Mount Clemens considers leasing building to Boys & Girls Clubs

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published April 27, 2021

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MOUNT CLEMENS — The city of Mount Clemens is in talks to turn a community center into an area for youth development.   

At the April 19 City Commission meeting, Shawn Wilson, the president & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, provided the commission with an update.

Wilson spoke about potentially opening a club in Mount Clemens at the Cairns Community Center.

“When I came here a couple of years ago, the thought was to reimagine the model for greater community impact,” he said. “We started by engaging the community, asking how we reimagine the brand.”

What came from that, Wilson said, was a need to address the root cause of the problem facing many youth, poverty.

He mentioned that a model has been created, in partnership with a consulting firm, that puts youth and families on a pathway to economic mobility.

“We define that as youth being able to earn a liveable wage throughout their life and have the skills to start their own business,” Wilson said. “Ultimately, understanding the importance of home ownership because that is the backbone of wealth-building in our country and how we pass wealth on from generation to generation.”

Part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan mission is to provide a world-class experience, empowering youth to reach their full potential as change agents for their life.

Wilson said the club wants to be active in the neighborhoods that need it the most.

The local club, he said, is the only one in the country offering coworking and maker spaces for small businesses that are primarily owned by women and entrepreneurs of color.

“We turned our model from a brand about a safe space and gym/swim to a place you go to drive economic mobility for your family and community,” Wilson said.

When looking at program partners, he said the club engages with local partners, and this has resulted in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan being able to put $1.8 million back in its “ecosystems” around clubs.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to explore about coming into Mount Clemens,” Wilson noted. “We are exploring two sites in Macomb County. We believe in partnerships and being invited into the community.”

Commissioner Laura Fournier said Wilson has a great connection with the community.

“I can see where you guys can be very successful,” she said.

Fournier mentioned that the thought is to lease the Cairns Community Center to the club. The center is located at 58 Orchard St.

At a March work session, City Manager Don Johnson said the city leased the land known as Cairns Field to Mount Clemens Community Schools in December 2004 so the schools could build the facility known as the Cairns Community Center on the property using grant funds.

In February 2021, an attorney for the school district informed the city that the schools no longer desire to utilize the facility.

Wilson said, typically in other communities it operates in, it leases a facility for $1 a year. The club would be responsible for maintaining and operating the facility.

He said the club would like a long-term lease deal, about 20 years in length.

“We prefer long-term options because it demonstrates our commitment to the community,” he said.

Wilson noted that specific programs to be offered at the center are to be determined.

The commission’s next meeting is May 3.