HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Lakeshore Advantage is bringing a new innovation and technology hub to downtown Holland.
Demolition of the structure currently at the intersection of 7th Street and College Avenue is set to take place this August. The three-story, 20,000-square-foot building will include a 50-person learning lab, space for Lakeshore Advantage’s new headquarters and a business incubator.
“Lakeshore Advantage’s mission is to ensure this generation and the next want to live and work in our vibrant community,” Jennifer Owens, the president of Lakeshore Advantage, told News 8. “It is keeping the workforce and the talent we have here and retaining new talent that comes in. So that’s why it’s so important to have a thriving innovation technology hub.”
She said around half of people between the ages of 20 and 30 want to either create or be a part of a startup.
“This is key to our mission, to attract that next generation of talent and help them build whatever they think is next,” she said.
Once complete, Lakeshore Advantage will be moving its pilot incubator, the ‘Surge Center’ located above Butch’s on 8th Street, to the new building. Right now, the incubator has 38 tenants, exceeding expectations.
“We expected to have about 15,” Owens said.
The Next Center will have room for 50 startups at a time. They’ll be there for about three months to two years before moving on.
“The businesses we envision using the incubator space are really high-tech, high-growth companies,” Owens said. “These are companies that can scale a product or a service and sell it anywhere in the world or the U.S. So these are entrepreneurs with big ideas, and our team comes alongside them to bring those ideas to a reality and hopefully a profitable revenue source.”
The Next Center’s learning lab will be available for organizations like nonprofits, government agencies and schools to use. The building will also have space for second-stage employers — companies that have started generating revenue after the startup phase.
The third floor will have space for a tenant that fits in with the rest of the “ecosystem,” Owens said.
“We haven’t identified who that tenant is, but if there is a technology firm or an organization that wants to take a look and come partner with us on that third floor, we’d love to hear from you,” she said.
The construction firm handling the project, EV Construction, is the same group that sold the land to Lakeshore Advantage.
“It was not for sale,” EV Construction Vice President John Parker said. “When Jennifer approached us about her idea for the Next Center, it was a project that we could get behind and that … we knew would bring long-term value to the community. … Because of that, we knew it was the right time to part ways with this piece of our history.”
EV Construction has owned the property, which sits next to its office building, since the 1970s. It has been had a few uses, like general storage or a steel fabrication shop.
Parker said the building currently on the property is “past its useful life.”
“We’re going to come back with modern construction, environmentally-sensitive construction and a purpose-built building that’s going to serve Lakeshore for a long time,” he said.
Parker said EV Construction, which was founded in 1945 in downtown Holland, will benefit from the Next Center.
“Our business is directly impacted when companies grow. So with the Next Center being proposed here to grow companies and keep companies in Holland, we know that it will give long-term benefit to the construction industry as well as many other of the suppliers and service industries in our community,” he said. “We see a direct connection between what’s going to happen in this building and the future of our business for many generations.”
Parker said the company also hopes to use the Next Center for its own innovation.
“We’re very humbled that Lakeshore Advantage chose to partner with us,” he said. “We’re really glad that this piece of property can put to such a good use for the future.”
The Next Center is going in just down the road from the future site of downtown Holland’s ice rink. People headed to the rink from 8th Street will walk right past it.
Holland is also working on street upgrades and adding to its snow melt infrastructure in the area.
“I think the Next Center is going to be a great fit right in the middle of all those new amenities,” Parker said. “We hope that the public will walk by, will come and hang out and see what’s happening and see that that entrepreneurial growth right in their backyard.”
Owens said Lakeshore Advantage wanted to be part of the “transformational development” in downtown Holland. She said tourists who visit the area are often “not aware of the power of industry we have here in the community.”
“We’re much more than just a tourist … destination, we’re a place that you can live and thrive. So this will also allow us to show off some of the existing employers in the region,” she said.
She said the Holland community was built on entrepreneurs and the Next Center will help expand on that.
“Some of our largest companies — Haworth, MillerKnoll and Gentex — all started with an entrepreneur in a garage who built these major powerhouses,” Owens said. “So we’re hoping to build the next major employer of the future to ensure that our region is vital, no matter what industry we’re serving.”
She said the project will cost about $15 million over 10 years.
Lakeshore Advantage has already raised about 90% of the cost, in part with some major donations from large employers in the region, according to Owens.
“We’ve just had extraordinary commitment from the public private sector to invest,” she said.
Construction of the project will take about a year and a half and is expected to be completed before 2025.
“This building right now kind of sticks out,” Owens said. “We’re ready to knock it down and create something modern and beautiful that the community would be proud to call home.”