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WMU names private-sector development partner for East Campus

by Cheryl Roland

Sept. 30, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU's East Campus.
WMU's East Campus
KALAMAZOO--A private firm with a lengthy track record in developing and redeveloping property for commercial reuse has been identified as Western Michigan University's partner in an initiative to adapt and find possible new uses for its historic East Campus.

KDC Real Estate Development and Investments will be the master developer of East Campus and WMU's private-sector partner in the effort. The company has its national headquarters in Dallas, but the East Campus work will be the focus of KDC's Detroit-area office in Dearborn. The KDC team is led by Randall W. Doran, a senior vice president with the firm and a 1983 WMU alumnus.

The announcement of the KDC selection came today as Bob Miller, associate vice president for community outreach, outlined the progress on redevelopment of the East Campus during an appearance at the University's Keystone Community Bank Breakfast Series. Miller, who is WMU's point person for community relations and local economic development, served as co-chair of a task force charged with soliciting requests from the private sector for adaptive reuse of the site that was the early 20th-century birthplace of WMU. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, the task force narrowed the field of private teams from the original 80 that expressed interest in the work to the successful KDC proposal.

"As a Western alum, I wanted very much to be a part of this initiative, and I'm honored that KDC was chosen," says Doran. "KDC is a leader in redevelopment, and we have a team of great partners that is 100-percent Michigan based."

The KDC team includes two lead partners: Urban Campus Communities--UCC--a state-of-the-art residential developer that has worked in three university communities; and Lodgeco Management, a multibrand hospitality management firm with assets in 12 Michigan locations.

Other parts of the KDC team include a number of well-known firms based in or with offices in Kalamazoo. Among them are Tower Pinkster Architects and Engineers; Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, a civil engineering firm; and the Signature Associates and Cushman & Wakefield Alliance, commercial real estate firms.

"We're very excited to be working with KDC," Miller says. "This is a company with strong credentials and a great vision for what the East Campus could be. There are many issues still to be examined and addressed before we're ready to actually begin any work, but we hope that by late winter or early spring, we'll be at the point of moving forward with an exciting project."

While he stressed no redevelopment plans have been finalized, Miller outlined possibilities that could be part of the mix at some point in the future. They inlcude a boutique hotel, conference center, apartments, condos, offices, parking and a health center.

During his talk, Miller outlined the history of the 35-acre site and the five buildings that are the focus of redevelopment. Other parts of East Campus--Walwood Hall, the Little Theatre and Oakland Gymnasium--have been completely or partially revitalized and assigned new uses as part of the University's campus.

Buildings that are still in need of adaptive reuse, 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 available for development, along with a small upholstery shop.

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.

About KDC

KDC, one of America's leading commercial real estate and investment companies, provides a full range of commercial real estate services, including: corporate build-to-suit development, acquisitions, corporate facility project/construction management, project financing, asset and land management, and marketing and leasing. KDC is headquartered in Dallas and has offices in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Detroit.

For more information, visit