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Land transfer means relocation for Wesley Foundation

Sept. 28, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A land exchange approved Sept. 23 by the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees will mean a future change of location for the Wesley Foundation and room for future expansion of academic facilities on WMU's main campus.

Trustees authorized the administration to proceed with a plan to offer the foundation a new spot on campus in exchange for the 1.5-acre parcel of land and facility the Foundation now occupies at 2101 S. Wilbur Ave., near the Lee Honors College. Under the proposed agreement, the University will provide the foundation with a 1.9-acre parcel suitable for building at the edge of campus between Rankin Avenue and Howard Street, in exchange for the Wilbur Avenue facility and a total of $600,000. Half of that amount would be paid to the foundation when the agreement is executed later this fall and the other half when the foundation moves into a new building it plans to build on the parcel.

WMU approached the foundation early this year when University officials learned the foundation was making plans to update and expand the current facility as well as add student housing. The foundation's building plans included making the facility more energy efficient, handicap accessible and able to house students and provide parking.

"Our campus master plan calls for locating residential units on the perimeter of campus and keeping the center of campus free to develop academic facilities," says Lowell Rinker, vice president for business and finance. "We've always had a good relationship with the Wesley Foundation, so we started the conversation and this proposal is the result."

The Wesley Foundation, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has had its campus home at the Wilbur Avenue location since 1964. The building offers a hospitality center where students, especially nontraditional students and those who commute, can find a place to study, eat lunch and connect with other people.

According to Lisa Batten, director of the Wesley Foundation and its campus pastor, the foundation is focused on both spiritual development and encouraging students to become involved in service. It has and has made an effort to partner with campus organizations regardless of religions affiliation. Among the student organizations that have taken advantage of the offer of office space at the facility are the WMU's Military and Veteran Student Association, the Swords into Plowshares Peace Center and the Voices of WMU Gospel Choir. Office space for such student organizations is expected to be part of the new foundation facility as well.

The foundation's roots date back to 1923, when Western students began visiting the United Methodist Church in downtown Kalamazoo to take advantage of a weekly free Sunday evening dinner on the one evening each week when campus residence halls did not serve food.

"We feel really good about this agreement," Batten says, noting the foundation board has already approved the proposal. "We want to continue doing what we're doing, add a residential component and support new programs. But we don't want to move away from the main campus. With this new location, we'll only be about 1,300 feet west of where we are now."

Under terms of the agreement that both boards have approved, the Wesley Foundation may continue to occupy its current location until its new building is completed, but no longer than five years.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
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