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Innovative GRCC Secchia Piazza, with iconic SkyCone, earns statewide honors for Granger Construction

March 15, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The innovative Secchia Piazza project and its already iconic SkyCone earned statewide honors for Granger Construction, the company that built the event space.

The Granger project team was honored with a Washtenaw Contractors Association 2023 Pyramid Award on March 10 in the category of Best Project Team for projects costing $3 million and $25 million.

The Secchia Piazza is located in Grand Rapids Community College’s Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center, 151 Fountain St. NE.

Progressive AE was the architect for the project. GRCC artists designed some of the features, and the project was overseen by the GRCC Facilities Department, with Executive Director James VanDokkumburg.

“This project will forever change the skyline of Grand Rapids,” said Brad Hesche, Granger’s regional director of West Michigan.

“It is always fun getting to work on cool projects like this, but it is especially meaningful to be part of a team that is helping bring state-of-the-art higher education spaces to the communities where we live and work. This was a challenging build on many levels, especially given the one-of-a-kind design elements. But on behalf of Granger, I can say we are proud of everyone who was involved in helping successfully deliver these spaces for the GRCC community.”

The Secchia Piazza project transformed an existing outdoor patio into an indoor multi-use space, and another opportunity to tell the stories of students’ journeys from the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education to destinations around the globe.

The project included innovative and challenging features, including the SkyCone, a 31-foot wide by 15-foot-tall cone-shaped skylight with colorful glass panels that reshaped the campus and serves as an iconic landmark in downtown Grand Rapids.

Other key features include a custom floor feature, a Live Roof system and renovations to the Heritage Restaurant, a teaching restaurant for Secchia students.

Site logistics were a challenge for the builders.  The building is located on the corner of a busy downtown intersection, which left little to no room for laydown space. Additionally, the work within the building took place above and adjacent to occupied spaces.

The most prominent design feature is the SkyCone, which Granger leaders believe is the first of its kind.

This architectural feature included 20 colored panels, each made up of laminated glass panels with a colored film inner layer in seven shades of oranges, yellows and greens. The glass was set in a painted aluminum frame, and the entire system serves as the center portion of the ceiling for the new piazza addition.

Creating this kaleidoscopic roof system was challenging given both the design itself and the size and type of glass materials used. Between the room’s suspended acoustical tile ceiling and the skylight above, custom laser-cut plastic panels colored to match the skylight glass are supported by a custom fabricated aluminum structure to improve room acoustics while also enhancing the experience of light and color in the room.

Centered beneath the cone-shaped skylight is a 30’ diameter polished concrete tondo with steel/metal inlays, creating a unique form of circular art. The metal panel inlays were designed by GRCC artist Ben Benefiel to evoke the educational pathway students take from the Secchia Institute to culinary opportunities across the country and around the world.

Outside, the new addition features a terrace deck with views of the city, accessed by oversize sliding glass doors which also introduce fresh air and breezes to the event space.

This project required collaboration, highly skilled craftsmanship and extensive coordination to ensure success. The team navigated extremely tight site logistics in a high-traffic, occupied facility and overcame numerous supply chain and volatile market challenges. In the end, they delivered a distinctive space that will leave a legacy for GRCC, its students and the surrounding community.

The Secchia Piazza is a gift from the late Peter Secchia and his family, whose generosity and drive for excellence helped the Secchia Institute create state-of-the-art facilities, attract top faculty members, and prepare students for rewarding careers in the hospitality industry.

GRCC’s culinary program was renamed after Secchia and his wife, Joan, in 2007. The Pietro and Regina Amphitheater, named after Peter Secchia’s grandparents, was added in 2012. Peter’s Pub was launched in 2016 as part of GRCC’s Fountain Hill Brewery, tapping into the demand created by Grand Rapids’ growing craft beer industry.