GVSU board approves agreements for Belknap development

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The Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees approved two memos of understanding regarding property the university owns in the Belknap neighborhood in the city of Grand Rapids. The approvals came at the board's February 12 meeting at the L. William Seidman Center in Grand Rapids, following the city commission's approval at its meeting earlier in the week.

The MOUs followed a collaborative process by representatives from Grand Valley, Neighbors of Belknap Lookout (NOBL), and the city. The three parties are committed to cooperatively developing the property while keeping the needs of the neighborhood and those who live there in focus. 

One agreement involves vacating an alley that is on the university's property, planning for affordable housing and the review process for building plans when they are developed. The other agreement uses the urban planning consultants Smithgroup JJR and involves how the university will work with the neighborhood to ensure that any future building on university property fits in with the character and integrity of the neighborhood.

"Grand Valley is committed to working with the neighborhood so that future development enhances the area," said Thomas J. Haas, president of Grand Valley. "These memos of understanding illustrate our desire to help the city with affordable housing and the area residents with employment opportunities. The city and the neighborhood representatives are working with us and that will lead to the right outcome for all involved."

Now that the board and the city have approved these agreements, the university will move into the planning stages for a building that will expand Grand Valley's health campus. There is no timetable for construction at this time. Grand Valley is the region's number one provider of health care professionals.

In other board action:

Students will see a modest increase in room and board rates beginning with the fall 2016 semester; the board voted to increase the rate 1.6 percent. The average cost for living on campus per semester will increase by $32; the cost per semester in a traditional living center will be $2,725. Students can choose from a variety of meal plans. The cost for the 14-meal a week plan per semester will increase $50 and cost $1,475. 

This year's increase in room and board rates at Grand Valley is less than the five-year state average increase of 3 percent at public universities in Michigan. The fall 2015 occupancy rate at Grand Valley was 6,068 students living on campus. More than 7,800 students purchased a meal plan, which means students who don't live on campus still choose to use campus dining.