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2017 January 24 - 03:28 pm

Mich. College Turns to Private Sector for Campus Upgrades

Schoolcraft College Gets Creative After Taxpayers Reject Funding Request

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — When voters turned down a $600,000 request from Schoolcraft College in the fall of 2015 by a few hundred votes, things looked bleak for Schoolcraft officials’ plan to improve the school’s infrastructure and move forward on new buildings on campus.

Now the outlook is much more positive, thanks to creative partnerships between the college and some private organizations. Schoolcraft is a public community college in Livonia, funded both by student tuition and property taxes.

“The question facing us was, were we willing to give up on all the projects that needed to be done,” Schoolcraft President Conway Jeffress said.

The answer? No. So a couple of major projects were put back on the table, including the building of a $6 million sports dome. The 110,500-squarefoot sports dome measures 260 feet wide by 425 feet long and can be used year-round. There is also a parking lot and outdoor field.

The dome was built with Universal Properties and Management Inc., which owns 7 Mile Crossing, a commercial building located within the college’s campus. The Michigan Wolves-Hawks Soccer Club signed a 25-year agreement to lease space in the building.

So what’s in it for School craft’s approximately 8,000 students? It’s a space that can be used for the college’s own sports. Also, the school’s renowned culinary program will staff a concession stand that will move past the normal junk food items and be a place where busy parents can feed their children in between school and soccer practice while giving the Schoolcraft students a chance to learn and cook.

Schoolcraft also entered into an agreement to build a more than 90,000-square-foot MASCO World Headquarters building on its property. Having MASCO on the college property will allow for Schoolcraft students to more easily do internships at the company.

Company employees will also be able to attend Schoolcraft classes or classes through Wayne State University, which has a satellite campus on Schoolcraft’s grounds.

But buildings weren’t the only new things to campus. Infrastructure, including parking lots, a new road ringing the campus and a new traffic light at an access road from the campus to 7 Mile were also added in conjunction with Universal Properties and Management.

The roads are Mike Willis’ favorite part of the upgrade.

“It’s so much easier to get around,” said Willis, 25, who has taken classes at Schoolcraft for several years. “I think the dome is cool, but I don’t really use it, but I drive around campus all the time and it’s much better than it used to be.”

The move to use private developers was Schoolcraft taking advantage of what it has.

“We have assets — land and location — developers want,” Jeffress said. “I’m trading off time right now. I’m willing to wait a little bit for money, while developers want it up front. At some point in the near future, (the college) will get a decent money flow. Nothing that was done is draining money away from our academic program.”

The college has also started new programs, including a beer brewing degree.

“We are trying to make moves that are consistent with the mission of the college,” Jeffress said.

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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