MSU buys new property in Grand Rapids

MSU’s College of Human Medicine is continuing its expansion in Grand Rapids with the $12 million purchase of the Grand Rapids Press headquarters and surrounding parking lots.

“We had not planned to do this,” said Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine, or CHM. “With the property becoming available and its proximity to the facility, it is a good purchase.”

The MSU Board of Trustees approved the purchase at its Friday meeting.

Trustee Dianee Byrum said in an email that funding came from MSU investment income and not from tuition or state appropriated dollars.

Officials are touting the space’s value, located on the city’s “medical mile” at 155 Michigan St., as it might be used to house research initiatives and laboratories, complementing the classroom space located within the college’s Secchia Center — a block away from the university’s new property.

The center — containing numerous lecture halls, study rooms and classroom space — opened in fall 2010 and houses about 400 of the college’s medical students. The rest of the college’s students study at the East Lansing campus.

The Grand Rapids Press property became available in November 2011 when the MLive Media Group announced the headquarters would move.

University spokesman Kent Cassella said the university’s purchase agreement was approved within the past week, and the property’s actual use has yet to be determined.

Still, this is a space for long-term investment, Trustee Mitch Lyons said.

“We’re trying to create a bigger impact and footprint in West Michigan,” he said, adding that several sites were considered and the specifics of the Press building recently came up for discussion.

With the Secchia Center moving into its second year of operation and growing into a larger medical education facility, Rappley said it became necessary for MSU to pursue other areas of expansion.

Parking lots located on the property could add to the center’s already existing parking structure and lower the cost of parking for students, especially considering the high downtown parking rates, she said.

But the use of those lots and spaces still have yet to be determined.

For Michael Johnson, a medical student in Grand Rapids and president of the CHM American Medical Association student chapter, the opportunity to have research space in Grand Rapids adds to the medical school and student experience, he said.

“Medicine is constantly evolving … (and) our knowledge is incomplete,” he said.

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