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Community Group Steadily Gaining Support to Repurpose Central Middle School

The group hopes to turn Central Middle School into a community center and recreation complex.

Plymouth-Canton Schools plan to close Central Middle School in Plymouth after construction of a new Canton middle school in 2015. Patch file photo
Plymouth-Canton Schools plan to close Central Middle School in Plymouth after construction of a new Canton middle school in 2015. Patch file photo
Becoming the spokesperson for the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex (PARC) Steering Committee has become a full time job for long-time Plymouth resident Don Soenen. 

Soenen has been fielding daily requests from different community organizations for PARC's presentation about its mission to convert Plymouth-Canton Schools Central Middle School property into a community center for arts and recreation.

The presentation has been made to the the Board of Education and Plymouth-Canton's Administration team. On Friday, Soenen met with the district's Finance Committee.  

"Usually, you're scrambling to get 51 percent of people to agree on anything," he said. "I have to tell you, I have never seen support for anything like this in my career."

PARC will also hold a public forum on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Penn Theatre. to education people on what the project is about and to solicit support. 

"The thing that is so attractive about this project is there is a tremendous amount of emotional attachment in this community to that school," Soenen said. "A lot of people went to school there. That facility has been there almost 100 years, so it has a lot of history in this community... There's not another site in all of Plymouth that is as suitable for an arts and recreation center as that is. The proximity to downtown, the fact that all the athletic fields are already used by a large number of people in our community... I can't imagine that we would eliminate all that and wipe out the ability of that site." 

Plymouth-Canton Schools is currently conducting an internal evaluation to determine its options to dispose of the property. According to Superintendent Mike Meissen's recommendation regarding the Central property, the district is considering its options and will hold community forums with group input starting next month and into December. 

In the meantime, PARC Steering Committee members as well as members of other community groups who use Central Middle School's facilities have been attending regular school board meetings and asking board members not to sell the property. 

Groups like the Plymouth-Canton Cruisers competitive swim team would have to significantly reduce the number of participants in their programs. 

"Part of the problem that we have is there's very limited pool availability in the Plymouth-Canton area," said John Goit, a Plymouth-Canton Cruiser Board Director. "Basically, the only pool access we have are the two high schools and central middle school. We have about 250 swimmers in the club currently and the waiting list over 100 kids. If Central closes, we're going to have to cut down because we wouldn't have enough pool time to facilitate 250 kids."

The Cruisers are made up of kids from ages 6 to 18 and is part of USA Swimming. They compete against other clubs in Michigan and sometimes out of state as well. 

"We basically have all the lanes filled to capacity right now," Goit said. "We would take more kids in the club if we could get more pool time."

Central is the only middle school in the district with a pool, and only two of the three high schools have pools. Goit said the Cruisers lobbied and asked Board members to include a pool at the new middle school to be built in Canton, but the idea was not supported.

"The school board is very non-supportive of athletics," he said. 

Soenen said there are a lot of options for the property, and ideally, the project needs to be a collaboration between the district, city and township. 

"We need the city, township and school district together at the table to sit down and figure out the best way to finance it," he said. "It maybe a combination of public funding and private funding, and possibly a millage. The amount of money involved, if it involved the city and the township alike, would not be that significant for the average homeowner. We really need to sit down and figure out those options. It would require a millage of some sort, not much, to help subsidize the construction of the facility. I think it can certainly hold its own as far as operating expenses are concerned."

Soenen estimates the group will need about two years to put all the pieces in place and to get all the players on the board. After that, the community is looking at another two years for architectural designs and construction. 

