WMU News

WMU plans $45 million health and human services complex on Oakland Drive property

October 28, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University plans to consolidate its College of Health and Human Services at a projected cost of $45 million on the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital property transferred to WMU from the state this week.

WMU President Elson S. Floyd made that announcement Wednesday, Oct. 28, as he reported the completion of the transfer of the KPH property to WMU. The long-awaited transfer of this property and a smaller piece of property north of downtown Kalamazoo to WMU was concluded earlier this week.

The projected $45 million cost for construction of a new building and the renovation of the Earl Wilbur Building, which houses the WMU School of Nursing, is the first unfunded priority in WMU's capital outlay request to the state for 1999-2000.

It and other priority requests will be recommended to the Board of Trustees Friday, Oct. 30, in Detroit. Public colleges and universities make requests to the state for major building projects each year.

"We are committed to excellence in the health sciences and to continuing our very substantial investment in Kalamazoo County," Floyd said. "In the past 10 years, WMU has invested more than $400 million in the renovation and construction of many facilities, most of them here in Kalamazoo.

"The health sciences are a major area of growth and emphasis for the University," Floyd continued. "The consolidation of our College of Health and Human Services on Oakland Drive is very appropriate because of the property's historic use and its easy public access for what is emerging as a major health corridor for our community and the region."

The project will bring together the college's seven major academic units that are currently scattered in 13 locations across the campus. The resulting corridor will include WMU's Unified Clinics, which are located in the University Medical and Health Sciences Center. The center also houses the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies.

The transfer includes the 106.7-acre hospital property and 10 acres on Blakeslee Street known as the Northwest Unit. The property along Oakland Drive and Howard Street, now known as WMU's South Campus, includes about 20 buildings.

"We are grateful to Gov. John Engler and to the State Legislature for making this transfer a reality," Floyd continued. "Their support of WMU and its aspirations is crucial in our ability to move forward as a premier student-centered research university."

"We owe special thanks to James Haveman Jr., director of the Department of Community Health, and Robert Mosher, manager of special services in the real estate division of the Department of Management and Budget, for their outstanding cooperation," said Keith A. Pretty, vice president for external affairs and general counsel.

Founded in 1976, the College of Health and Human Services never has had a home of its own, Floyd said. The first phase of the project would renovate the Earl Wilbur Building to house nursing and some of the other departments in the college at a projected cost of $5 million.

The second phase would be construction of a 160,000-square-foot building to house all other departments of the college as well as its administrative offices. The projected cost is $40 million.

The college includes the departments or schools of blind rehabilitation, community health services, nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant, speech pathology and audiology and social work. The School of Community Health Services offers programs in gerontology, holistic health, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The Unified Clinics include clinics for language, speech and hearing; substance abuse; vision rehabilitation; occupational therapy; and psychology, all open to the public. Also associated with the college are the Center for Developmentally Disabled Adults, the Rural Health Education Project and the Community Information System.

Acceptance of the property was delayed until now so that environmental tests could be conducted on two underground storage tanks. One 550-gallon tank for diesel fuel was located near the Wilbur building and the other, a 1,000-gallon tank for gasoline, was near the motor pool building.

The tanks were removed in June and no contamination was found below either tank, said Dr. Patricia M. Holton, manager of environmental health and safety at WMU. State law requires soil testing and inspection whenever such tanks are removed.

The Department of Community Health will lease back 53 acres in the center of the property on Oakland Drive for use by the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital for $1 per year. This portion includes the main hospital building, the now vacant Pheasant Ridge building, a physical plant shops building and a food service building.

The State Legislature authorized the property transfer in December 1996. The State Administrative Board approved the transfer in May and deeds were signed in July.

Media contact: Mike Matthews, 616 387-8400, michael.matthews@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400