Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the Rathbun Accelerator Kitchen.
The Allen Neighborhood Center has been serving Lansing’s east side neighborhood for 23 years, but now after three years of work and $11 million in renovations, community center officials are inviting people to reacquaint themselves with the services at the new Allen Place.
Allen Place is an expansion of the Allen Neighborhood Center that includes 21 mixed-income apartments, a food co-op, an incubator and accelerator kitchen for aspiring food entrepreneurs, and a health clinic.
The goal of the expansion was to make health, food and housing resources more accessible for everyone who needs assistance, especially people on the east side.
Beyond providing resources, Allen Neighborhood Center Director Joan Nelson 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 are showing off the new space during an open house at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The event, which is open to the public, is at 1611 E. Kalamazoo St. The open house will include tours of the new spaces, as well as a celebration of Allen Neighborhood Center’s 23rd anniversary.
More Eastside services
The Allen Neighborhood Center already provides a number of services, including food programs, a garden house for year-round farm and garden education, youth and senior programs, and outreach services, such as housing and assistance in signing up for health coverage.
The expansion will provide more — and better — space to help meet people’s needs, Nelson said.
The center focuses on providing people with real action steps and solutions, said Zack Whaley, volunteer and communications manager for Allen Neighborhood Center.
“It’s cool to see people actually leave with a solution versus just a phone number or a website to go to,” he said.
Among the additions to Allen Place is the Rathbun Accelerator Kitchen, which is a shared-use kitchen to serve graduates of the center’s incubator kitchen program. The accelerator kitchen is intended to serve business people who are looking for an intermediate step between being an entry-level food entrepreneur and taking on a sole proprietorship.
Currently, the kitchen is home to four businesses, including Tantay, Gogi 2, Mr. Leslie’s Cheescake and MI Made Treats.
The Eastside Food Co-Op, formerly the East Lansing Food Co-Op, will move into Allen Place this summer. The co-op is 40 years old and its focus is on locally grown and produced, coffee, prepared foods and necessities, Nelson said.
“It will also provide the products of all the makers, the people who use our kitchen to create food products — sauces and jams and syrups, and excellent baked goods, salads and soups … all sorts of things,” Nelson said.
Allen Place now features 21 mixed-income apartment units. The complex, Allen Place Apartments, contains four studios, nine one-bedroom 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 first microgrid in the city. As a microgrid, Allen Place will have its own local source of electric supply, which will be attached to the larger grid, but able to function independently.
This fall, BWL will install two solar carports, as well as solar panels on the second story of the center’s business hub and solar dock picnic tables, all of which will capture energy for the microgrid. The picnic tables will also function as charging stations for phones and other devices.
BWL helped install the HVAC systems at Allen Place Apartments and assisted the center in securing the most energy-efficient appliances, Nelson said.
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 at Allen Place to provide services for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
“That’s what federally qualified health centers are all about,” said Linda Vail, public health officer for the Ingham County Health Department. “It’s so important that someone is out there providing service to everyone without regard to pay and is constantly looking at the elimination of barriers.”
The clinic was planned as part of the new Allen Place prior to the pandemic, but the last two years have underscored the importance of being able to provide better access to care.
“Our work is really to eliminate barriers to the extent that we can. Those barriers are part of systemic and institutional racism, and health equity and social justice is one of our core values. Breaking down those barriers so that people have equitable opportunities for their best health is very much a part of what we do,” Vail said. “When you are specifically there to serve folks without regard for their ability to pay, without putting barriers in place, you create more access for people who are incredibly vulnerable.”
The clinic will have a full laboratory, a pharmacy and several workstations. The clinic will include a staff therapist and provide behavioral health services.
“That’s been really exciting to see unfold,” Nelson said. “We know that this part of the county was a little bit of a hole in terms of health services, particularly for low to moderate-income people.”
Allen Community Center has helped people sign up for health care for years. As part of those services, the center assists people in finding a primary care provider. Opening a clinic at the new Allen Place will make that process much easier.
“The presence of the Allen Community Health Center on our corner means that we just have to send people three doors down to provide a medical home,” Nelson said.
Because the clinic is on site, Allen Place will work with health professionals to offer programs like “Prescriptions for Health,” which will allow people to receive prescriptions for fresh produce that they’ll be able to fill at the food co-op.
“It will offer lots of different opportunities for collaborative projects that promote the health of the neighborhood,” Nelson said.
This is the first time the health department has been involved in a multi-purpose community center, Vail said, but the hope is to establish more clinics at similar locations throughout the county.
Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (517) 231-9501 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Allen Neighborhood Center invites people to celebrate $11M renovation