Thursday, October 16, 2008

Salvation Army project proceeds

The Salvation Army is $700,000 away from breaking ground for the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center near South Division Avenue and Alger Street SE in Grand Rapids, attendees at the University of Michigan-Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum learned today.

The nonprofit organization’s Major Roger. R. Ross, Kroc Center administrator, provided an update on the project during the roundtable portion of the conference, being held in Grand Rapids for the first time ever. Efforts are underway to establish a ULI satellite in West Michigan. The real estate organization sponsors the conference annually along with U-M Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Next year’s conference will be in Ann Arbor.

Ross said the Salvation Army hopes to break ground on the $20 million center on Oct. 29. It has raised $11.8 million of its $15 million from 100 donors in a quiet campaign, but needs $12.5 million before construction can begin. “We have a little bit more to raise before we can put a shovel in the ground,” Ross said.

After the center was rebuffed from Garfield Park, the Salvation Army, the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools worked together to cobble together the 20-acre site near New Branches School, a charter school, and GRPS’ Brookside Elementary. The deal included the purchase of five private lots from four owners, Ross said.

Planned is a 94,000-square-foot building at 2500 S. Division Ave., plus an outdoor recreational area.

Among the features: indoor and outdoor performing arts and worship areas; a conference center available for meetings, receptions and other functions; a gymnasium; and indoor water park featuring a 28-foot slide, a lap pool, a lazy river, a 22-person hot tub and zero-entry pool; an outdoor splash pad; child care; an area for painting, ceramics and art programs; a fitness center; a softball diamond; two soccer fields; sand volleyball court; playgrounds; an outdoor basketball court that will be flooded in the winter for ice skating; a sledding hill that will be covered with rubber and turned into a giant “slip n side” in the summer; a community garden; and ropes course.

Ross said the center is expected to open in 2010. “We’re providing this to a neighborhood that has absolutely nothing,” he added, noting that 11,000 children ages 18 and under live within one mile.

He said memberships would be sold, and $250,000 per year will cover scholarships. Ross said no price has been set for memberships.

The late Joan Kroc, widow of the founder of McDonald’s, bequeathed $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army to build centers across the country, after overseeing the first one in San Diego. The funding comes with some strings attached, such as the need to raise local matching funds, putting half the money into an endowment to fund programs and the requirement that no child be turned away, but everyone must pay at least something to use the facility, Ross said.

The Grand Rapids Kroc Center has $21.5 million from the Kroc estate. Of the $15 million fund-raising goal, $11.5 million is planned to support the endowment and the remainder for construction. The total endowment will be $31.5 million, Ross said.

He said the center, with 70 staff member expected, plans to work with Grand Rapids Public Schools and other nearby school to provide physical education programs during the school day as well as after-school programs.

Ross said Erhardt Construction is construction manager on the building, which is being planned for silver level certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Architect is IBMA; landscape architect is Jim Morgan; and Bob Israels is handling interior design.

—Elizabeth Slowik

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