[nfbmi-talk] wow could have been a school for the blind
goodfolks at charter.net
Fri Dec 3 22:22:37 UTC 2010
Actually, Joe, this building was the library and museum of the school for
the blind in Lansing.
----- Original Message -----
From: "joe harcz Comcast" <joeharcz at comcast.net>
To: <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 2:28 PM
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] wow could have been a school for the blind
The former School for the Blind library and museum comes back to life as a
neighborhood empowerment center
When walking through the former School for the Blind library and museum on
Pine Street with Gene Townsend, the construction manager who organized its
one of the first things he said was, Its amazing what you can get done in
a few weeks.
Townsend, who also led the redevelopment of the former superintendents
house just a short walk away, was referring to the amount of work slated to
by Dec. 20 when multiple neighborhood groups move into the property.
But in a few weeks, the floors and wood walls will be finished and light
fixtures will be hung, turning the 46-year-old building into a headquarters
local neighborhood agencies all on time and on schedule.
The goal is to make this building a resource center for neighborhood
redevelopment, Townsend said. This was an old, decrepit building and we
did a total
gut rehab on it.
Townsend maintained the town hall concept on the inside with an open foyer
as well as glass-walled conference rooms.
The building is split into two portions: A one-story section to the south
and a two-story section on the north. He also added a new entrance on the
side of the building facing Pine Street.
The new tenants of the 17,000square-foot structure will be a Head Start
branch, a division of the Ingham County Land Bank, the Greater Lansing
and a few other social services agencies, Townsend said. Head Start, an
early child development program, occupies the one-story portion, while the
groups are in the rest.
The goal is to set the scene for collaboration, he added.
The overall project cost $2 million, which includes the Housing Coalitions
purchase of the building and renovation costs. The rehab began in June,
Townsend is shooting for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) silver status, which includes rain gardens outside, new windows and
and cooling equipment even family-sized bathrooms with showers for people
who want to clean up after bicycling to work or exercising during lunch
That (LEED) process drives a lot of decisions, Townsend said.
He added that the building hasnt been used since the 1970s, and demolition
and asbestos abatement cost about $50,000.
Katherine Draper, executive director of the Housing Coalition, joined
Townsend on the tour. She couldnt be happier to move her six-employee
of a little old house.
This is very exciting for us, she said.
Our mission is to revitalize neighborhoods and assist low income families
with purchasing homes this project really fits both of those things.
Shes referring to the open classroom, workshop and boardroom space that
will be free for the public.
This is a phenomenal campus, just a beautiful spot, she said. Its a
natural extension of the Old Town corridor, and we hope it leads to further
On the two-story portion, the ceilings were raised five feet to let in more
light from roughly 10-foot windows that reach the ceiling. The exposed
is an off-white shade to hide dirt and cobwebs, Townsend said.
The cement pillars along the original, west-facing entrance were also
maintained. The only real snag Townsend encountered was the foundation of an
that had to be removed from the parking lot.
That was a big cost to demolish, but it has gone pretty smoothly, he said.
Good subcontractors make all the difference.
With the influx of new employees, children and general activity, Townsend
said neighbors should not be concerned about the traffic (the roads can
it) or the people (it makes the neighborhood safer). Its all about density
to make a neighborhood work.
Its about having eyes and ears on the property to make it work, he said.
Its better than a vacant property with a cyclone fence around it.
Pam Dutcher, who lives around the corner of the center at 504 W. Grand River
Ave., has been in the neighborhood for six years.
They wont bother me. I dont mind the extra traffic, she said.
In her six years there, Dutcher has seen her share of gangs, violence and
dog fighting near her home, she said. But the new center, along with a
of homes nearby fixed up by the Land Bank, things are getting better, she
That 40 acres of land is nice, she said, referring to the campus. A lot
of people walk their dogs over there.
This project was about twice as large as Townsends Printers Row housing
development in the Cherry Hill Neighborhood downtown, he said. This is
feather in his cap, though, for the area in and around the Walnut
neighborhood: He was also construction manager for a couple of houses on
as well as the former superintendents house, which is used by Rizzi
Townsend said the old school building on campus a short walk away from the
center is getting the most attention now. It would most likely be
but there are significant startup costs standing in its way the price of
rent must make up for the costs to renovate, which looks shaky right now.
They would make wonderful lofts, he said.
When looking around the property, it becomes obvious Townsend is leaving his
mark. But hes modest. Yeah, were starting to. This is going to be a cool
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