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Antioch College Main Building.

Antioch College Main Building.

YS Development Corporation— Educational commons explored

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Conversations have begun between several of Yellow Springs’ educational institutions that could lead to novel partnerships and possibly significant changes in the local learning landscape.

Facilitating the discussions is the recently formed Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, which in May approved a letter seeking a grant to explore the creation of an Education District, or Education Commons, on and/or near the Antioch College campus. The effort could involve collaborations between the college, Yellow Springs Schools, Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center and Community Solutions’ Agraria Center for Regenerative Agriculture.

The Yellow Springs News received a copy of the eight-page grant letter — which YSDC members discussed in an executive session last month and declined to make public at the time — through a public records request to Yellow Springs Schools.

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The grant request, sent to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, seeks $50,000 to be distributed between the YSDC and the named potential partners to explore ways to meet their individual needs and goals within a collaborative setting.

“We would be the convener of the project and oversee the project management if the funding is approved,” Lisa Abel, president of YSDC, said this week, in response to an inquiry from the News. The local economic development group includes representatives from the Village, Township and YS School district’s governing bodies and administrations, as well as Antioch College, the Chamber of Commerce and Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

The purpose of the Education District/Commons initiative, according to the grant letter, is to seek innovative solutions in addressing a variety of “critical issues” within the named institutions and the village as a whole.

Among the local issues identified are:

• Yellow Springs Schools’ “outdated” facilities
Declining enrollment in higher education
• Limited and/or lack of available affordable housing
• Attracting new businesses
• Creating new jobs
• Attracting new residents and visitors and
• Adjusting to and emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic

“While much is uncertain about the near future, the issues facing the Village before the [coronavirus] crisis have not subsided and will require outside-of-the-box thinking and collaboration to best position Yellow Springs for the future,” the letter states.

As the local public school district is seeking solutions to its facility needs, Antioch College is looking “to resize its campus footprint,” according to the letter. The college, however, has yet to confirm such a desire, though Village and YS Schools representatives have stated in public meetings that Antioch had talked about selling some of its property west of Livermore Street.

The creation of a collaborative Education District could mean the relocation of the K–12 program to the Antioch campus; the development of an education/teacher training program at the undergraduate and graduate levels; and eventually a preK–16 educational setting, among other components.

“The ultimate goals of this proposed collaborative project are to solve the issues of needed school facilities, create business and housing opportunities, create more jobs and new business opportunities in town, relieve the pressure of traffic flow downtown and assist in stabilizing and enhancing the college as it structures for the future,” the grant letter states.

Antioch’s President, Tom Manley, wrote in an email Tuesday that he’s enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“The Yellow Springs Development Corporation is the perfect place to have this conversation since it is a crossroads for public-private perspectives,” Manley wrote.

He added that he prefers the description of “Education Commons” over “Education District.”

‘It could bring tremendous benefit to the community and set Yellow Springs apart as a model for transformational education at all levels.”

Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Terri Holden said she appreciates the collaborative focus of the discussions.

For the district’s part, “we know we need to do something” about facilities, she said in a phone call this week. At the same time, “we have to be attentive to the financial burden that would be put on taxpayers” for renovations or construction.

Concerning the grant request, Holden noted that “it’s not commitment to anything but to explore possibilities.”

The idea for the collaborative Education District/Commons originated with YSDC member Patrick Lake, who did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jeannamarie Cox, of the Community Foundation, said that the organization’s Collaborative Grant Review Committee had received and reviewed the request, but has returned it to the YSDC with some questions. She said that the committee will review the document again once it’s resubmitted. If approved by the committee, the request will go on to the Foundation board for final approval.

The News will continue to follow this initiative as it develops.

In other recent business of the YSDC:

Meeting the first Tuesday of each month through the Zoom video conferencing website, the nonprofit economic development group also recently heard a presentation from a potential community partner; established, and later expanded a temporary, forgivable, business loan fund; and worked on an agreement with Miami Township for the transfer and sale of the firehouse on Corry Street.

‘Livable/Equitable/Age Friendly’

The group’s meeting in May began with a presentation by villager Toni Dosik, director of the local nonprofit Livable/Equitable/Age Friendly Yellow Springs. The group’s purpose is “to build a community where people of all ages, races, incomes and abilities can thrive,” Dosik said.

She said her reason for coming to the YSDC was to encourage collaboration between the two entities, whose goals seemed aligned, and to share information about some of her organization’s efforts that might help inform the development corporation’s decision-making.

“We want our mutual work to be connected,” Dosik said.

Dosik explained that Yellow Springs’ designation as a Livable/Equitable/Age Friendly Community, one of more than 1,000 municipalities identified as such by AARP and the World Health Organization, opens a wider network of funding opportunities for local capital projects, programs and services.

She also told the YSDC that her group would be undertaking an intensive three-to-five year “community engagement, planning and action process” to identify resources, strengths and needs within the village. The nonprofit not only wants to work with the YSDC in that effort, but also feels that the results will be of value to future economic development planning.

“This is a significant moment in time,” she said, noting that as we get past the COVID-19 pandemic, the community will be redefining how we want to live and what we want the village to look like.

YSDC members agreed that at least two of its members will serve as “stakeholders” with the Livable Yellow Springs group — with those two identified as Marianne MacQueen and Karen Wintrow. YSDC President Lisa Abel also invited Dosik or another group representative to attend future YSDC meetings, while noting that the group’s meetings are public and all community members are welcome to attend.

Forgivable business loans

At their June meeting, YSDC members accepted a $10,000 donation from Miami Township Trustees to expand the relatively new forgivable business loan program to include businesses in the township.

The action followed the group’s move in May to set aside $30,000 of the previously adopted revolving business loan fund for temporary, forgivable loans in the village’s Central Business District connected to operating amid the coronavirus crisis.

Corrie Van Ausdal, who is one of Miami Township’s two representatives, said in May that the program not only would help struggling local businesses, but also offers an opportunity “for the community to get to know the YSDC as a generous and caring organization.”

Village Council member Lisa Kreeger, who is one of the Village’s representatives on YSDC and chair of the loan program subcommittee, reported this month that the forgivable loan fund had distributed $27,250 during the first distribution round, and that everyone who qualified received some amount.

Fire station sale

For the past two months, the group has been working on an agreement with the Miami Township Trustees for the transfer to the YSDC of the fire station property on Corry Street for its future sale.

Recusing themselves from the discussions have been Chamber of Commerce President Karen Wintrow, Township Trustee Don Hollister and Township representative Van Ausdal.

In June, the YSDC approved the latest draft proposal, which has not been made public. The group also voted to put $1,000 in an escrow account toward purchase of the station; and they formed a subcommittee to work on marketing the sale and any negotiations with potential buyers. Van Ausdal; Jeannamarie Cox, of the Community Foundation; and Village Manager Josué Salmerón agreed to serve. They also agreed to seek the involvement of a local realtor, to be named.

The draft agreement now goes back to the township trustees for final approval.

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