What do you think should happen to Central Middle School? Tell us in the comments. 
Mary Uhl October 17, 2013 at 08:37 AM
The location is wonderful, the pool is a nice community asset, could be rebuilt somewhere else. The building is a mess, not worthy of saving.
PARC - One Plymouth October 17, 2013 at 09:40 AM
Hi Mary. if the 18 acres aren't preserved, everything will be gone: the pool, the Green Space. It's not possible to reproduce this. The Community is asking for the opportunity to improve the Green Space and assess the building. The school is closing and either we work together to preserve and improve the property or there could be 60 or 70 homes there, retail, or 90 - 120 condos. You're right about the condition of the building, but remember that it was decided many years ago to stop putting money into a building that would be closed. So while all other schools have had air conditioning added and other improvements, none of that was done at Central. In the 80s, most of the windows were closed up, that's why it got so hot in the building. 3 out of every 4 window panels was closed. If you went to that school before that, you could open the windows and get some air in the rooms Central School Property is Already a Home Home to the Plymouth Veteran’s Memorial Park Home to 220 Steeler Football Players, Cheerleaders & Families Home to 230 OLGC Football Players, Cheerleaders & Families Home to Plymouth Canton Cruisers & Families Home to Hundreds of Miracle League of Plymouth Players & Volunteers Home to Soccer & LaCrosse Players & Families Home to Relay for Life Survivors & Families Home to Walkers & Runners Home to thousands of young people who Attended the School … and more
PARC - One Plymouth October 17, 2013 at 09:41 AM
“The Disposition of Central Middle School” Monday, November 4, 2013 … 7:00 pm Penn Theatre Community Forum … All Are Welcome Presented by PARC—Central School Steering Committee Host: Don Soenen Guest Speakers: Mayor Dan Dwyer & Representatives from Community Groups Central Middle School is closing ·         Hear about the options being considered to dispose of the property. ·         How can we maximize the benefit to the community? ·         Learn about the PARC proposal to repurpose the site into an Arts and Recreation Complex. ·         Get informed about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the most significant development in Plymouth in decades.
Melissa McLaughlin October 17, 2013 at 09:49 AM
In this article I see no mention of the Canton taxpayers. If such a repurposing is to take place, then the organization(s) need to BUY it at a fair and objective market price from the school district, and then proceed to execute their plan. But for a sweetheart deal of some sort between the schools and the organizations, the city and Plymouth Township would be very unfair treatment to the taxpayers of Canton. I would propose that the property be sold, redeveloped into TAX PAYING property which would benefit the city and the schools; the school district use the money to build a pool at the Park for the kids/swim teams. But to keep that old relic alive (and I've been involved in historic preservation for decades, and this building is a relic) would be a bad choice for all. I would support tho that the Miracle League field be carved out along with the veteran's memorial from the sale. The rest of it? Sell it.
PARC - One Plymouth October 17, 2013 at 09:56 AM
No Canton tax dollars would be used for this project. It would be purchased at fair market value. Melissa, for the past few months, there has been a mobilized effort for the community to purchase the property at a fair market value. ABSOLUTELY. Sweetheart deal. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am a taxpayer and very respectful of all the interested parties and I would never start off on a project of this scope trying to do anything but come up with a deal for everyone. I have no idea what the school district would do with the proceeds, that's up to them. As far as the building. At this point, no one should make an assumption about the building. No decision should be made about any part of the building till all the experts take a look at it. There's no use speculating about the building at this time.
PARC - One Plymouth October 17, 2013 at 10:03 AM
On October 11, 2013, Don Soenen, representing PARC, (Plymouth Arts Recreation Complex) made a presentation to the School Finance Committee: (Sheila Paton, (Chair), Judy Mardigian, Mike Maloney. Brodie Killian (Finance Director). The answer to Melissa's comment. "Yes, the property would be purchased at Fair Market Value." As of Friday, we have a better idea of what that would be, and we are waiting for the School District to now set the price. It's time to allow the community to purchase the property, improve the grounds, and make the appropriate decisions about the future of the building.
PARC - One Plymouth October 18, 2013 at 09:04 AM
PARC (Plymouth Arts Recreation Complex) Steering Committee has stated that the Central School Property would be purchased at Fair Market Value. Development of the property for future use should be what fits best in the Community where the school currently stands. Once the property is purchased at Fair Market Value, then all those who support PCCS with their taxes, including Canton Township will be compensated. Canton Township is gaining a middle school in their community. As a result, many PCCS Middle School students will be redistricted • 1 of the 5 - 2013 City (of Plymouth) Commission Goals: Work with School Board to formalize agreement concerning Central Middle School Green Space/Building in the event that the school is sold. http://www.ci.plymouth.mi.us/Index.aspx?NID=12 • City of Plymouth Master Recreational Plan has been developed since 2003. The City of Plymouth staff worked with PCCS Administrators as they developed this plan. … Page 54 … Central Middle School Park Master Plan study was prepared for the City in 2003. The study was conducted in an effort to prepare the City for possible changes to the Central Middle School facility. As mentioned earlier in this report, the Plymouth-Canton Community School District may choose to repurpose the Middle School facility according to their changing needs. Many of the facilities currently on the property, in particular, the football field, tennis courts, and swimming pool, are not found elsewhere within City owned parks. Therefore, the loss of these facilities would significantly diminish the recreation opportunities available to City residents. o If in the future the facility is no longer used as a school, the City of Plymouth will actively look to see that the site is maintained for recreational use. The Central Middle School Park Master Plan study sets forth a park development plan for maintaining and enhancing the existing facilities in order to accomplish this goal. The Central Middle School Park Master Plan graphic included in this section (next page) illustrates the potential development of the site. It is critical that the City continues to communicate and work closely with the School District. http://mi-plymouth2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/980
PARC - One Plymouth October 18, 2013 at 09:06 AM
There is a Community Forum on Monday, November 4 at 7:00 pm at the Penn Theatre to discuss Future Use of the Central School Property. Presented by PARC Committee. Speakers from many of the current users of the group will be in attendance and speak about their concerns
Mary Uhl October 18, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Wish I was going to be in town.
PARC - One Plymouth October 18, 2013 at 03:09 PM
me too, Mary. Spread the word, though
Robert October 28, 2013 at 04:55 PM
I have an idea. Let's make it a school! Or is it too old for our spoiled teachers to function in.

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