The Rapidian

Rockford Construction works to practice what they preach in new headquarters on West Side

Rockford CEO Mike VanGessel discusses the keys to Rockford's success and why they chose the West Side as their new home.

Rockford Construction history

Some of Grand Rapids' best-loved establishments speak to Rockford's innovative approach to construction. Extensive renovation work on venues such as the Amway Grand Plaza, Inner City Christian Federation and Eastern Floral are just part of their portfolio.

To find out more about Rockford Construction and their past, current and future projects visit their website.

/Steve Remmler

This July, Rockford Construction will be moving their headquarters to the West Side, from Cascade Township where they resided for eight years. President and CEO Mike VanGessel explains that they were able to redevelop a long disused paper factory after obtaining a grant from the City.

“By taking what was an empty, blighted old factory and turning it into a state-of-the art facility, we can help continue revitalizing the neighborhood and bring our team under one roof- while we explore new frontiers in construction and property development,” says VanGessel.

The move has meant Rockford is now able to bring greater cohesion to the business by housing all of their three branches- Rockford Trades, Rockford Development and Rockford Construction- in one building. But Van Gessel wasn't just looking for a building big enough to bring all three branches together.

“Bridge Street is a promising business district with a tremendous history. We’re approaching the project from the perspective of the community: what will work best for the West Side neighborhood and the larger community,” he says.

“We view the West Side as one of the city’s great assets. It’s tough to match this neighborhood’s rich history and diversity. From small business owners to long-time residents to the students and faculty at Grand Valley State University, the West Side represents some of the best Grand Rapids has to offer,” he says.

First Ward City Commissioner Walt Gutowski, who owns over 20 properties on the West Side, some of which he recently sold to Rockford, welcomes Rockford's move into the West Side.

“My family has been involved in the well-being of Bridge Street for over 100 years. Bridge Street has taken care of my grandfather's family, my father's family and my family,” says Gutowski, a lifelong resident of the area. "When [VanGessel] informed me that he was moving his headquarters just down the street from my headquarters, I was ecstatic to learn of this news.”

So what specifically will Rockford be undertaking on the West Side? Plans are not solid enough yet to divulge a full itinerary, but “The Porches,” an 18-unit housing development on the 600 block of Douglas Street, is a good first example.

“The Porches offers a peek at how Rockford is trying to create community and meet the need for quality market-rate housing while being respectful of the neighborhood and the urban environment,” explains VanGessel.

Rockford has grown into one of the top 400 contractors in the nation with work in 44 states, just since its establishment in 1987.

“One major key to Rockford’s success is our willingness to embrace change. In fact, our mission of “Building for a Changing World,” is a reflection of that ideal,” explains VanGessel.

“We pride ourselves on our willingness to explore new ideas, new technologies and new methods that result in safer, greener and more innovative buildings and communities,” he says.

The company has been instrumental in the development of numerous downtown buildings, including the MoDiv retail cluster on Monroe Center and design hub Grid 70 on Ionia Avenue.

“Each of these projects has resulted in the creation of new jobs and the injection of new life into the heart of our city,” says VanGessel.

VanGessel is confident the same is possible in their new projects on the West Side.

The public will be invited to visit Rockford’s West Side home during this year’s ArtPrize event. “We hope ArtPrize will be one of many chances for the community to see and utilize our new space in a way that enhances the vitality of this great neighborhood. ArtPrize also gives us the opportunity to encourage people to explore the diverse offerings here on the West Side,” he says.

“We are grateful for all the community has done to support us over the years. We look forward to continuing our work together to make this city a place we all can be proud to call home,” says VanGessel.

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