New Conference Office
FEBRUARY UPDATE 2017
It is now time for an update on the new conference office. (See below (WHY A NEW OFFICE) for the early article how the decisions were made to proceed with the new office.)
After a lot of work, drawings were accepted. Permits were in place. Construction has begun. The interior of the existing building was stripped and provisions made to accept the additional wings.
All through the process, David Shull, an Adventist Architect with Progressive AE, continued to consult with the Michigan Conference Executive Committee. Some changes were necessary as construction continued. Good progress has been made.
The completion for the building has taken more time than we hoped, but the decision to make it right the first time has been paramount in our thinking. A date for the grand opening for the building has not been set. Stay tuned.
We are convinced that this new home for the headquarters for Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will provide a beautiful face for our church. This setting will more efficiently allow our church to continue the mission God has given us to carry the message of coming Savior to the field God has placed us.
WHY A NEW OFFICE
The present Conference Office was built in 1955.
At that time Interstate 496 did not exist. It now runs in front of the Conference Office through the heart of Lansing. This changed the character of the office by pushing the busy St. Joseph Avenue right up next to the building. The loss of the parking in front made the front entrance virtually useless. Most now enter through the shipping door, which has become the de facto entrance. The roar of the trucks, buses, and traffic makes an interesting background to our committees and conversations. In addition, after 60 years the building is in need of major renovation. The Conference has also grown. We are now, out of necessity, operating out of four buildings on this campus.
The windows, which are a major part of the exterior, are very energy inefficient. For many years we have had blocking screens covering the windows on the front side to hide the unsightly windows and to provide some shade from the sun.
At the 2013 constituency I shared with the delegates that we really needed to do something about the Conference Office building in the near future.
The following gives you an overall view of what it would take to bring this building up to where it should be if we stayed here:
- Install new energy efficient windows
- Install a new parking lot to city landscape requirements
- Repair, clean, and refinish the exterior
- Build a new sign
- Install a new roof
- Replace the antiquated heating and air conditioning system: It takes about two to three days to switch the building back and forth between heat and air conditioning. Depending on the weather you can have several weeks in the spring and fall where you freeze or swelter.
- Upgrade the interior
- Build a new three-story addition with a new entrance, including handicap accessible restrooms and a new elevator: There are no public restrooms on the main floor. You must either go up or down the stairs to get to the restrooms. This addition would be expensive square footage and could potentially trigger code upgrades for other parts of the building.
Our architect did some calculations and suggested the dollar amount might be between $3-4 million depending on the cost of the addition, repairs, and upgrades.
Even if we did all of that we would not solve our problems. We are still operating out of four buildings. We are still located in an area where the ladies don’t feel safe in the parking lot, particularly in the dark evenings of winter. One of our employees was held up in the parking lot. The traffic noise would be unchanged, although new windows could help some. The other buildings would also need attention. At least one of them should be torn down altogether and have its current operations built into the new addition.
You are being served by some very fine people on the Michigan Conference Executive Committee (MCEC). Some of the lay members on the committee and beyond have felt a strong need to find solutions for the conference office. With the permission of the MCEC and the officers, they started looking for property. I was not too optimistic because we had done some earnest looking before.
But they found a beautiful 3.75-acre parcel with a very nice office building (about 20,000 square feet) on West Michigan Ave. Taking one of the officers with them they went to look. They came back quite positive. So I, along with some others, went and looked.
While the building was very nice and we could partially shoehorn ourselves into it temporarily, it would not work as a permanent solution. However, if we built an addition, the facility would be outstanding for our needs. You can take a look at the property using Google Earth. It is located at: 5801, W. Michigan Ave., Lansing, Michigan.
So we asked David Shull, an Adventist Architect with Progressive AE out of Grand Rapids to give us his evaluation. He was pleased with what he saw and thought the new property had a lot of possibilities. So we started the process.
Michigan Conference has two constituencies. The large one of about 500 delegates meets for its session every five years and elects officers, departmental directors, the executive committee, and bylaws committee. The other is called the Michigan Conference Association Constituency.
