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A home for Birmingham's over 50 population

Cris Braun, executive director of Birmingham Next, reminds us in her monthly column in this issue of the following: “It is said that a society can be measured by the way they care for the most vulnerable, the young and old. “

In Birmingham, our youngest residents have long been cherished through some of the finest public educational institutions in the state, with an emphasis on athletics, science, arts, music, drama, and a wide range of extracurricular activities in the most state of the art facilities. Similarly, our youth enjoy community parks and playgrounds, an excellent library, an improving ice arena, tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball diamonds, all of which, like Birmingham Public Schools, are supported through local tax dollars. It's part of what makes Birmingham the enviable place to reside. Yet, conversely, the city has not been as successful in providing for its seniors and older inhabitants.

Recent census data reveal that about half of Birmingham's population – just as in neighboring Bloomfield Township – is over 50, and will continue to grow older as residents age in place. In reality, there are many more in this demographic than in our school age population. A key difference is that Bloomfield Township opened their modern senior center for all residents over 50 in 2009, while Birmingham Next, a non-profit whose goal is enriching the lives of the 50-plus population of Birmingham, Bingham Farms, Beverly Hills and Franklin since it was created in 1978, has been sharing or renting limited space from Birmingham Public Schools.

Until now.

After eight years of searching for a home, with the support, direction and approval of the Birmingham City Commission, recently retired Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus got the job done by coordinating the purchase of the Birmingham YMCA building on E. Lincoln Street in Birmingham as a combined future site for Next and the Y.

This is a win-win for both Next and the Y. The Y has been looking to expand its operations into neighboring communities, and this will allow it to reduce its footprint while allowing Next to utilize 30,000 square feet of the current 40,000 square foot building – tripling its current space. Some of that square footage will also include shared spaces.

But just as supporting the community's youth can be expensive, maintaining the quality of life through programming and services – along with improvements to the Y's declining infrastructure – is costly.

According to Cris Braun, of Birmingham Next, they have already made a significant financial contribution of $500,000 towards the combined operation of Next and the YMCA; Birmingham will pay the remaining $1.5 million for the property, and lease it back to the non-profit for $1 a year. Next has fundraising efforts planned to assist them in renovations and services to turn their dream into a reality.

However, the community must also bear a small cost. This November, Birmingham residents will be asked to support a 0.33-mill levy for three years to provide funding for the senior and community center for improvements and to provide a sinking fund for future improvements.

This is the same millage request Bloomfield Township residents were asked for their senior services – and overwhelmingly approved – in 2022. The tax levy would equate to an extra $33 per year for every $100,000 of a home's taxable value. It shouldn't be too much to ask to allow our older residents to stay active and vital.

This new phase of Next completes the picture of a community that cares for the needs of all of its residents.


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