Wayne State University-Oakland Center set to close in January

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published September 11, 2017

 The Wayne State University-Oakland Center campus will close in January.

The Wayne State University-Oakland Center campus will close in January.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

FARMINGTON HILLS — The Wayne State University-Oakland Center is up for sale and set to close in January, Ahmad Ezzeddine, WSU’s associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs, confirmed during a recent phone interview.

The Oakland Center, 33737 W. 12 Mile Road, is one of five WSU off-campus sites. The others are located in Clinton Township, Livonia and Warren. 

Ezzeddine said that the Oakland Center, acquired in the mid-1990s, served a need at the time and consolidated a number of local programs and school-related offerings.

“The main campus of Detroit was different — there was a lot more activity out in the suburbs (when) we opened,” Ezzeddine said. “Things have changed over the years. ... We have developed a strong partnership of community colleges.”

Ezzeddine said that the move to close the building and put it up for sale was not necessarily about finances, but rather academics. 

“This is an academically and student-focus-driven decision — it fits better with our academic strategy and planning. That is really what drove the decision (to close),” Ezzeddine said, adding that he suspects that there will be some savings from the closure and sale. 

A partnership between WSU and Oakland Community College, however, is on the horizon, and there will be costs associated with that. He said that staff is working to relocate WSU’s Oakland Center classes to OCC’s campus.

“We are working with OCC. We probably will be relocating some classes and offering some programs at that campus,” Ezzeddine said. Other Oakland Center classes may be held elsewhere.

Bridget M. Kavanaugh, OCC director of marketing and community relations, said she does not have all of the details on any emerging plans with WSU.

“We’re in talks with Wayne State, but we don’t have anything specific to share at this time,” Kavanaugh said. “They are and continue to be great partners with us.”

She added that many OCC students transfer to WSU, and OCC has a transfer partnership with WSU. “They’ve been tremendous partners with us.”

Ezzeddine said that the WSU-Oakland Center community has given positive feedback on the change.

“We’ve been talking to our faculty and our colleges and schools, and everybody’s understanding and on board with this strategy, with this decision,” he said, adding that the decision is part of WSU’s development strategy and it was made earlier this year.

Kalamazoo resident Karika Parker attended a recent training session at the Oakland Center and learned  about the school’s closing on Facebook.

“The space was really nice,” she said in a message. “It was a clean and well-cared-for building. I was surprised that there were hardly any students there. It appeared to be vacant. I recall thinking that maybe attendance is low in the summer. There was more staff in the building than students.” 

WSU’s Oakland Center is the headquarters of the Farmington Hills-based Society of Active Retirees. SOAR, a nonprofit organization, was created to mentally and socially engage seniors. Most SOAR classes take place at the Wayne State University-Oakland Center. 

SOAR Executive Director Ralph Stromberg said that his group has about 1,100 to 1,200 active members who are now looking for a new place to call home.

“We met with Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine, and he explained to us the reasons for the closing of the university of the Oakland Center,” Stromberg said. 

“We completely understood why the Oakland Center had to be closed; we are now making alternative plans for relocating the SOAR program,” Stromberg said, adding that plans for the group’s next location haven’t been finalized yet, but SOAR will still have classes through December. “It was very apparent to us the utilization of the building had decreased by students … that attend there. But certainly we were — I can’t say surprised, but we understood why.”

The decision was made by university administrators, and if the building is purchased, WSU will have the final say on who buys it, Ezzeddine confirmed.

He added that the other four centers are located either on or very close to community college campuses.

Ezzeddine said that WSU’s Macomb Education Center ­— Educational Outreach, in Clinton Township, is located across the street from Macomb Community College, while the Livonia-based WSU Schoolcraft Center — Educational Outreach is near Schoolcraft College.

“We are shifting our strategies really more on developing those partnerships and providing more opportunities for students, for transfer students particularly, to get to Wayne State and get their degrees faster,” Ezzeddine said.

Ed Gardiner, director of planning and community development for the city of Farmington Hills, said he does not think that the Oakland Center closing will have an impact on the city.

“I think it will be reused and hope it will be reused,” Gardiner said, adding that the Oakland Center is currently a tax-exempt location. “Redevelopment opportunities are great if reused by (a) taxable entity, (which) will help the city.”

Gardiner said that the building is zoned as office research.

City Manager David Boyer said he assumes that the building will become an office building.

“It will end up being, I’m assuming, an office building, and that is something that we are filling up in the city and we could use more of now,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t ever want to see a university close down, but we are under the understanding that they will be partnering up with OCC ... so they’ll continue to provide classes.”

Boyer added that the property has been “underutilized for years.”

“So, we are excited about the potential for redevelopment on the site. It’s a great piece of property facing the expressway and 12 Mile frontage and all those office buildings,” Boyer said, adding that the building has the potential for great opportunities for redevelopment. “Once somebody is interested in the property, we’ll have to sit down with them and tell them what the potential is there.”

Director of Economic Development Khalfani Stephens confirmed that the building sits on approximately 16.4 acres and is about 97,000 square feet.

For more information, go to wayne.edu/educationaloutreach.