It is the Association Constituency that legally holds all of the properties of the conference. The Association Constituency must legally meet at least once a year and is comprised of three groups: the Lay Advisory Coordinating Committee comprised of 15 laypeople elected by the Annual Lay Advisory; the Michigan Conference Executive Committee elected by the large Constituency; and the District Superintendants. These three groups make up the Association Constituency. It is fairly evenly divided between laypeople and pastors.
The bylaws of the Association allow only the Association Constituency, not the trustees or MCEC to make decisions regarding the properties of the office, academy, or camp. The trustees can make decisions about small parcels, such as parsonages, etc.
Here is the overview and the process that was followed in the decision to move forward with the property:
- In September of 2013 I informed the large Constituency that the issues we faced with the current office building would need to be addressed.
- As mentioned earlier we had some ladies on MCEC who felt, for very good reasons, that we should do something about this sooner rather than later. So with the MCEC’s permission they began to look around.
- They found a 3.75-acre property with an excellent building. They, along with one of the conference officers went to look. They all came back feeling positive.
- We took the MCEC to look, and they were very optimistic about the possibilities.
- We had the architect examine the building and advise us. His report was very encouraging.
- The MCEC then decided to call the Association Constituency into session.
- We also talked to Delta Township (West Lansing) officials. They were very familiar with the property including its builder. They were exceptionally positive about the property and builder. They were also helpful with the zoning codes by allowing us to put the ABC in the new building.
- The Association Constituency was very supportive and voted almost unanimously (one “no” vote) to purchase the property, develop the plan for renovations and the new addition, and authorize the financing.
- After securing the property, the MCEC advised that we proceed deliberately and not in haste to develop the plans thoughtfully. We have followed this sound advice. The last half of 2015 was spent working with the architect and our staff on the plans. The architect visited with each department individually, in addition to working with the officers.
- In October 2015 we shared the progress with the Annual Lay Advisory made up of representatives from the churches. Again we received strong encouragement that we were on the right track with this project.
- In January of this year I called the Association Constituency back into session. We shared the matured plans, the financing, and two building plan options. The first option was smaller in scale and about seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars less expensive. Once again they gave us very enthusiastic support. They voted, almost unanimously (one “no” vote) to affirm the recommendation of the MCEC for the larger option, believing that the smaller one would not meet the needs of the conference.
Here is the layout of the cost, financing, and plans for moving forward:
- Cost of new property: $980,000
- Cost of renovation: $500,000
- Cost of addition: $2 million
- Contingency: $500,000
- Total Cost of Project: $4 million (approximate)
- Minus sale of present property amounts to: $1.3-1.9 million (based on appraisals from four realtor companies)
- This leaves us with about $2.5 million to finance with the revolving fund.
- Our yearly payment to the Lake Union Revolving Fund on a 20-year mortgage amortization would be $172,000.
- Our average yearly utility and maintenance costs at our present property: $168,000. Maintenance costs at the present location would continue to increase.
- Projected yearly utility and maintenance costs at the new property: less than $50,000
- You can do the math. A large portion of the payment would be offset through substantial savings on utilities and maintenance. Given the facts it really made sense to make the move forward.
- The target is to be in by Christmas.
- We have advertised our present property. We have not listed with a realtor although we have talked to four. Because we are coming out of a recession, there was some thought that the appraisals might be on the low side. With the MCEC support we decided to test the market ourselves before listing it.
While none of us like debt, the new property will be invaluable in contrast to the one we now sit on. In addition, there is enough land for future building needs. Interest rates are very low, and it doesn’t make sense to reduce our liquidity/reserves to pay for the building. We are very pleased and excited as to what this will mean to the operations of the Michigan Conference. Having all of our enterprises under one roof will bring real efficiency to the work. This building will be a sacred place because caring for the ministers, teachers, churches, and schools is a sacred and blessed work. And to have this beautiful tranquil setting with a lovely pond in the backyard is something we could have hardly imagined possible. We know and believe the Lord is coming soon and that we are living in the “time of the end” for planet earth. We are working to that end! This world is not our home. Yet, it was the Lord Jesus who told us “to occupy till I come.”
When this building is completed, I think you will be pleased that it is not in any way ostentatious, but rather nicely representative of the Lord’s work. We hope, most of all, that it will be an advantage to all the churches and schools on whose behalf, the work there, will be carried out.