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Sept 30, 2004

Calvin Returns to Roots
 

Calvin president Gaylen Byker (right) and Dwelling Place CEO Denny Sturtevant at the recent press conference 

When Calvin College was founded in 1876, the original location was at the corner of Spring and Williams (now Commerce and Williams).

And for 128 years Calvin has been involved not only in downtown Grand Rapids, but all over the west Michigan commnunity - everything from nursing students who volunteer in local health clinics to biology majors doing stream clean-ups to business majors doing inome tax prep for low-income seniors.

However, a new project in Grand Rapids will see a different sort of Calvin involvement in the community. And it will be a homecoming of sorts for the college - a return to the roots established back in 1876 on Spring Street.

The project is the Avenue for the Arts initiative, supported by a $100,000 Cool Cities grant to Dwelling Place in Grand Rapids from the state of Michigan. As part of the Avenue for the Arts, Dwelling Place is renovating a run-down building at the corner of Oakes and Division in Grand Rapids. And when the building is complete one of the tenants will be Calvin College. The college will be leasing about 10,000 square feet of space on the bottom floor of the building and plans to have studios there for both art professors and students as well as gallery and exhibit space.

One of the things that Calvin president Gaylen Byker says is interesting about the project is that the Division/Oakes corner is literally just a quarter of a mile from the original Spring Street location.

"The fact that Calvin began its work as a Christian college just down the street from here is exciting," Byker said at a September 29 press conference announcing the project. "While we have remained commited to being part of the city of Grand Rapids ever since 1876, this project, in a very real sense returns us to our roots."

Byker said too that the work of renewal happening in downtown Grand Rapids, and Calvin's role in that renewal, fits well with the school's mission as a Christian college.

"We talk a lot about renewal at Calvin," he said, "and we send our graduates around the world to practice it. So it's easy to see how a project like this Avenue for the Arts fits in with our institutional mission to renew the world - to make all things new."

Dwelling Place CEO Denny Sturtevant said Calvin's presence in the project is a good thing for all the partners.

"Anytime a college or university makes a major institutional commitment to come into an area like this, it really does enhance the chances of other development to occur," Sturtevant told the Grand Rapids Press.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who served as a storefront pastor in the Heartside neighborhood for 14 years, was equally effusive, telling those gathered for the kick-off press conference that Calvin's move downtown sent a strong signal as to the worth of the project.

Construction is slated to begin in October 2004 with a tentative completion date of fall/winter 2005.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)
dehp@calvin.edu