Kalamazoo's Three Higher Education Institutions Explore Jointly Run Center Near Proposed Arena Site

Kalamazoo's Three Higher Education Institutions Explore Jointly Run Center Near Proposed Arena Site
June 18, 2010/Kalamazoo Gazette

By Gabrielle Russon

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College announced Friday that they are exploring the feasibility of establishing an educational center in downtown Kalamazoo.

The center would be located in what is now called Arcadia Commons West, which is the area on the west side of downtown that is also the proposed site of an arena.

Supporters of constructing the event center said last month that they were working to create a more concrete vision for development of the area immediately around the proposed arena.

KVCC President Marilyn Schlack has been one of the spokespeople for the development project.

A press release issued Friday by KVCC announced that Schlack, K-College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran and WMU President John M. Dunn had agreed to a “statement of intent.”

“The current statement of intent is another step toward making Kalamazoo a more sustainable community by exploring the use of shared resources and facilities,” the press release says.

The release makes no mention of the proposed arena project.

The presidents said they are interested in exploring a higher education center that could be made up of a culinary-arts school, a food administration and dietetics degree program, an art gallery and urban gardens — which are some of the same ideas that Schlack and others spoke about in early 2010.

“This concept holds a great deal of potential and could have significant impact on Kalamazoo,” K-College  President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran said in the news release. “We look forward to exploring this opportunity.”

“We all want to make this happen,” Schlack said in the release, “because we all understand what a benefit this would be for the Kalamazoo community, and for each of our institutions.”

The news release also mentions “planning funds” but does not say how much money is involved or who would provide it.

“The planning funds will help us decide the footprint for a building that will allow us to do what we want to do,” said Schlack in the news release.

Schlack, who was listed as the person to contact for more information on the news release, did not return phone calls or e-mails on Friday.

A group of business people and academics who are opposed to building an event center with public money are supportive of a higher education center, said Kalamazoo County Commissioner Brian Johnson, who is the coalition’s hired consultant.

“Expanding the educational and other cultural activities is a good thing,” said Johnson, speaking on behalf of the political-action committee Citizens For Responsible Development. “I don’t know anybody who would oppose that because it doesn’t involve asking the taxpayers to help fund a private operation. I think everybody should get behind that.”

Contact Gabrielle Russon at grusson@kalamazoogazette.com or 269-388-8412.




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