Plans for Former School for the Blind Land Uncertain

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Negotiations came to a standstill this week over the future of the old Michigan School for the Blind land on Lansing's west side.

The city and a charter school were working together to come up with a plan. Now, the school is rejecting that plan.

Looking out at the campus his school has been renting from the state for roughly 10 years, Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy Superintendent Mark Eitrem has a good idea of how he'd like to see it evolve.

"Some development that involves educational use; we'd like to see the historic nature of the campus preserved to the extent possible. We'd like to see neighborhood involvement, and maybe a community center," Eitrem said.

That vision is actually part of a bill working its way through the capitol. The academy's state-owned 30-plus-acre campus is the former home of the school for the blind and later by the state Department of Corrections.

But with a new administration in City Hall, Lansing's Housing Commission set its sights on the land.

"It's good for any neighborhood to have homeownership. Here's a very large tract of land. We thought we could contribute to that side of the city, that neighborhood with some substantial construction," Housing Commission Executive Director Chris Stuchell said.

The city proposed setting aside roughly three acres for the school, saying the land wouldn't be enough for Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy, Eitrem rejected the city deal.

"It doesn't include the gym, it doesn't include the dining hall, it doesn't include parking and it doesn't include a playground. I mean, how can you run a school without those things?" Eitrem said.

While debate and negotiations over what will happen to these buildings and the 30 acres they sit on continues, state legislators say time is running out.

"We've been patient. I think we're getting to a point where something's got to happen in order to move the process forward," State Rep. Mark Murphy (D-Lansing) said.

Murphy says the state employs three people to maintain the grounds, so the expenses for holding on to the property keep adding up. He says the state's financial situation means legislators may not be able to wait for an agreement between the city and the school before they sell the land.