WMU News

WMU ponders engineering proposals from two cities

December 3, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences moved a step closer this week to knowing exactly where its future lies.

Government and economic development leaders in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo have made their proposals, and now WMU must decide which community is the best prospect for a long and productive relationship. With a choice of five locations in two different cities and a variety of financial incentives to peruse, University officials have begun the task of selecting the college's new home.

Officials from Kalamazoo and Battle Creek responded to the University's request for proposals by submitting their formal written plans Nov. 30. Groups of officials from each city then made formal presentations Dec. 2 in their efforts to win the proposed new college facility, a paper and printing science research facility and a research park that is expected to attract dozens of private spin-off businesses.

President Floyd has said his goal is to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees at its Dec. 11 meeting in Grand Rapids. He also has pledged to ensure that the community and public at large will be able to participate in the process that leads to a final decision.

The Kalamazoo proposal, widely publicized immediately after its submission, cites the project as "a new beginning for Western Michigan University and the community," and says "the city envisions a new era that helps the community and the University together realize their full potential."

The proposal offers the University a $20 million financial package that includes $15 million in commitments from private sources and a $3.12 million commitment from the city. The funds would finance building on the Lee Baker Farm and establishment of a $1.5 million endowment to turn the University's nearby Asylum Lake property into a permanent protected nature preserve.

The Kalamazoo plan calls for construction of four buildings to house the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences on the western 68 acres of the 265-acre Lee Baker Farm property, running along U.S. 131. Construction would be financed with $37.5 million already approved by the state and by $12.5 million in matching funds which are part of the $15 million in private funds identified by the city.

The farm, which already is owned by the University, is located southwest of the main campus. The plan also calls for part of the property to be dedicated for private research development. A 60-acre buffer would separate the college and research section from residential areas. Zoning on the land would have to be changed to permit the private development portion of the effort.

The proposal further calls for construction of a new paper and printing science center on a parcel of University-owned land on Stadium Drive, adjacent to the Power Plant. The City of Kalamazoo would finance construction of that facility through the sale of municipal bonds. The University would use revenues generated by the plant to pay off the bond debt.

The Battle Creek proposal cites that city's record in putting together the highly successful initiative that resulted in the move of WMU's School of Aviation Sciences from Kalamazoo to larger, state-of-the-art facilities at W.K. Kellogg Airport in 1997.

"We challenge anyone to demonstrate such a strong and consistent pattern of support for the university and university programs," says James F. Hettinger, president and chief executive officer of Battle Creek Unlimited in the document's opening letter.

Written details of Battle Creek's proposal, which were available at Western News press time, include an opportunity for the University to select one of four different building sites in the Fort Custer Industrial Park area. Two of the sites, each 80 acres in size, are located near Hart's Lake, which was once part of the fort's military training area. A 125-acre site is located near the Veteran's Administration Hospital and the fourth site consists of two parcels totaling 148 acres and located at the I-94 and Business Loop 94 interchange at Exit 92.

The zoning for all four sites already is appropriate for the proposed use.

The Battle Creek proposal calls for one of the building sites to be made available to the University for a "nominal cost" and adjacent land for development by private business groups to be made at "incentive rates."

The Battle Creek proposal offers the University a financing capability of $15 million, land value of up to $4 million and building incentives valued at up to $6.2 million.

The Battle Creek proposal also includes pledges to: finance building of a paper and printing science facility that would be leased back to the University for a 20-year period; create a $5 million loan fund to be used as needed by the University at tax-exempt, fixed interest rates; create a scholarship fund for minorities and economically disadvantaged students from Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties; provide free storage for paper-coating equipment from Fort James Corp. until the needed facility is completed; and share the cost of a two-year professional initiative to raise funds for the University's future capital improvements.

Both community's proposals include assistance with any needed infrastructure development.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 616 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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