Rockford has done throughout its history – give us a difficult problem and we’ll find a solution.”
Beyond engaging the partners in a P3 approach to delivery, Rockford and the collective team also brought significant technical knowledge and experience to the development portion of the work. The development group successfully navigated the complex design needed to situate all three buildings within GRIP to maximize visibility. Additionally, the team was able to balance complementary architecture; appropriate floor plans; site infrastructure; mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and more to establish a plan for the associated buildings and facilities that won’t just attract world-class tenants, but also will provide more than $300 million in economic impact to Kent County each year.
Looking forward, Rockford envisions an opportunity to complete similar projects at additional sites, leveraging the power of P3s to bring advanced healthcare systems to the public quickly and with the highest level of care and quality.