The City of Detroit plans to sell the vacant Johnson Recreation Center for $625,000 to University of Detroit Jesuit High School, officials announced Tuesday. The school plans to renovate the building and make it accessible to the community through a benefits agreement the city negotiated with residents. 

U of D Jesuit plans to renovate the 20,500-square-foot building at 8550 Chippewa with an updated gym, meeting rooms and locker rooms and gym. There will also be improvements made to 10½ acres of open space including the Joe Louis Park and three new competition-grade soccer and lacrosse fields.

“Gradually, we are bringing the city’s vacant recreation centers back to life to provide recreational opportunities in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement Tuesday. “This partnership with U of D Jesuit to reopen the Johnson Recreation Center with new amenities and neighborhood access, is a win-win for everyone, thanks to a voluntary community benefits agreements negotiated with the residents."

The sale will need City Council approval. The proposal went before the council Tuesday and was referred to committee for discussion. If approved, the school expects to begin construction as early as this fall, according to the city.

Johnson Recreation Center closed in early 2006 and has been vacant since. It was among 16 recreation centers the city shut down from 2006 to 2013 due to budget cuts. 
If reopened, Johnson Recreation Center will be the third time since 2014 that the city has reactivated a previously closed recreation center through a public-private partnership. Similar plans have taken place at Lipke and Tindal centers, which are privately operated but allow community access and programs. 

Other items included in the community benefits agreement are to maintain the Johnson Recreation Center and Joe Louis Park names, hold a series of community service projects each year with U of D Jesuit staff and students and make the center available to Neighborhood Associations for monthly meetings at no cost to the residents.

There will be an advisory committee of seven members including U of D Jesuit, the city and presidents of the local neighborhood associations, according to the city.
If approved, the community benefits agreement will be another historic step in the school’s commitment to Detroit, said Theodore G. Munz, president of U of D Jesuit. 

“U of D Jesuit has been in the City of Detroit and committed to its residents since our founding in 1877,” he said. “Every year our students, facultyand staff engage in hundreds of hours of service projects that serve the people of this city. Likewise, our alumni actively contribute to the civic, economic and cultural life of Detroit.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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