Schor supports 'any language' to keep old Eastern High and improve mental health care

Council expected to vote Monday on resolution addressing U of M's threat to the landmark building


WEDNESDAY, July 3 — As the City Council prepares to weigh in on a resolution calling for the preservation of old Eastern High School, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said today he supports “any language” that seeks to keep the building while supporting U of M Health-Sparrow’s desire to bring a psychiatric facility to the city.

“He is still urging UM Health Sparrow leadership to do what they can to save the building while increasing mental and behavioral health services,“ spokesperson Scott Bean emailed City Pulse today.

Bean said Schor has not seen the resolution, authored by Council member Ryan Kost,  but that “he would be supportive of any language in a resolution that supports these expanded behavioral health services while working to preserve the building.

“Lansing desperately needs more mental health to help those who need it, including residents and those who are homeless and battling with these issues. The Mayor still strongly believes that these expanded services can happen in a way that can preserve the school building,” Bean added.

U of M Health-Sparrow said a month ago that it proposed building a psychiatric facility “using the site of the former Lansing Eastern High School” in an effort to meet a “crucial” need for more mental-health care in Lansing. The plan calls for a $97.2 million building with 120 beds.

The health system’s statement stopped just short of saying it would tear down old Eastern, a landmark, 96-year-old building, which closed in 2019.

“The high school has been closed for years and its dilapidated interior makes it unsafe and cost-prohibitive to locate any services there,” the statement said. It made no reference to any other site on the the 18 acres of Eastern’s campus, which U of M inherited when it took over Sparrow Health System two years ago. Sparrow purchased it from the Lansing School District in 2016 for $2.475 million.

Asked where Schor would stand if U of M deems demolition its only option, Bean said the mayor “really hopes it doesn’t come to that either/or scenario. He remains hopeful that UM will see the value in the community benefits of both expanding mental health services while also preserving the building.”

Kost’s eastside ward includes both U of M-Sparrow and the old Eastern High School.

The resolution asks City Council to express support for both creating a psychiatric facility and preserving the building.

Eastern is “one of only a few buildings left standing in the City of Lansing that has been well preserved and become a landmark for Lansing much like the ‘Big House’ is in Ann Arbor,” it says.

Countering U of M’s argument that the building is too far gone, the proposed resolution says that “there are numerous examples of schools of this age being repurposed in Lansing, in Michigan, and around the country instead of being demolished.”

An effort to reach U of Health-Sparrow John Foren for comments was unsuccessful. U of M has said nothing more about the situation since issuing its June 7 statement. Asked at the time if the proposal called for demolition, Foren declined to comment.

U of M’s Board of Regents will have final say on whatever is ultimately proposed. No timetable has been announced.

Kost said he is scheduled to speak by phone next Monday with Margaret Dimond, president of U of M-Health Sparrow and the western region of U of M Health. At that time, he said, he will request that she meet with members of a group he and City Pulse owner Berl Schwartz have formed. Called the Committee to Preserve Historic Eastern and Promote Mental Health, it comprises Eastern alumni members, preservationists and eastside Lansing residents.

Kost updated the resolution today to say “the City of Lansing City Council supports U of M Health-Sparrow in its desire to bring a new psychiatric facility to Lansing and also supports efforts to preserve the historic Eastern High School building.”

An earlier draft said it supported efforts to convert the building into a psychiatric facility. The new language does not exclude doing so — it just does not bind the Council to supporting only that goal.


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