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WMU seeks proposals for East Campus development

Oct. 18, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Efforts to revitalize Western Michigan University's historic East Campus will move to a new phase as WMU seeks proposals from private firms to find new uses for the area that is the University's birthplace.

Photo of WMU's East Campus.WMU is now accepting letters of interest from firms that want additional details on the area's potential and wish to tour the site before submitting a proposal for redevelopment. The move follows a two-year effort by a campus/community task force charged with finding a way to revitalize the 35-acre tract and five buildings that were built in the early 20th century.

Interested parties must pose any questions in writing and submit letters of interest by 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, to be included in the selection process. A pre-proposal conference will be held Thursday, Jan. 20, allowing qualified potential developers who have submitted letters of interest to tour and examine the site and take an in-depth look at the infrastructure that exists. A second round of written questions will be accepted through Friday, Feb. 4, and proposals for development will be due at WMU by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. All proposals will be held in confidence until contract awards have been made.

For more information, to request a copy of the request for proposal, to submit a letter of interest or to pose questions in writing, contact Don Penskar, WMU director of logistical services, at donald.penskar@wmich.edu.

"The eventual use of these buildings does not have to be University-related, but it cannot run counter to the mission of WMU," says Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach, who co-chaired the task force with David Dakin, director of campus planning. "The architectural integrity of any building selected for redevelopment must be preserved, but other than that, we're wide open to any economically viable idea."

Miller and Dakin say potential developers will need to be aware of the magnitude of the total redevelopment effort, but note that the University will accept proposals for any of the buildings separately or the total East Campus as a package. The site is at the top of Prospect Hill overlooking Kalamazoo's downtown area. Building on the site began in 1904, shortly after the University was founded as Western State Normal School. The campus, with East Hall as the oldest and most visible of the facilities, was once dubbed "the Acropolis of Kalamazoo" by humorist Will Rogers.

Buildings that are part of the call for private development include four historic buildings that currently are nearly vacant--East Hall, West Hall, North Hall and the Speech and Hearing Building. Those four buildings total more than 225,000 square feet. In addition, Vandercook Hall, a residence hall built in 1939 and located across Oakland Drive from the site, could also be made available for development.

East Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, based on its architectural and historic significance. To retain that designation, any exterior alterations must follow federal guidelines for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. The entire East Campus was designated the Western Sate Normal School Historic District in 1990, and listed on the National Register as a cultural and historic site worthy of preservation.

A number of tax incentives and other tools are available for private developers that are not available to the University because it is a public institution that is not assessed taxes. Such incentives include financing options, grants for energy-efficient development and environmental remediation, and historic-building preservation incentives.

"All of these tools add up to the possibility for development at a substantial savings to the developer," Dakin says. "In addition, we know our partners in the city of Kalamazoo are supportive and ready to work with developers on issues related to zoning and permitting."

Development calls for the University to retain ownership of the land itself, but ownership of the buildings can be transferred to allow developers to take advantage of the full range of tax incentives and development tools.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400