Saturday, February 4, 2023

MCC aims to build 60-unit student housing facility

Project is dependent on $6 million in potential state funding 

Montcalm Community College President Stacy Young provides an update on the college potentially pursuing a $6 million housing project for students during the Jan. 10 meeting of the MCC Board of Trustees. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

SIDNEY TOWNSHIP — For the first time in its history, a new concept could be coming to Montcalm Community College — student housing.

During the Jan. 10 meeting of the MCC Board of Trustees, MCC President Stacy Young informed the board that college administrators are looking seriously at constructing housing for students.

Young was inspired to pursue such a project after United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties commissioned a study that revealed 44% of students at the college are considered “housing insecure.”

“This is a huge problem in this area,” she said. “That study was really enlightening. Housing is just a big problem. So we feel, in order to make it equitable for our students, that adding housing availability would be really impactful.”

However, that doesn’t mean the college is ready to plant shovels in the ground quite yet.

According to Young, the college is seeking about $6 million for such a project, with the hope that the funding comes from the state government, even potentially as part of the state budget, with as many as 11 community colleges competing for such funding.

Montcalm Community College Vice President for Administrative Services Connie Stewart, left, provides details centered around the college potentially pursuing a $6 million housing project for students during the Jan. 10 meeting of the MCC Board of Trustees as Board Chairperson Karen Carbonelli, Secretary Joyce Kitchenmaster and Trustee Esther Combs listen. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

In the meantime, Young stressed it’s important that the college begin aligning its ducks in a row in order to be prepared for such a project.

“We really want to get that moving as soon as we find out if we get the funding,” she said. “If at any point we get the money, we would like to act very quickly to move forward, if that’s the direction of the board. We’ve been working with our architect to find out what that would look like.”

According to Young, initial thoughts on the project called for as many as 100 beds, to be built in a way that student rooms would be built as “pods” located within one building.

Young said the pods would likely feature six bedrooms, bathrooms, and a shared living/kitchen area, with as many as 60 beds to be made available.

“We initially thought we’d do 100 beds, but based on the number of students who are not Early College or dual enrollment students, the approximate number would be about 60 beds,” she said. “That’s 60 fewer people who are trying to fight for apartments or other housing in Montcalm County.”

According to Young, the question going forward, to get the project moving, is what decision the board would like to make regarding the hiring of an architectural firm.

“The question is, would you like us to use the same architects that we’ve been using in the past and working with or would you like us to go out for bid?” she asked.

MCC Vice President for Administrative Services Connie Stewart said the college already has a good working relationship with Mathison Architects of Grand Rapids and Progressive AE | Architectural Design and Engineering of Plainfield Township, following recent construction and renovation work on the Kenneth J. Smith Instructional Building.

“Mathison knows us, but we have this other group that really knows how to do student housing well,” she said. “We’re feeling pretty good about the relationship with these two companies (Mathison and AE), but we would need an exception to not go out for bid. We’re getting to the point in the process where we have to make a decision.”

Members of the board shared a consensus that working with architects the college is already familiar with may be the best option.

“You don’t want this new building to stick out like a sore thumb, especially out here,” Vice Chairperson Carol Deuling-Ravell said.

“With the history we have, I think it makes sense to do that,” Chairperson Karen Carbonelli added. “That history is really valuable.”

Following discussion from the board, Stewart said a resolution to avoid going out for bid to hire architects for the housing project would be brought before the board in February.

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