Ypsilanti nonprofit Growing Hope may be able to move its offices back into its farmhouse at 922 W. Michigan Ave. as early as March 25 following a kitchen fire in September that left staff members without their usual office space.
The fire was contained to a small area in the kitchen but caused extensive smoke damage throughout the building. Key Growing Hope staff members, including administration, marketing, and finance, have been operating out of the Back Office Studio (BOS) coworking space in downtown Ypsilanti since late September.
Growing Hope executive director Cynthia VanRenterghem calls the BOS "a great resource" and says staff had a "wonderful six months" renting eight desks at the coworking space.
Over the last six months, work crews have been repairing the damage and upgrading throughout the building. VanRenterghem says the building was due for some remodeling anyway, having received its last facelift in 2008.
"It's definitely a lemons into lemonade situation," says VanRenterghem. Growing Hope was able to convince its insurers to spend an extra $20,000 to upgrade the stove hood where the problem occurred to a modern unit with a fire suppression system.
Growing Hope also took the opportunity to replace flooring, windows, and paint jobs throughout all levels of the farmhouse, as well as upgrading to LED lighting throughout. Renovations removed a bit of asbestos that had been buried, and the renovation crew knocked out a couple of walls to change the configuration of several rooms.
"We'll be using the space we have a lot better," VanRenterghem says.
An inspection by city officials is necessary before staff can move back in, but VanRenterghem expected they would be allowed "partial occupancy" by the end of March. About 10-12 staff members, as well as an occasional intern, work out of the farmhouse office space. VanRenterghem says staffers may move their belongings back to the office, but wait to work out of the space until the COVID-19 crisis is resolved.
More information about Growing Hope and its programs, including a few changes to programming due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is available on the nonprofit's website.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Sarah Rigg.