Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New L. William Seidman Center, a complex creation

If you've driven the S-curve in the last 5 years, you've seen some change in the first bend of that S - an old building was demolished a few years ago, and the new $40M GVSU Seidman Center, has arisen from that rubble.  The newly finished Seidman Center now houses the entire Seidman College of Business and is a very attractive building inside and out.  According to the Grand Rapids Business Journal:

"The $40 million, 127,643-square-foot center is GVSU’s 16th LEED-certified building, said Bob Brown, project manager. Brown is expecting a silver rating, attributed to the building’s cost efficient and energy saving highlights, such as LED screens and a green roof.

"The four-story center will house the Small Business and Technology Development Center, as well as the Van Andel Global Trade Center, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Leadership and Innovation.

"The 3,000-plus business students in GVSU’s program will enjoy a state-of-the-art financial marketing trade room and cluster classrooms designed for team building. The new building is named after the founding chair of GVSU’s Board of Trustees and former FDIC chair."

Custer did the interior furnishing, which is stunning.

The Seidman Center did not come about without some controversy, however.  The building it replaced, the old A&P warehouse, was owned by Michael DeVries, President of development firm, Ed DeVries Properties Inc., and he was resistant to GVSU's offer to buy it.  GVSU made some rumblings about using eminent domain to acquire it - which raised some hackles - but eventually a deal was struck without resorting to it. (Don't read the comments on these articles if you don't want to process people's anger over eminent domain, GVSU's expanded presence in downtown, property tax revenues and Dick DeVos.)

Sadly, I could not find a good shot of the A&P building in its heyday, but given the utilitarian nature of its architecture, I think it could be said the Seidman Center is the most attractive building to stand at this location.  Apparently A&P was the Wal-Mart of its time, an American grocery icon, but it navigated the changes of the 1950s and 1960s rather poorly and closed stores left and right in the succeeding four decades.  Only about 300 stores remain open, down from 4,500 in 1950.  For some evocative pictures of the down-on-its-luck building before the wrecking ball encountered it, click here.