Updated Information Regarding the JCC Oak Park / JPM Facility

August 14, 2015 | Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit

In the fall of 2014, it came to light that the JCC was in dire financial shape—and operating with a greater annual loss than had previously been recognized. In response, the Federation / UJF made grants and assumed obligations totaling $4 million dollars from its General Fund to eliminate much of the JCC’s longstanding debt. It was clear, however, that significant operational changes were necessary to keep the organization viable.

One of the most substantial financial problems lay with the JCC’s Jimmy Prentis Morris (JPM) facility in Oak Park, which has been losing close to $1 million annually, despite its membership revenue, annual allocation from Federation, donations and other income sources. Attempts to raise the large sum necessary to finance the budget shortfalls were unsuccessful. Nor could we continue to drain the General Fund, which is the community’s cash reserve.

While no one welcomed this outcome, it was evident that—from a financial standpoint—the JCC could no longer continue to operate its Oak Park facility. Therefore, on March 4, 2015 the formal decision was made for the JCC to cease operating out of the JPM facility in Oak Park. Initially targeted for spring of 2015, the final day of JCC operations at this facility was set for August 31, 2015. In addition, other operational changes have been—and will continue to be—implemented at the Kahn facility in West Bloomfield to ensure a balanced budget and sustainable operations.

Following this decision, the Federation / UJF began a process to find a new operator to take over management of the facility. The goal of this search has been to find an operator who will maintain an inclusive community facility that serves the Jewish population in the area—with the understanding that the center has provided both facilities and programming, as well as a welcoming communal experience to all residents of the community.

A formal Request For Proposal to identify potential operators was issued this spring and a number of substantive proposals have been submitted. There were two primary objectives:

  1. Find an operator to run JPM in a manner compatible with the Jewish agencies on the Oak Park Campus and surrounding Jewish neighborhoods
  2. Ensure that the facility is run in a sustainable, financially-viable manner.

While we wish we could make a definitive announcement, to date the process is still active and ongoing and no decision has been made. It is clear that as we approach the August 31 date, the degree of concern, interest and frustration continues to rise. We understand and acknowledge the deep feelings of the community. Please know that we are doing everything possible to find a sustainable, long-term solution that will serve the interests of the community.

Q & A

Q: Are you still trying to find an operator to run JPM as a Jewish community facility?
A: Yes, absolutely. We are still actively working to find an operator to maintain an inclusive Jewish facility that will serve the community in Oak Park, Southfield, Huntington Woods and surrounding cities. Despite the urgency to complete this process, there is no intention to either lease or sell the facility to any business or operator that is inconsistent with the Jewish communal environment of the campus, or the specific needs of the community.

Regarding sale versus lease of the building, the United Jewish Foundation, which owns the facility, does not intend to sell the building, as this would make it difficult to ensure a usage consistent with the Jewish environment of the campus.

Q: When will we know the outcome?
A: We understand that the community is concerned and waiting, particularly in light of the August 31, 2015 date for the end of JCC operations at JPM. Everything is being done to reach a positive conclusion to this effort as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we don’t know when an agreement will be reached. It may be a matter of weeks, although it may also take longer. Nevertheless, the Federation remains committed to achieving its goals for the facility.

Q: Why is it taking so long?
A: The process has been complex and time-intensive. Several potential operators came forward late in the process, so some deadlines were extended. Federation / UJF staff have had to request additional information from those making proposals, often more than once; review cost and revenue projections for accuracy; and verify proposers’ financial backing. Some potential operators were asked for structural plans, which take time to prepare and may require revision. Ultimately, a decision cannot be made until the necessary diligence is completed by both the future operator as well as the United Jewish Foundation to ensure a financially sustainable outcome that will serve the community. 

Q: Who has submitted proposals?
A: Because of issues of confidentiality, the names of the respondents to the RFP cannot be shared. There are a variety of organizations interested. Again, there is no intention to either lease or sell the facility to any business or operator that is inconsistent with the Jewish communal environment of the campus, or the specific needs of the community.

Q: Will JPM be closed on September 1, 2015?
A: The JCC will no longer be operating any of its programs from the JPM facility after August 31, 2015 so the building will not be open for any uses until an operator is found, and the necessary upgrades or renovations are made to ensure its success. Security and maintenance operations at the facility, supervised by the United Jewish Foundation, will continue. While the building will not be used until a new operator is identified and necessary renovations made, the facility itself will be well-maintained.

Q: When will the facility by ready to reopen?
A: Again, we understand the level of interest and concern, and we are all hoping to successfully transition the facility to a new operator as soon as possible. It is impossible, however, to project when this will be accomplished.

Q: Has the Federation / UJF been in contact with any of the ‘grassroots’ community members?
A: Yes. Recognizing the passion and determination of many local individuals to support the facility, the Federation / UJF professional team has remained in communication with leaders from the “Save the Oak Park JCC” group throughout the process. The group conducted a thorough survey of JPM users and community members to better understand the relative importance of various aspects of the facility. This survey has been useful in evaluating potential uses for the building.

Q: What about the JCC programing?
A: As the JCC has recently communicated, various JCC programs will be continuing at locations in and around Oak Park; information and schedules will be shared by the JCC.

Q: How will Members be notified of their status?
A: A letter has been sent to all members outlining their options. Members who would like information about their membership status may contact Marc Front: mfront@jccdet.org or 248-432-5605.

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