The Allen Neighborhood Center has served Lansing’s eastern neighborhood for 23 years, but now after three years of work and $ 11 million in renovations, community center officials are inviting people to recreate the service at the new Allen Place.
Allen Place is an extension of the Allen Neighborhood Center, which includes 21 mixed-income apartments, a food co-op, an incubator and accelerator kitchen for aspiring food entrepreneurs, and a health clinic.
The aim of the enlargement was to make health, food and housing resources more accessible to all who need assistance, especially people on the east side.
In addition to providing resources, Allen Neighborhood Center Director Joan Nelson hopes the new space will help create a stronger sense of community on the East Side.
“It helps build a sense of connection and a sense of place in this part of town,” she said.
Center officials show off the new space under an open house at 3:30 p.m., Friday. The event, which is open to the public, is at 1611 E. Kalamazoo St. The open house will include tours of the new spaces, as well as a celebration of the Allen Neighborhood Center’s 23rd anniversary.
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More Eastside services
The Allen Neighborhood Center already provides a range of services, including food programs, a year-round garden and garden education center, youth and senior programs, and outreach services such as housing and health care assistance.
The expansion will provide more – and better – space to help meet people’s needs, Nelson said.
The center focuses on giving people the right steps and solutions, said Zack Whaley, volunteer and communications manager for the Allen Neighborhood Center.
“It’s cool to see people actually go from there with a solution instead of just a phone number or a website to go to,” he said.
Among the additions to Allen Place is the Rathburn Accelerator Kitchen, which is a communal kitchen to serve graduates from the center’s incubator kitchen program. The Accelerator Kitchen is designed to serve business people looking for an intermediate step between being an entry-level food entrepreneur and taking on a one-man business.
Currently, the kitchen is home to four companies, including Tantay, Gogi 2, Mr. Leslie’s Cheescake and MI Made Treats.
Eastside Food Co-Op, formerly East Lansing Food Co-Op, is moving into Allen Place this summer. The co-op is 40 years old and its focus is on locally grown and produced, coffee, prepared foods and necessities, Nelson said.
“It will also supply the products of all the producers, the people who use our kitchen to create food – sauces and jams and syrups, and excellent pastries, salads and soups … all sorts of things,” Nelson said.
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Allen Place now has 21 apartments with mixed income. The complex, Allen Place Apartments, contains four studios, nine one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units. It opened in November 2021 and was filled within two months, Nelson said.
Solar powered and energy efficient
Allen Place is working with the Lansing Board of Water & Light to become the first micronet in the city. As a microgrid, Allen Place will have its own local power supply, which will be connected to the larger grid but able to operate independently.
This fall, BWL will install two solar cell carports as well as solar panels on the second floor of the center’s business center and solar dock picnic tables, all of which will capture energy for the microgrid. The picnic tables will also serve as charging stations for phones and other devices.
BWL helped install the HVAC systems at Allen Place Apartments and helped the center ensure the most energy-efficient appliances, Nelson said.
In addition to food and housing, Allen Place will focus more on providing health care to the community.
The Ingham County Health Department will operate a federally qualified health center and pharmacy on Allen Place to provide services to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
“That’s what federally qualified health centers are all about,” said Linda Vail, public health officer for the Ingham County Health Department. “It’s so important that someone is out there providing service to everyone regardless of salary and constantly looking at eliminating barriers.”
The clinic was planned as part of the new Allen Place ahead of the pandemic, but the last two years have stressed the importance of being able to provide better access to care.
“Our job is really to remove barriers to the extent we can. These barriers are part of systemic and institutional racism, and equality in health and social justice is one of our core values. Breaking down these barriers so people have equal opportunities for their best health are very much part of what we do, “Vail said. “When you’re specifically there to serve people without regard to their ability to pay, without putting barriers in place, you create more access for people who are incredibly vulnerable.”
The clinic will have a full laboratory, a pharmacy and several workstations. The clinic will include a staff therapist and provide behavioral health services.
“It’s been really exciting to see unfold,” Nelson said. “We know this part of the county was a bit of a hole in terms of health care, especially for people on low to moderate incomes.”
The Allen Community Center has been helping people sign up for health care for years. As part of these services, the center helps people find a primary caregiver. Opening a clinic on the new Allen Place will make that process much easier.
“The presence of the Allen Community Health Center on our corner means we just have to send people three doors down to provide a medical home,” Nelson said.
Because the clinic is on site, Allen Place will work with health professionals to offer programs like “Recipes for Health,” which will allow people to receive prescriptions for fresh ingredients that they will be able to fill out at food co-op .
“It will offer many different opportunities for collaborative projects that promote health in the neighborhood,” Nelson said.
This is the first time the health department has been involved in a multi-purpose community center, Vail said, but the hope is to establish more clinics in similar locations throughout the county.
Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (517) 231-9501 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.