Residents Share Ideas about Future of Bailey Community Center

Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 11:47 am
By: 
Chris Root

Approximately 50 East Lansing residents who participated in the two-part, facilitated public discussion about the future of the Bailey Community Center have formulated nine clusters of ideas about the future use of the building. The sessions were organized by the City of East Lansing and held on April 27 and May 4 at the Hannah Community Center.

The ideas were in response to this question presented by facilitator Doak Bloss: “What are some ways to repurpose the Bailey Center that would bring the greatest benefit to residents of East Lansing?”

The replies came from small groups, each of which shared the three specific uses that emerged from their discussion as the most significant ideas. The results were clustered into nine groups:

  1. child care
  2. multi-generational services
  3. senior housing
  4. a community center with programming for multiple constituencies
  5. programs developed in connection with Michigan State University
  6. businesses – some ideas for profit-making businesses and others for non-profits
  7. a park
  8. keep the Center a municipal building
  9. sell the building to the highest bidder

 

Bloss will compile a report of the outcomes of the meetings within the next two weeks.

Support for a child care center at Bailey came from seven of the nine or ten small groups. The Bailey Community Center, which operated as an elementary school until 1984, has housed a child care center for about the past ten years. The Bailey child care is currently operated by the Parks, Recreation and Arts department. The City provided new information about the finances of the building and the child care program to participants of the discussion (click here to see it). The data show that the child care program ran at a surplus from fiscal year 2005 to 2013, until major staffing changes were made and the announcement that the program would be terminated.

In September, as ELi reported, City Manager George Lahanas told representatives of the Bailey Community Association that the city planned to close the Center. In January, a group of parents of children currently in the child care program presented the City Council with a financial and management proposal for operating the center at Bailey by an entity other than Parks, Recreation and Arts. However, on January 20, the Council voted 3 to 2 to close the child care center and the building, which will happen in September. (Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, and Councilmember Susan Woods voted to close, and Councilmembers Ruth Beier and Kathy Boyle voted against.)

At its January 20th meeting, the Council also authorized hiring a consultant to engage citizens in discussion about the future of the Center. As noted above, the consultative process has revealed continuing support among residents for operating a child care program at the Center.

Monday’s community meeting ended with a discussion of which of the cluster of ideas could be “catalytic” in the sense that pursuing one purpose could bring other uses along. One participant suggested that keeping the Center as a municipal building would be the most catalytic because it would maintain City control of the building, making it possible to operate other programs and services identified as beneficial. While operating a child care center might not in itself be catalytic, it was suggested by some that it could be an effective “anchor,” providing a service to many families with young children and also allowing other parts of the building to be used for other purposes.  Multigenerational programing was also suggested as a catalytic purpose, as was incubator space and food services.

Participants also commented on some uses that they thought would be the opposite of catalytic – that would make potentially beneficial uses more difficult or impossible.
For example, selling the property on which the building is located or demolishing the building to expand the green space of the Bailey Park would shut out the possibility of all the public uses that were identified. Turning the property into housing was also identified as a possible impediment to other uses, partly because of the parking requirements and also because of giving up public control about future uses of the property.

In response to a resident’s question, Councilmember Kathy Boyle reported on three organizations that had approached the City with potential proposals for the Bailey Center: the Capital Area Housing Partnership, Gretchen’s House day care provider, and a charter school that currently operates the Cole Academy in Lansing. She said that none of these proposals have been considered as yet.

Mark Meadows, Chair of the Board of the Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP), spoke briefly to say that CAHP will hold a meeting at the Bailey Center on May 13 at 7 pm to present its ideas to people from the Bailey neighborhood and get their reactions. He summarized briefly that the CAHP proposal includes affordable senior housing, a child care program, multi-generational activities, and office space for CAHP. He told several people after the meeting that CAHP envisions leasing the building from the City and that Gretchen’s House, a child care provider based in Ann Arbor, might partner with CAHP on the proposal. CAHP envisions applying for funding available for repurposing historic buildings and also possibly from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for developing affordable housing.  Meadows said that CAHP would present a proposal to the City only if it had the support of the neighborhood.

 

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