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Funeral home to become college campus

Marie Havenga • Jan 9, 2019 at 9:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Muskegon Community College's Grand Haven classes are on the move.

The Muskegon-based college will move its Grand Haven campus from the Grand Haven Community Center to Grand Haven Township after purchasing the Clock Life Story Funeral Home at 16777 Lincoln St.

The purchase price was just shy of $378,000.

MCC President Dr. Dale K. Nesbary said the college had been paying almost $8,000 a month to lease the lower level of the Community Center, where it has operated classroom and office space since 2012 and serving about 1,000 students each year.

Nesbary said it's important for the college to invest in the community and in its own building.

He anticipates about $300,000 in renovations to the former funeral home before an August opening.

“It will look nothing like the funeral home that you currently know, believe me,” Nesbary said. “We'll do major renovations from the inside out — walls, ceilings, HVAC. There's space for four classrooms. We'll run three classrooms there and have a number of areas for offices and space for students to recreate. The former use will not be obvious with what we're attempting to do.”

Nesbary said MCC officials had been looking for a suitable site for the past 6-8 months.

“We were looking for a site that was the right size,” he said. “We needed to have working classrooms and office space. This site was right off U.S. 31 and close to Grand Haven proper. The proximity to the high school was a bonus. We had been looking for the right type of space and it happened to be in that location.”

Nesbary expects that being close to Grand Haven High School will lead to an uptick in early college enrollment by high school students.

“We do expect that,” he said. “We have early college students participating at the Community Center.”

Since the college has offered classes in Northwest Ottawa County for the past quarter of a century, Nesbary said it's time to put down some permanent roots.

“If we're going to offer courses in Northwest Ottawa County, we needed to have an investment in the community,” he said. “It was partially what drove us to make the purchase. Why would we not have a real investment in the community more than leasing?”

When the Community Center space became available after the Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging moved out, MCC leaders were happy to offer courses there. But Nesbary said he believes the new space is even more convenient and more easily accessible.

The college will use the same footprint when it opens for classes in August, but Nesbary said the acre-plus of land allows room for expansion.

“There's plenty of parking and plenty of space for expansion if we need to,” he explained.

Township Assessing Director Roger Schmidt said the funeral home property brought in $15,840 in property taxes last year. Much of that was distributed to schools and county operations.

Muskegon Community College will pay no property taxes for the Lincoln Street campus, as it will become an exempt property because it's owned by a non-profit community college, Schmidt said.

Clock Life Story Funeral Home’s spokeswoman was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

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