The second phase of Western Michigan University's Business Technology and Research Park recently received a big green light with approval of a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.
Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach and WMU point person on BTR Park development says the grant will cover 50 percent of the infrastructure costs for the project, the expense of building a road and utilities for water and sewer.
The Colony Farm Orchard property is located within the boundaries of Oshtemo Township and is being developed as a partnership between the township and WMU. Additional funding to begin the expansion project will come from Oshtemo Township, WMU, and, it is hoped, from success with other grant programs.
Miller says the costs to the university also are expected to be recouped as the property is sold to those who want to locate in the second phase of the BTR Park. As the property is sold it will move onto the Oshtemo Township tax rolls.
The development is across the street from the first phase of the BTR Park. The expansion onto this property is ultimately expected to attract investments totaling $50 million and create 200 high-tech jobs.
"Our universities are key drivers of innovation, job training and business development," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker says as she makes the announcement of the grant award. "EDA's investment to expand Western Michigan University's business and technology park will directly support the region's growing manufacturing and biotechnical industry clusters."
Oshtemo Township, the Kalamazoo County Road Commission and several offices at the WMU worked together on the application.
Plans call for about 31 acres of the 51-acre site to be developed. Another 17.5 acres would be dedicated natural area. The natural area together with site setbacks that will not be built on, as required by township ordinance, will mean nearly half the site will be open space.
Along the east side of the property, next to Drake Road, a 100-foot buffer zone is proposed. A larger green space that extends 450 feet from the property line, would be on the north end of the property. It abuts land controlled by the WMU Foundation. Through the larger green space, a crushed stone walkway is planned. The area also would provide protection for a threatened variety of orchid growing there, Lesser Ladies Tresses.
The road at the entrance of the property, which will become a Kalamazoo County Road, is designed with a curve that mimics the sweeping aspects of the roadway in the first BTR Park. Berms with oak trees will be put in at the entrances.
Construction on the 54-acre Colony Farm Orchard property, which is located at the northwest corner of Drake Road and Parkview Avenue, is expected to begin sometime next year. No firm date has been set. One way it will differ from the first phase is that no academic buildings are planned for the site.
The original BTR Park was developed as a partnership between the city of Kalamazoo and WMU. The high-tech business development shares WMU’s Parkview Campus with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Partner firms in the life sciences, advanced engineering, and information technology have regular opportunities to interact with WMU’s faculty, research staff and students.
The first BTR Park has attracted more than $150 million in investment and generated more than 800 jobs and hundreds of internships for WMU students in 42 private companies located there. When the first park filled up--all but one parcel is either fully developed or under contract for future development--it triggered the development of the Colony Farm Orchard property.
Sources: Bob Miller, Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University