Markus to help NEXT find new property
By Grace Lovins
Birmingham City Manager Thomas Markus will be working with the executive director of NEXT, after he received directions from the city commission on Monday, July 11, to move forward with assisting NEXT in finding an alternative site to lease or build from its current Midvale location to better suit the organization’s long-term needs.
NEXT, a non-profit organization providing services to Birmingham, Bingham Farms, Beverly Hills and Franklin residents over the age of 50, helping to enrich the lives of senior citizens by offering a variety of enrichment and educational programming. NEXT also offers support services that focus on allowing older adults to live independently and age in place. They currently lease space from Birmingham Public Schools at the former Midvale School, but the group's needs have outgrown the space.
Markus cited issues pertaining to strategic planning as a result of high turnover rates in Birmingham Public Schools’ administration over the past five years, which has impacted NEXT’s ability to move forward with their relocation. The school district is responsible for securing the long-term lease for the facility.
“There’s been a significant turnover in the administration of the school district over the past five or six years. And not only during that period but other periods, we've had this challenge where we’ve been asked to wait for the strategic plan to be done. This time after the strategic planning was done and they said they would respond to us, now they need to do a facilities study,” Markus said.
The intention for Markus to work with the NEXT executive director and board will help the organization efficiently line up possible sites or buildings going forward for them to be able to lease. The lease, according to Markus, would be critical to NEXT because it would allow NEXT to operate as a higher level senior facility and create more engagement between seniors and the surrounding communities.
Cris Braun, executive director of NEXT, told commissioners that finding a building or lease for NEXT has reached a critical point. “The only thing I would add to [Markus’s comments] is how often we begin to get traction and then we slow down because of that change in leadership. And it’s been a little frustrating and now we are really simply out of room and we are not offering all we could because of that lack of room,” Braun noted.
“The senior men’s club that’s no longer meeting at The Community House – it’s driving up to Bloomfield Hills but it should be with us. … I just think the more time we spend at Midvale constrained in our space, the more people will go elsewhere to look for senior services. … We’re at a critical juncture, I might say.”
Markus commented on his appreciation for NEXT’s non-profit model and desire to remain somewhere near Midvale. “I want to make clear that Midvale is still the desired location. You have familiarity amongst the senior population with where it is. You have an ease of ingress and egress to that location so those are all kinds of critical thoughts,” he said.
City commissioners unanimously voted to direct Markus to work with Braun and the NEXT board to help with the study of alternate facilities of sites for the construction of NEXT facilities.