As a town bouncing back from economic hardships over the years, Albion is beginning to find the spark it once had. An integral part of improving Albion has been bringing Albion College faculty and students together with community members. This improvement arguably started in 2014, with the renovation and restoration of the Bohm theater, and it continued with the opening of the Ludington Center on Jan. 3 right down Superior Street.
According to a promotional flyer, the aim of the center is to “serve the community of Albion and Albion College in a space that connects the college and the community so collaborative relationships can be established and encouraged to thrive.” The Ludington Center is about making students and community members feel safe and comfortable with each other.
“If we’re going to help students realize that they’re a part of the Albion community, we have to give them spaces in the Albion community to make them feel comfortable,” said Andrew French, the building manager and city councilman.
There aren’t many buildings in Albion that make you say “wow” when you walk into them, but the Ludington Center does exactly that. Inside the building, you can feel the improvement in the community around you. The open floor plan and 21st century furniture radiate the feeling of creativity but also relaxation. There’s an uplifting and joyful atmosphere to the Ludington Center that isn’t felt in many buildings in and around Albion but has recently become more prominent.
Named after Jack and Dorothy Ludington (‘51), the center serves many purposes both for the college and community. Albion College’s Carl. A Gerstacker Institute for Business and Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service have meeting rooms on the second floor. The Ludington Center will also host the Build Albion Fellows program, a team of AmeriCorps VISTA and Albion College’s Career and Internship Center.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a program that focuses on alleviating poverty throughout America. French says there are nine VISTAs involved in Albion, and their focuses are on education, healthcare, food access and other economic opportunities. Their goal is to connect with the residents of Albion who have been experiencing hardships and to meet their needs.
“We’re trying to connect with our residents in need, so that when the next VISTA team comes on in July, we can put them where they’re needed most,” said French. “We’re doing a community assessment right now, and it should finish up in early March.”
Along with institutes associated with Albion College, the center has also been a community meeting place since it’s opening. The Albion Area Lifelong Learners will have classes there in the future. On Jan. 26, the center hosted about 60 retired teachers from the Michigan Educational Association to learn about health care changes and retirement funds. Reverend Donald Phillips, Albion College Chaplain, is thinking about using the space for the Albion Ministerial Association as well.
“We’ve had a very diverse number of individuals from the college and the community that have used the space,” said French. “People have been very excited about using this space.”
The Ludington Center has easily become the most modern building in the downtown strip of Albion, if not the entire city. Both classrooms feature 72-inch smart LED TVs and technical centers which can be used for academics or entertainment. It’s also not exclusive to institute students or community members — any student at Albion can show up and work. Paired with its location downtown, French believes the Ludington Center can easily show what Albion has to offer.
“The exciting thing for me, is [that] students can come here on a Saturday, get lunch at Cascarelli’s, work on their schoolwork, see a movie at the Bohm and make a big day of it right here in downtown Albion,” said French.
Though much of the center is complete, there’s still one vacant area that Albion College is looking to utilize. With the opening of the Bohm II theater on Jan. 25, the continued construction of the Courtyard Marriot hotel and the re-bricking of downtown Superior Street, more parts of Albion will surely have the energy the Ludington Center gives off.
Photos by Steven Marowski