Source: Sherman Publications

Board: Ehman Center not suitable for seniors

by Laura Colvin

September 29, 2010

Build a new senior center from the ground up? A number of local residents think renovating the Ehman Center is a better option.

Stephen Auger, president of Auger Associates Architects Inc., got the ball rolling in his letter to the editor published Aug. 8, when he wrote, “In my 15 years of practicing architecture in Lake Orion I have watched this architectural and community gem slowly turn into an eyesore, being demolished by neglect, and the lack of funding, leadership and imagination.

With the money we will be spending to tear up a beautiful virgin parcel of land, lay down a sheet of asphalt...bring in water, sewer, gas and electric; and then construct a building, we could have a fully refurbished Ehman Center with elevator within a truly sustainable walking district.

To my way of thinking this is a win, win, win, win. An historic building is saved by strong, visionary political leadership.”

Resident Carol Roughton concurred the following week, writing that the environment, nearby business, and the seniors would benefit from a center they could walk to. 

Leadership in the township, she penned, has shown “disregard for our community’s natural beauty that has already manifested itself in the urban sprawl that our beloved Gingellville has endured.”

Jim Buchman pointed to a number of historic buildings around the village that have been restored and are serving a purpose.

“All of these existing buildings have a rich history,” he wrote. “How fortunate we are that many have maintained them. The Ehman Center could certainly become a shining example of utilization and preservation for all of us.”

But at Monday’s meeting, Trustee JoAnn Van Tassel said she was part of a three-person committee in the late 90s that looked into the feasibility of converting the Ehman Center to a senior center.

“It’s so chopped up,” Van Tassel said. “It would require a lot of modifications and a new heating system.”

The building, she said, would also need to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would take some doing, as well, and parking is limited.

“It sounds good in theory,” she said, noting the Ehman Center is about 17,000 square feet compared to the proposed building’s 27,000 square feet. “ But it’s very impractical. You’d have to meet village ordinances and those are not necessarily the same as township ordinances.”

Trustee Mark Crane, agreed, and said his law firm once represented the building’s owner and worked to develop an alternate use for the building.

“There might be a good use, but this is not it,” he said, echoing Van Tassel’s concerns about accessibility, the heating system, and a new roof. “It’s not laid out well for a senior center.”

Clerk Penny Shults said the picturesque parcel on Joslyn is a more centralized location, offers more visibility, and easy access for seniors.

“I can’t even imagine having a senior center in the Ehman building,” she said.