Sunday, July 5, 2020

Hannah Community Center Committee is planning the facility's future

June 12, 2019
The East Lansing Hannah Community Center on June 12, 2019.
The East Lansing Hannah Community Center on June 12, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The East Lansing Hannah Community Center was threatened with indefinite closure during budget cut discussions in May 2018, but since March 2019, the Hannah Community Center Committee has worked to plan a path for the facility’s future.

“That conversation about closing the community center now has gone away,” Director of Parks, Recreation and Arts and committee staff resource Tim McCaffrey said.

Why the Hannah Community Center?

East Lansing residents overwhelmingly support the amenities that the community center provides, according to survey results presented at the committee's June 10 meeting.

The Hannah Community Center is the most used and most favorable among city parks and facilities, with an 8.6 out of 10 rating, and 81% of respondents reporting they used the center.

102 respondents, the most in any response category, said they desired a fully renovated center, with updated spaces using all the floors.

Senior Commission representative on the committee Sandra House agrees.

“We have this building and there’s another entire floor that is not utilized,” she said.

The third floor was never included in initial renovations when the building was transformed from an old high school to a community center in 2002.

“We’re really just in that process of gathering information and then we’ll be looking at those,” House said.

The Hannah Community Center partners with public and private organizations, non-profits and neighboring municipalities.

68% of community-center respondents said they had plans for construction over the next three years, compared to 55% in 2015.

What will come out of the committee?

The committee’s purpose is to identify the current use and financial position of the community center, while gauging public interests and expectations for its facilities and programming. Committee members are also tasked with analyzing state and national community center trends, looking for physical and marketing improvements.

McCaffrey said the committee will file a one-time report for City Council’s consideration in September or October at the latest.

Initially, the committee placed attention on budget and attendance information.

“It’s quite extensive, so that’s been the primary focus in the first couple of meetings,” McCaffrey said.

In addition to funding and programming, facility infrastructure and aesthetic improvements are included in the conversation, he said. McCaffrey also said that the work of the committee would determine whether the city council decides to recommend additional funding or programming.

Demographic Trends

At the top of Ann Conklin’s presentation to the committee in its June 10 meeting were demographic trends for the city.

Higher age groups are growing, and their use of community center programs are growing along with it, according to House.

“Baby boomers are going to be this big bulge of retirees,” she said. “I know that the attendance has grown, but the space for providing programming hasn’t.”

She said her priorities were to urge the continuance of space for senior programming, building accessibility, and additional furniture and lighting.

Community Center Trends

In addition to city demographics, the committee also has input from Canton, Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Livonia and the Grosse Pointe Neighborhood Club.

One trend highlighted in Conklin’s presentation is an addition of wellness programs as a public health initiative.

In 2016, Livonia launched the Healthy Livonia Collaboration to encourage healthy living and behavioral health programs. St. Mary Mercy, a local hospital, committed an initial investment of $200,000 over five years.

The Neighborhood Club of Gross Pointe also partnered with Beaumont Health, who leased 25% of the facility to provide adult physical therapy and developmental disability services.

“It’s just a lovely building,” House said. “So how can we continue to provide the services of community for all age groups with the space that’s there.”

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