Planning for new Midland Community Center

Tentative planning for a new Midland Community Center is well underway, and groundbreaking could happen this year, according to Terri Johnson. She’s the president and CEO of Greater Midland. Johnson says the new facility would be built and then, the existing building razed. That area will then be used for parking. The center is located at 2205 Jefferson Avenue.

Greater Midland is the umbrella organization of the Community Center, Curling Center, Tennis Center, North-End Fitness, Coleman Family Center and North Family Center.   
Terri Johnson is the president and CEO of Greater Midland.
Catalyst Midland met recently with Johnson and several of her colleagues intimately involved with the building’s history, community needs, planning,  financing and fundraising.  

Johnson says the group has preliminary drawings in hand and sufficient funding secured  to take the next major step.  That step, she says, is to fine-tune building appearance, layout, and features and to continue seeking funds, including reaching out to the greater community for financial support.

Johnson and her colleagues say they are often asked why build a new facility when the original one seems perfectly fine to the eye and despite aging quirks, immensely popular with the community – and all ages.  

“The current building is 65 years old and is past its useful life,” she says, adding “electrical, mechanical systems and physical structure of the building are very outdated and are becoming a financial burden to the organization.

“As such, it is impacting the ability to focus our resources on providing critical services to the community.”  

Child care and activities for children are available at the MCC.
Inefficient and old systems are costly to operate and difficult to repair.  A $42,000 monthly utility bill is not uncommon, according to Kevin Heye, executive director of the Community Center and nearby Curling Center.  

Nostalgia aside, regulars at the Community Center are seldom surprised when something doesn’t work.  Example:  In mid-December, over several days:  Locker rooms serving the Oasis Pool had no hot water for showers, the hot tub in the nearby men’s main locker room failed, leaking water into a classroom underneath and debris in ductwork triggered the building’s fire alarm to roar.  

Proposed highlights include:  

Size:  About 117,000 square feet, less than half of the existing building.

Tentative features and where:  Rather than six locker rooms in the existing building, the new facility will have one women’s and one men’s; located in the central core of the first floor, close to gyms and pools.  It will offer “cabanas” to serve locker privacy needs for singles and families.  
Mike Walker (seated) and Ron Wellman get ready for aquatics class in the Oasis Pool locker room.
Two pools side by side join gyms, natatorium, senior area, administration, early childhood and education and community spaces on the first floor.

Wellness, fitness, and  studios are on the mezzanine floor with huge windows.  Guests on the mezzanine floor can watch the activity below.  

Location:  Basically, the parking lot of the existing Center and extending back to the  Curling Center. When the new building is ready for use, the existing building will be razed, and the land converted to parking and landscaping.  

Shape:  A wide, somewhat V-shape with the bottom of the V meeting the Curling Center.

Neighborhood:  No changes; in fact, planners hope to integrate the 14-acre site with the City’s 14-acre Central Park, the new Miracle Field to create a beautifully landscaped area mindful of the neighborhood and its history and Alden B. Dow architecture. 

And roughly, how much will this cost?  That’s a great question but Johnson and her planners are silent on this  -- at least right now.  Johnson offers this explanation:

“We are in the process of determining affordability and support to bring this vision to a reality.  We have been so blessed with the early support from key foundations and companies in Midland, along with a large contribution from the State of Michigan.

“We have a way  to go in raising the needed capital and funding which will determine the full scope and timing of our construction efforts,” she said.   

Back to square feet and why so much less.  A recent study of the existing building showed that many places are used just 15 to 20 percent of the time and some are never used -- but still are heated and cooled.  Hallways consume a whopping 30,000 square feet or the equivalent of about seven basketball courts.

Exercise is at the core of the Midland Community Center.In contrast, planners’ goal for the new building is to use most spaces 80 percent of the time.   And who are these planners?

“Experts in architecture, community-space planning, mechanical and electrical engineering, aquatic design and building logistics from across the country have come together to help us, Johnson notes.  

Planners are also embracing a new approach to building called “universal design (UD).” It goes beyond requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.   Basically, UD strives to improve the original design concept by making a facility more inclusive and desirable rather than simply accessible.   

While planners seem comfortable with the current plan, they admit much work is yet to be done – especially if groundbreaking is to be this year.  Johnson said private conversations with potential donors and foundations have been underway for some time. 
Clockwise are Joann Taylor (mask), Janice Valeri-Rose, Diane Popp and Jim Covieo in the Senior Center. The group, and others, gather twice weekly to play Mah Jongg, a four -player tile game.
A public fund-raising campaign is likely, she says, especially given the community nature of the facility

And the architects’ plans are sufficiently fluid that nothing “on paper” now is definite, but planners are almost gleeful when they speak to what they hope is coming for the community – and relatively soon.  


Read more articles by Ed Hutchison.

Journalism, teaching journalism and gardening are passions that continue to delight Ed Hutchison, a Midland native and resident for most of his life. He is the author of the book “Digging in the Dirt …Friendly Tips for the Gardener in All of Us” and hundreds of newspaper-published garden columns.   He has worked at The Saginaw News and  Dow Corning Corporation and taught at Delta College and Central Michigan University.