Why A Downtown Presence For MCC?

Posted by on 10.21.13 in 2013 Ballot Question

I am often asked about why MCC is pursuing a downtown presence. Here is my take:

  • If we need additional or replacement space, why not build the space where it is most cost effective and where it will have the highest economic impact?
  • Integrating additional space in the community will directly support the community component of the college’s mission

At its October 2013 meeting, the MCC Board of Trustees voted to put forward a purchase offer on the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Muskegon. The offer, contingent upon the College’s inspection of the space, calls for the college to pay $1 for the building plus assumption of back taxes of $20,000. This represents a tremendous savings $2.7 million over the cost of constructing a building “shell” for a 54,000 sf building: assuming $50 per square foot. It also represents a very generous in kind contribution from a long time pillar of the community.

Earlier this month, I visited Kalamazoo Valley Community College/Arcadia Commons Campus to see firsthand what a downtown initiative by a community could produce. Three buildings and 1,100 private and public sector jobs later, I argue that they did ok. I urge all of you to visit KVCC this fall to see how north downtown Kalamazoo has changed from a VERY depressed community to a beautiful spot akin to a small San Antonio, river walk included. No one in Kalamazoo believes that a downtown presence was a mistake now, even though many had questions in the late 1980s, when their downtown initiative was conceptualized. Today KVCC is fundraising for three more buildings near downtown.

I personally do not subscribe to the argument that we shouldn’t go downtown because as some may say “MCC is not in the economic development business.” Our 200 business partners believe we are an economic engine. Leaders in communities like Kalamazoo and elsewhere where downtown initiatives have taken place (Springfield Ohio, Norfolk Virginia and more) also believe that their community colleges are economic engines. The Brookings Institute believes that community colleges play a key role in economic development.

The Board has directed the administration to assure that any downtown center have wrap around services and classes, including general education courses and advising, to assure that travel between campuses is minimized. Much like KVCC and our own Grand Haven and Newaygo campuses, these services will be offered. Discussions are beginning with Muskegon County government for enhanced bus transportation between downtown and MCC’s main campus.

Moreover, keep in mind that “Community” is our middle name. MCC mission states in part that MCC’ mission states that the College “provides persons the opportunity to attain their educational goals by offering programs that respond to individual, community and global needs.”  We are not Muskegon Quarterline College. We are Muskegon Community College. A downtown campus will help MCC achieve its mission.

Please feel free to reply or contact me at president@muskegoncc.edu.

4 Responses to Why A Downtown Presence For MCC?

  1. Beverly Geyer says:

    I am an MCC grad and I believe having a campus downtown is a brilliant idea. I hope the vote is positive.

  2. shirley gossett says:

    brilliant use of unused property!

  3. Will Merritt says:

    Who is paying for this initiative?

    • Dale Nesbary says:

      All projects are funded via 1) a $24 million bond approved by local voters in 2013. The science center is partially funded via a $4.6 million state of Michigan capital outlay construction authorization, also approved in 2013.

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