WMU News

Plans unveiled for new $48 million HHS building

Aug. 21, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University unveiled preliminary plans yesterday (Aug. 20) for a new, 185,000-square-foot building to house all of the College of Health and Human Services' academic programs in one location.

The long-awaited building moved a step closer to reality this summer when Gov. John Engler signed a capital outlay bill July 19 authorizing state funding for the estimated $48.2 million total cost of the construction project. The University will raise a quarter of the building cost as a match to the state funds provided and will do so through private fund raising.

At an event to formally acknowledge the signing of a state bill authorizing the building's construction, University officials showed an artist's depictions of the way the building will look and discussed its scope and potential impact. Also attending the event were area legislators, leaders in the health and human services community, city officials and economic development leaders, as well as University and college administrators, faculty and staff. The celebration was intended to thank the Legislature and those in the community who were instrumental in securing funding for the building.

"We are deeply indebted to Gov. Engler and the Legislature for their support of this important project," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "Many have been steadfast in their support of this much-needed facility, but I especially want to thank Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Harry Gast for the role he played. This is a project that, when completed, will have a significant impact not only on the Kalamazoo community and its economic well-being, but also on the state and region."

The four-story building will be constructed on WMU's Oakland Drive Campus on land the state transferred to WMU from the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital in 1998. Building plans have been under development since January 2000, just after the governor signed an earlier capital outlay bill authorizing WMU to begin the planning process.

The new building will be located just south and west of the existing EWB Building on the site of a former hospital building that was torn down more than 20 years ago. The SmithGroup of Detroit is the architectural firm that designed the building. Groundbreaking is tentatively set for 2002.

In addition to locating the new facility on a previous building site, building and construction plans are being developed to minimize impact on the landscape. No new drive is being planned to access the building from Oakland Drive. Road access will come from rerouting existing roads, with Oliver Street serving as the likely major entry point. The current park-like setting along Oakland Drive will be preserved.

"The SmithGroup's main focus has been to place and design the building in a way that respects the landscape," said Dr. Janet I. Pisaneschi, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "The architects have been very sensitive to the site. They wanted to preserve the trees on the site, as have we."

Pisaneschi notes the building design, while modern, honors the traditional architecture of the KPH and WMU's East Campus. The brick, glass and stone exterior incorporates brick that is in keeping with the area's traditional buildings, and the building shares a common architectural detail with the main KPH buildings--a white band along the top of the facade.

Consolidating all college faculty and academic programs in one, high-tech building will enhance faculty research and the learning environment. In its 25-year history, the college has never had a central location. Its 13 separate programs and departments currently are placed in eight locations across campus--often in buildings designed for other uses--resulting in duplication of personnel, equipment and expensive use of faculty, staff and student time.

The main components of the new building being designed will include: instructional laboratories; faculty and student research laboratories; multimedia-capable classrooms; distance learning classrooms; computer facilities and laboratories; audio/visual, technical and computer support for teaching and research; faculty, staff and graduate assistant offices; administrative offices and support areas; conference and meeting rooms; student services and student commons areas; student study areas; and a learning resource center.

"When completed, this new building will place us near our Unified Clinics and bring all our academic programs together in one location for the first time," Pisaneschi said. "Our faculty will work in state-of the-art laboratories and will be in close proximity to one another, which will augment their collaborative work and interdisciplinary research. The quality of our programs, already superb, can only increase as a result, and our ability to serve the state and nation will continue to grow."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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