Nonprofit to acquire historic Albion school building, repurpose as affordable senior housing

What’s happening: A historic but underutilized building in Albion will be repurposed as an affordable senior housing facility, this thanks to a recent agreement between Albion College and the Battle Creek-based nonprofit Zero Day. Albion College has owned the historic Washington Gardner property since 2011; Washington Gardner Middle School closed in 2009. Zero Day will acquire, develop, and manage the development.

What it is: The current building at 14 N. Huron St. in Albion has been site to a school since 1872, and has been demolished and rebuilt in various phases in the decades following. Construction on the building as it stands today began in 1926. Albion College acquired the building in 2011 and has used it for various purposes since then, including art studios, flexible meeting and presentation spaces, and a COVID-19 testing site. Still, the college says the property has consistently been “underutilized,” per a release, a motivating factor in their transferring ownership to Zero Day.

What it will become: Zero Day is partnering with Allied Argenta and Cinnaire to renovate and repurpose the 117,000 sq. ft., three-story building as an affordable senior housing facility, with 61 senior residential units and senior community amenities planned. The nonprofit’s primary focus is to provide veterans with workforce and housing solutions, and Zero Day plans to offer on-site vocational training and employment programs for U.S. veterans, as well.

Why it’s important: “Over the past few months as we’ve analyzed the College’s existing real estate footprint, Washington Gardner continued to be among the locations of interest for cost savings due to its lack of use over an extended period and the lifecycle costs of maintenance and operation,” says Wayne Webster, president of Albion College.

“When meeting with city leaders and reaching out to potential partners, our priority was to identify a productive use for the location that would serve the interests of the City of Albion and Michigan, while preserving the legacy of Mr. Gardner. It also was paramount that the property included deed restrictions so that it is not used now or any time in the future in a manner detrimental to the safety, appearance, or learning environment of Albion College and the local community.”

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