GRCC partners with Haworth, others for flexible new campus

Working with industrial partners, Grand Rapids Community College has transformed a vacant shopping center into a center of possibility.

Holland-based furniture manufacturer Haworth partnered with GRCC on the space, providing furnishings and equipment throughout, and recently featured the work in its blog “Spark—Workplace Insights that Ignite Ideas” as an “inspired design” and example of a public-private partnership strengthening a community.

Haworth specializes in flexible design, and that jibes with the agility GRCC is striving for with this new campus.

The 52,000-square-foot campus is lit by vast windows and skylights that create a welcoming atmosphere with places to that can adapt to allow students to sit, have conversations, collaborate with others, or just have some quiet time, says Kathryn Mullins, GRCC’s vice president for College Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation.


The flexible design will allow the campus to adapt spaces as business and job market needs change. In the coming weeks, the college expects to announce new partnerships with organizations in the health care sector, says Dave Murray, GRCC communications director.

GRCC opened the new campus a little more than a year ago, allowing the community college to consolidate four lakeshore locations. The space in what was once Westshore Mall and is now known as The Shops at Westshore (12331 James St., Holland Township) includes nine classrooms and four specialized labs for computers, chemistry, electronics, automation, welding, and machine tooling. The building has been LEED certified. 

“Many manufacturers, including Haworth, benefit from GRCC’s state-of-the-art technical training programs, while students learn valuable skills close to home that will help them earn more and advance in their careers,” according to a case study from the furniture manufacturer.


GRCC partners with more than 450 employers in the region to best stay on top of trends and needs in evolving and emerging fields, Murray says.

Those partnerships take on many forms, he says. Sometimes those partnerships involve employers participating in advisory boards. Other times it is creating apprenticeship opportunities. Other times it is providing support to create facilities and the environment for students to be successful.

“What used to be a blighted mall and kind of something that felt like it was a failure in the community has now been transformed into something that will help students succeed and it will raise the vitality and the economic prosperity of this entire region,” Mullins says in a video that accompanies the Haworth case study.

About 1,000 students are enrolled this semester. GRCC offers either an associate degree or career-focused certificates.

In addition to classrooms and labs, the campus also has spaces for student support services, a library, and an area for use by community groups.


The GRCC Facilities team, directed by Jim Van Dokkumburg, oversaw the transformation. GMB Architecture + Engineering designed the project, and construction was directed by The Christman Co.

Other community donors include the Brooks family, the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Gentex Corporation, GMB, Herman Miller, Hudsonville Ice Cream Company, and Patrick A. Thompson and family.

Earlier this year, Architect, the journal of the American Institute for Architects, featured the campus, and it was named an “Outstanding Project” in the Community College Renovation/Adaptive Reuse/Restoration category by Learning by Design magazine.

“There’s just a feeling when you walk in here there’s an energy here that we can do just about anything in this facility,” Mullins says.
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