Millage for arts complex proposed to trustees

Mar. 13, 2018  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.

Plymouth Michigan News


“You can say it’s a downtown facility, but it’s in a residential area. The PARC theater changes that residential area drastically.”




Don Howard

Staff Writer

Amid uncertainties, pushback and skepticism, supporters of the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex (PARC) met with the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees in an effort to develop a millage proposal by mid-April. The Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex was financed by investors Mark and Patty Malcolm. The old Central Middle School building in downtown Plymouth along with the surrounding 16.6 acres of property was purchased for $3.3 million from the Plymouth Canton Community Schools in 2015. Don Soenen is the president of the PARC.

PARC President Don Soenen

Plans now include the renovation, preservation and restoration of the current building that at one time was Plymouth High School, and the construction of a new 800-seat performing arts theater. Soenen and Malcolm have been hosting back-to-back public forums and meetings with city and township homeowners associations for the past eight months.

Addressing a standing room only crowd last Tuesday, Soenen faced tough questions as he presented slides and summarized the plan that will require the support of the Plymouth Township electorate. The PARC plan needs approval of a 1-mill, 20-year tax to be assessed against both city and township property owners. The millage is estimated to generate about $24 million to be used to support the PARC. City officials have been supportive of the project and former Plymouth Mayor Dan Dwyer, who served on the PARC committee, said the commission is “110 percent behind” the project and it is the best idea to come to the area “in decades.”

Initial plans that called for reopening the sports fields, gymnasium, swimming pool, and auditorium for all area residents in the Plymouth community, met with strong resistance and rejection from the previous township administration. The initial target set by the investors has grown from $10 million to $30 million with the addition of the performing arts theater. When Soenen first addressed the Plymouth Township board in 2013 asking for support in the form of a feasibility study, former Township Treasurer Ron Edwards flatly refused to consider the plan. He said he felt the township needed their “own facility,” and introduced a recreation plan that he estimated would cost the township $2.6 million.

Soenen, a 48-year township resident, explained that professional, independent surveys indicate that 60 percent of city residents now support PARC.

“If we can bring more people to downtown-that’s a good thing…it will drive up property values,” he said.

According to Soenen, the estimate for the old building renovation is pegged at $7-8 million, improvements to the infrastructure at $8 million and the performing arts center $13-14 million. He claims a .75 mill tax would cost the “average” homeowner about $95 annually.

“We need to come together between the township and the city…If the voters don’t want it, I’ll walk away in a minute,” Soenen said.

Township Supervisor Kurt Heise said the board members were disheartened by disparaging anti-PARC robo calls received by several residents prior to the meeting. He said the call profile was the same in nature as those instigated during the last township election; calls he said emanated from Milan Michigan equipment. Those calls reportedly left some elderly and handicapped individuals who attended the meeting upset and feeling intimidated.

“I think it’s disturbing in regards to the comments made toward the individuals; claims of profiteering,” Trustee Bob Doroshewitz commented.

“I think you should beware of a businessman bearing a gift of an albatross which would become a future albatross,” said resident Mary Klein. Most residents who commented at the meeting challenged the PARC project and one said the lack of parking in the city was already a problem. The PARC plan calls for parking for 800 cars. Some residents praised the effort to preserve the arts and music culture in the community and need for the project.

Arne Guimmo, who lives near Farmer and Blunk, was also not in favor of public funding for the project.

“You can say it’s a downtown facility, but it’s in a residential area. The PARC theater changes that residential area drastically.”

Soenen said he wants the ballot question on the August primary at a time “when there is the greatest chance for the maximum voter turnout.”

Soenen told board members that the building, the property and contributions would be donated to the township and the city after the formation of an authority to manage and operate the arts and recreation facility.

The next step according to Heise would be to form an authority that both the city and the township “can agree to.”

Documents presented to the board in draft form by the PARC group consisted of a plan for a recreation authority with an executive board comprising elected or appointed officials, having official by-laws and a sole-source management con- tract with the authority to be known as PARA, Plymouth Arts and Recreation Authority.

“We’ve got a little bit of an idea of what it takes to run a business.” Soenen said.


Plymouth Voice.


Gallery Photo / Video: Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex

Photo: © Don Howard / Associated Newspapers


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