Renovations on building donated to WMU medical school to begin in early 2012

Christmas has come bit early for downtown Kalamazoo with the announcement of the gift of a home for Western Michigan University’s School of Medicine.

The school, which has been three years in the planning, got its first big lift earlier this year with a $100 million anonymous gift.

Now it has been given a 330,000-square-foot building located just off the northwest corner of Lovell and Portage streets. The seven-story building, known as Building 267, has all the space immediately needed and will provide ample room for future growth, university officials say.

It was once part of the Upjohn, Pharmacia and Pfizer downtown campuses respectively and then was owned by MPI Research, headquartered in Mattawan. MPI has donated the building, one of two it obtained from Pfizer, saying since the economic downturn it has not grown at its previous rate and no longer needs both buildings.

An architectural engineering firm hired to build the medical school carefully analyzed the building along with other proposed sites in the community. And WMU President John Dunn says the cost of renovating the donated building and the cost of new construction are roughly comparable.

Renovation will begin in early 2012 with a completion date of mid-2014, in time for the first entering class in August 2014. A slight expansion and significant renovation of the space. so that Building 267 can accommodate both the startup and long-term space needs of the medical school, is planned.

The building has been vacant for at least two years. The cost of renovations will not be determined until the building has been reviewed in detail, plans have been drawn up and bids made on the work. The building, which is now configured as a research facility, will be redesigned for lecture halls and class rooms. Some research areas also will be maintained. Heating and cooling updates also are anticipated.

Earlier this year the City of Kalamazoo released a study that says the medical school is expected initially to yield 500 permanent new jobs in the area and within three years provide another 300, including faculty, support staff, medical residents and indirect employment created by spending from the school and its employees.

During the subsequent five years the addition of another 1,000 jobs could be expected as other bio-medical and research companies expand or are attracted to the area as part of the spin-off associated with the growth of housing, retail and office sectors of the economy.

The WMU School of Medicine is a partnership involving the University and Kalamazoo's two teaching hospitals, Borgess and Bronson. It has been in planning for three years, and fundraising, accreditation work and curriculum development for the school are well under way.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave
Sources: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University and the City of Kalamazoo
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