Long-term visions emerge for $1 billion Metro Health Village development

Published April 03, 2017

The following article discussing the growth trajectory at Metro Health Village was posted to MiBiz on April 2, 2017.

WYOMING — Stakeholders in the ongoing development of the Metro Health campus say they’re about halfway to their targeted $1 billion investment in southwestern Kent County.

Given a recently finalized partnership deal between Metro Health and University of Michigan Health System, stakeholders in the decade-old development — located just north of the M-6 expressway and just east of Byron Center Avenue — now say that the next 10 years will bring even more changes and construction. However, Metro Health executives and a key developer on the site have slightly different ideas for how those changes should play out.

“I think it’s fair to say that this site has all the capability of what is downtown (on the Medical Mile). I think we’ll start to see that kind of vision be demonstrated here in the next 10 to 20 years,” said Granger Group President and CEO Gary Granger, referring to the cluster of medical and life science facilities on the north side of downtown Grand Rapids.

“I happen to think we need to look as big as the Medical Mile,” he said. “I think we need to start looking at some major, major facilities that take advantage of every last square inch of this site.”

As the developer of the roughly 180-acre Metro Health Village and adjacent properties, Granger said his company’s role primarily lies in providing the necessary infrastructure to allow the village and surrounding area to continue on a growth trajectory. That’s including road and infrastructure construction, as well as the considerable addition of complementary uses such as hospitality and retail businesses.

“What we’re starting to see now is some other next-tier kinds of services,” Granger said. “We see the potential of multiple additional hotels out here as we look at the additional services that need to be provided. From there, it will go to restaurants (and) additional retailers that want to be onsite. We’re really at the beginning of a very exciting time.”

In recent months, developers have focused considerable attention on hospitality at Metro Health Village. In late February, stakeholders announced two new nearby hotels, as MiBiz reported at the time. For its part, Granger Group is partnering with Farmington Hills-based Stellar Hospitality on a new $8 million Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel at 5970 Metro Way. Additionally, the development subsidiary of Grand Rapids-based general contractor Orion Construction Company Inc. said it joined an investment partnership that plans to build and develop a 107-room Home2 Suites By Hilton hotel on the campus of Metro Health.

“Metro Health and U of M are leaders when it comes to providing quality health care in Michigan,” Orion Real Estate Solutions President John Wheeler said in a statement at the time of the project announcement. “With Home2 Suites by Hilton, we are confident that the level of hospitality and comfort provided to our guests will reflect the standards and expectations that Metro Health has been developing over the last decade.”

DIFFERENT VISIONS?

Metro Health executives also say they feel the excitement, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Given that Metro Health Village has reached the halfway point of its buildout and that the hospital has formed a new partnership with U-M, the health care provider is currently taking some time to plan for the next decade, said President and CEO Mike Faas.

“We’re doing an analysis right now, but what I can tell you is there’s more opportunity, not less,” Faas said. “We have more organizations coming to us than we ever have. We’re stopping for a moment and doing an analysis of what really makes sense for the property.”

However, Faas’ vision and focus for the long-term future differs slightly from what Granger has in mind. While acknowledging that retail and hospitality-related business in the immediate vicinity of the campus are a priority, Faas hopes to build on the current trends in health care of more ambulatory facilities and bringing health care to the patients, rather than vice versa. “Our strategy has been taking care of people where they live, not trying to amass facilities,” Faas said. “Where it makes sense, we’ll build. But we think it makes more sense to reach out and touch people where they live. Will there be more buildings on this site? Positively. We’ll probably have some parking structures.”

Faas wants to play to Metro Health’s strengths and not give up what makes the campus unique. “We’ll lose a lot of who we are if we’re not able to stay easily accessible and highly visible in terms of entrances,” he said. “That simplicity is part of what makes us so enticing to so many users. If we just become what’s already here, I think the patients in West Michigan lose.”