Community Concerned Over Historic Building's Future

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

School has been out for over a quarter of a century at Genesee Elementary, but it still sees its fair share of kids.

The building and its playground have been home to the Black Child and Family Institute and its many helpful subtenants for the past 25 years, but the organization left unexpectedly this summer because they couldn't afford the maintenance on the building anymore.

Since BCFI vacated, the community was left with a big question mark and lots of unused rooms.

"It's just a shame to have a big empty building or no building, but it's nicer to have this beautiful architecture, and I don't know, community spirit that's still there," said MC Rothhorn, who lives down the street from the building.

He organized a public meeting Friday night to discuss ideas for the building, and be able to present the school district with a plan...and soon. Some people are worried what could happen to the more than 100-year-old building if it remains vacant for too long.

"I would hate to see this building boarded up," said Marcus Jefferson, who works in the building. "You know, I could just imagine people kicking the windows in, and using this as a drug house, or just all kinds of sordid activities that would bring down the neighborhood."

Jefferson has been offering computer classes for low-income families through his organization Closing the Digital Gap, located in the basement of the Genesee Elementary building for more than a decade. He hopes he continue offering those services, and he even has a name in mind for the now untitled building: "The Cultural Renaissance Center."

Jefferson said he envisions it to be a place for theater, writing workshops for teens, music, and just a little bit of everything. There are plenty of ideas going around town, even some improvements that could cost up to $3 million. Rotthorn said he definitely has plans for at least an elevator.

"We might want a senior center, for example, or we want a microbrewery, or gosh, we want a youth hostel," Rothhorn said. "Or maybe we want all of it and children's health facility, and then the auditorium is a movie theater on Friday nights."

Whatever it is, the community just wants the publicly-owned building to stay open. Rothhorn said the school district has been cooperating so far, and he's confident they'll reach a resolution to re-purpose it in a way that serves the neighborhood.

Rothhorn said some people have already come forward offering to help renovate.

Another community meeting is planned for Oct. 14 at 2:00 p.m.


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