From department store to college, GRCC's new Lakeshore Campus opens

Calling it a historic day for the more-than-century-old educational institution, Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink joined Ottawa County leaders in celebrating the opening of the new Lakeshore Campus. Its new home is a former shuttered department store that has been transformed into a vibrant learning hub for students of all ages.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Aug. 19 kicked off three days of events intended to introduce the community to the opportunities created by the new campus, located in the former JCPenney in The Shops at Westshore mall.

“The GRCC Lakeshore Campus reflects a vision of a community college education being accessible to everyone,” Pink says. “As we walk through this magnificent facility, you will be surprised that it was once a department store. But you will be amazed at how this revitalized space will help people change their lives and make this entire community stronger. We are taking higher education on the Lakeshore to a new level.”

The 52,000-square-foot facility has nine classrooms, four computer labs, and five unique labs for biology, chemistry, electronics, automation, welding, and machine tooling.

Consolidated resources

GRCC has offered classes on the Lakeshore, spread out in four locations, for more than 20 years. The new Lakeshore Campus consolidates resources and programs in the heart of Holland Township with access to public transportation, employers, and services.

The 52,000-square-foot facility has nine classrooms, four computer labs, and five unique labs for biology, chemistry, electronics, automation, welding, and machine tooling. The campus houses programs for students working toward an associate degree or a career-focused certificate.

The $12 million project also has spaces for advising and counseling and other student support services, as well as a satellite library and areas for use by community groups.
GMB Architecture + Engineering designed the project, and construction was directed by The Christman Co. The building will be LEED-certified, in accordance with GRCC’s sustainability goals. 

The Lakeshore campus houses programs for students working toward an associate degree or a career-focused certificate.

Generous donor support

Donors to the project include the Brooks family, the Community Foundation for the Holland/Zeeland Area, Gentex Corp., GMB Architecture + Engineering, Haworth, Herman Miller, Hudsonville Ice Cream, and Patrick A. Thompson and Family.

“The generous support for this project reflects Lakeshore residents recognizing the value of a community college and GRCC’s ability to help students of all ages fulfill their dreams,” says Dr. Kathryn K. Mullins, GRCC’s vice president of Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation. “We embrace this community partnership, and know it will grow even stronger in the years to come.”

Current class offerings can lead to an Associate of Arts, Associate of General Studies, and Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences-Industrial Maintenance Technology, as well as certificates in Industrial Maintenance, Industrial Technology, Tooling and Manufacturing, and Welding.

The Lakeshore Campus will offer certificates in Industrial Maintenance, Industrial Technology, Tooling and Manufacturing, and Welding.

Repurposed with promise

Kelsey Sivertson, who credits the community college for helping her turn her life around, says the new GRCC Lakeshore Campus will provide those same opportunities to others.

"You have chosen to take this empty mall that once stood as a representation of failure and repurposed it with promise and meaning and hope. And in doing that, you have vocalized your belief that people like me can do the same," says Sivertson, sharing her inspirational comeback story during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Workforce training programs include Welding Bootcamp, Certified Production Technician, Pharmacy Technician, and other offerings. Continuing education and professional development will be available for a variety of sectors, as well as customized training and assessments. 

The expanded space will increase GRCC’s partnerships with area employers, and plans call for additional programs, possibly in health care, early childhood education, and teaching.

The new Lakeshore Campus consolidates resources and programs in the heart of Holland Township with access to public transportation, employers, and services.

‘A great step forward’

“When we're out talking to our member firms, all we're hearing about these days is talent,” says Jane Clark, President and CEO of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. Talent is the most critical issue they're facing. We need this facility so that we have affordable and attainable education available for everybody in this community.”

In the past decade, Ottawa County's population grew by nearly 33,000 residents, reflecting a 12% increase. With nearly 300,000 residents, Ottawa is now the seventh-most populous county in Michigan. 

While the county lags when it comes to the percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees, the goal of the campus isn’t about pushing all students on the path to a four-year degree, points out Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, an economic development organization serving Ottawa and Allegan counties.

“You do not need a four-year degree to have a great job,” says Owens. “But you do need advanced education beyond high school in order to have a job that pays an amazing wage. And so, we want to have more educational opportunities for those hard-working parents and families so they can continue to grow. This (campus) is a great step forward.”

Related:

Seats in on-campus classes still available in final week before GRCC’s fall 2021 semester starts

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

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