The Allen Neighborhood Center has served East Lansing for 23 years, but now after three years of work and $11 million in renovations, community center officials are calling on people to re-acquaint themselves with services at Allen’s new location.
Allen Place is an extension of the Allen Neighborhood Center that includes 21 mixed-income apartments, a food co-op, an incubator and an accelerated kitchen for aspiring food entrepreneurs, and a health clinic.
The aim of the expansion was to make it easier to access health, food, and housing resources for everyone who needed help, especially the people on the East Side.
In addition to providing resources, Joanne Nelson, director of the Allen Neighborhood Center, 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 review the new space during an open house at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The event, which is open to the public, at 1611 E. Kalamazoo Street, the open house will include tours of the new venues, as well as a celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Allen Neighborhood Center.
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More East Side Services
The Allen Neighborhood Center already offers a number of services, including food programs, a year-round farm and garden education home, youth and senior programs, and outreach services, such as housing and assistance with registering for health coverage.
The expansion will create more — and better — space to help meet people’s needs, Nelson said.
The center is focused on providing people with real action steps and solutions, says Zach Whaley, director of communications and volunteering at Allen Neighbor Center.
“It’s great to see people really leave and have a solution versus just a phone number or a website to go to,” he said.
Among the additions to Allen Place is the Rathburn Accelerator Kitchen, a communal use kitchen serving alumni of the center’s incubator kitchen program. Accelerator Kitchen aims to serve entrepreneurs who are looking for an intermediate step between being a rookie food entrepreneur and taking on a sole proprietorship.
The kitchen currently houses four companies, including Tantay, Gogi 2, Mr. Leslie’s Cheescake and MI Made Treats.
The Eastside Food Co-Op, formerly East Lansing Food Co-Op, will move to Allen Place this summer. Nelson said the co-op is 40 years old and its focus is on locally grown and produced coffee, prepared foods, and essentials.
“It will also save the products of all our makers, the people who use our kitchen to create food products — sauces, jams, smoothies, premium baked goods, salads, soups… all sorts of things,” said Nelson.
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Allen Place now houses 21 multi-income housing units. The Allen Place Apartments complex contains four studios, nine one-bedroom units, and eight two-bedroom units. It opened in November 2021 and was full within two months, Nelson said.
Solar powered and energy efficient
Allen Place is working with the Lansing Board of Water & Light to become the city’s first small network. As a small grid, Allen Place will have its own local source of electricity supply, which will be connected to the larger grid, but able to operate independently.
This fall, BWL will be installing two solar carports, as well as solar panels on the second floor of the center’s business center and solar picnic tables, all of which will capture power for the small grid. Picnic tables will also act as charging stations for phones and other devices.
Nelson said BWL helped install HVAC systems at Allen Place Apartments and helped the center secure the most energy-efficient appliances.
In addition to food and housing, Allen Place will focus more on providing health services 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 FQHCs are all about,” said Linda Vail, a public health officer for the Ingham County Department of Health. “It is very important to have someone out there who serves everyone regardless of wages and is constantly looking to remove barriers.”
The clinic was planned as part of the new Allen Place before the pandemic, but the past two years have emphasized the importance of being able to provide better access to care.
“Our job is really to remove barriers as much as possible. These barriers are part of systemic and institutional racism, and health equity and social justice are one of our core values. Breaking down these barriers so that people have equal opportunities for themselves. Better health is a big part,” said Phil. than we do.” “When you are there specifically to serve people regardless of their ability to pay, without putting up barriers, you create more access for people who are incredibly vulnerable.”
The clinic will have a full lab, pharmacy and several work stations. The clinic will have a working therapist who will provide behavioral health services.
“It was really exciting to see an evolution,” Nelson said. “We know that this part of the county has been a small gap in terms of health services, especially for people on low to moderate incomes.”
Allen Community Center has helped people sign up for health care for years. As part of these services, the center helps people find a primary care provider. Opening a clinic in the new Allen Place will make this process much easier.
“Having the Allen Community Health Center on our corner means we just have to send people three doors to provide a medical home,” Nelson said.
Because the clinic is located on site, Allen Place will work with health professionals to offer programs such as Prescriptions for Health, which will allow people to receive prescriptions for fresh produce that they can fill in the Food Collaboration.
“It will provide a lot of different opportunities for collaborative projects that promote neighborhood health,” Nelson said.
Phil said this is the first time the Department of Health has participated in a multi-purpose community center, but the hope is to set up more clinics in similar locations across the county.
Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (517) 231-9501 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ElenaDurnbaugh.