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Otto Middle, Northwestern Elementary property could become community center, urban garden

Posted at 10:51 AM, May 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-15 10:51:14-04

LANSING, Mich. — The former C.W. Otto Middle School and former Northwestern Elementary School property could be converted into a community center and urban farming collective.

“We’ll have this community center with the vision of being a one-stop-shop that people know that they can come to help or to get help in any capacity,” said Derrick Knox Jr., executive director of The Advancement Corporation.

The Metro Lansing Poor People’s Campaign and Advancement Corporation, both non-profit organizations, are partnering to propose renovating the vacant north Lansing middle school into a hub for community services.

The center would offer childcare, basic necessities assistance, recreational activities and medical services.

The Northwestern Elementary School property near Capital Region International Airport would be transformed into a community garden that would provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the neighborhoods nearby.

“One thing that’s at the forefront of our mission is to serve the needs of the whole person from a mental health standpoint, from a medical health standpoint, from an employment, and from an education standpoint,” said Knox.

Lansing School District spokesperson Robert Kolt said district officials are still in the early stages of reviewing the proposal and could not yet comment.

Otto Middle School in North Lansing closed its doors in 2012.
Otto Middle School in North Lansing closed its doors in 2012.

Otto Middle School has been empty since 2012, but the district still maintains the building, which has an annual utility cost of more than $100,000 per year, according to Jon Laing, the district’s chief financial officer.

The Lansing School District does have the legal flexibility to transfer the property at a $200,000 purchase price, according to the district’s attorney.

The Michigan Poor People’s Campaign plans to fundraise and apply for grants to secure the money to buy the property.

Knox says the pandemic underscored the need for a community center.

“The biggest problem we have especially during COVID is how do we help or what can we do to help,” he said. “This community center gives people a tangible place that they can go to to really help.”

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