Plans unveiled for early childhood center at Marygrove

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Officials have released renderings and plans for a $15 million early childhood education center to be built on the Marygrove College campus.

The center is part of the Marygrove Conservancy’s "cradle-to-career" vision for the 53-acre campus, which will lose Marygrove College when it closes at the end of the year.

While Marygrove College will cease to exist at year-end, other programs such as a Kresge Foundation-financed Early Childhood Center are planned for the 53-acre campus.

Developers say they expect to break ground by spring 2020 on the 28,000-square-foot building. Plans call for the center to have natural light, interior courtyards and a natural playscape designed around existing oak trees. 

The center, expected to open in fall 2021, will include 12 classrooms, a library and health therapy rooms. The project architect is Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Marlon Blackwell Architects. Local construction firm Barton Malow will serve as the construction manager.

“The detail, scale and presence of Marygrove within the community is remarkable,” Marlon Blackwell, a principal of the architecture firm, said in a statement. “The existing buildings provide a substance to the campus in which we seek to establish a condition of resonance between old and new, crafting an early childhood center with purpose that is uniquely attuned to the physical and cultural particulars of its context.”

Last month, Marygrove College announced that it would close at the end of the fall semester in December due to lack of enrollment.

That announcement came two years after the college stopped offering undergraduate classes and solely offered master’s degrees. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary brought Marygrove to Detroit in 1927.

Developers will soon break ground on a new, state-of-the art early childhood education center on the grounds of Marygrove College in northwest Detroit as part of a P-20 cradle-to-career educational campus being developed there.

Inkster-based Starfish Family Services will operate the early childhood center, which will serve 144 children ages 0 to 5 and provide health and human services to serve families of all income levels. The curriculum and services are being developed by Starfish Family Services, University of Michigan School of Education and Marygrove College.

Starfish Family Services CEO Ann Kalass said she considers the collaboration unique and said "it puts children and education at the center of neighborhood and economic redevelopment.”

Developer IFF, which has offices in Detroit, and Starfish Family Services have been working with the support of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center to meet with parents, caregivers and child care providers in the neighborhood to gather input on the center’s design and services.

As part of its outreach to the community, developers revealed plans for the center to about 200 area residents during a picnic on the campus Saturday afternoon.

The early childhood center is part of a transition for the campus that will also include a new K-12 school and a teacher-education training program with partners that include the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the University of Michigan, the Kresge Foundation and Starfish Family Services. 

The initiative, called the P-20 Partnership, is backed with a $50 million commitment from the Kresge Foundation.

The single-story, 28,000 square foot facility will be built adjacent to the landmark Liberal Arts Building and feature natural light and connections to the outdoors, such as a natural playscape designed around an existing grove of oak trees.

Renovations are underway on the campus’ Liberal Arts Building to prepare for the first class of 9th graders at the School at Marygrove, which will open in September.

Officials said DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recently told district board members that 97% of the accepted students are Detroit residents, with half of those students returning to the district from suburban districts and charter schools. He also said 75% of the accepted students live within a two-mile area of the campus.

The first phase of the campus will include a ninth-grade pilot program to open this fall, followed by the opening of the early childhood education center and kindergarten in fall 2020.

When complete the early childhood education center and the K-12 school are expected to serve more than 1,000 children and their families.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN