March 13 2013 12:00 AM

The private, nonprofit university plans to renovate an old nine-story bank, keep its Lansing campus downtown

Wednesday, June 20 — Following months of speculation that it may move out of the city, Davenport University has announced that it will keep a downtown Lansing campus and renovate a nine-story building in the process.
“I think people will really find this to be a great place to get an education,” Davenport President Rick Pappas said Tuesday.

Davenport has purchased the Grand View Center building at the corner of Grand Avenue and Allegan Street downtown, which used to house a bank that is now in the Stadium District. Renovations for the $10 million project will start this fall and are expected to be completed by the fall 2013 semester. Pappas said the college plans to grow in Lansing and that its current facilities at Kalamazoo and Cherry streets are inadequate.

Davenport’s announcement is an important one because of speculation last fall about the possibility of the college moving out of the city. It had attempted to acquire the mostly vacant Oliver Towers building and adjacent parking lot downtown in September — with support of the Bernero Administration — but backed out of the deal after objections from Lansing Community College that it wanted the property. Pappas, at the time, also cited divisive politics at the city level being a driving factor for backing out. On Tuesday, Pappas said there was always a “50-50” percent chance of the college staying in the city.

Now, the city is about to sell the parking lot adjacent to Oliver Towers to LCC and Pappas appears to have put the rift behind him. “We never got upset about the situation. We just have to find a location that fits what we’re looking for. We had to take a look inside and outside the city. This location came along.”

Pappas credited Mayor Virg Bernero’s efforts to keep the college downtown. He said the college “looked at a number of places” within Ingham County. “Mayor Bernero has been nothing but supportive of trying to keep us downtown,” he said.

“I’m delighted to see that our diligent efforts to keep Davenport University growing right here in Lansing have come to fruition,” Bernero said in a prepared statement. “Thanks to President Pappas and the entire Davenport team for believing in Lansing and for working with us to find a permanent home for one of our community’s greatest educational assets.”

The university’s Lansing campus is one of 11 throughout the state. Its programs largely focus on business, health and technology fields.

Davenport plans to remodel the nine-story, 55,000-square-foot structure to make room for an increased enrollment of 2,000 full- and part-time students.

Pappas said the day-to-day experience of Davenport students is “surely going to be better” at the new facility, citing “state-of-the-art” interactive classroom walls, new laboratories and flexible room spaces. It will also hold a library, public meeting rooms and faculty offices. Pappas also said the college is “shifting” from offering mostly associates degrees to more bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

“We’ve really put our arms around quality standards,” he said.