*cino and HussRob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

*culture is not optional (*cino) purchased the historic Huss School property in Three Rivers, Michigan in 2009 from a private owner who had purchased the property from the school district in 2006.  Through a forty-day fundraising campaign, local supporters and people from around the world donated toward *cino’s down payment for the property.  Over 100 households gave $25,000 toward the realization of *cino’s vision for a community center and for residential space to house an intentional community and semester program for college students.

Located on four acres of land, Huss School is a two-story brick school building with 27,000 square feet of space. Throughout the twelve classrooms and additional spaces–including a gymnasium, a library and a newer office addition–are original doors, woodwork, wood floors, chalkboards and large windows.

Huss School is exciting as a potential space for a number of reasons. The sheer size of the building and surrounding property provide an opportunity to live into abundance, with resources for many collaborative opportunities and types of spaces, from residential to public. Locating our projects where Huss stands also provides an opportunity to serve a neighborhood that’s been decentralized by the loss of its elementary school, along with other social and economic forces over the years. The school is located just a mile from downtown Three Rivers and one block from the Circle Line, a new public transit opportunity offered by the St. Joseph County Transportation Authority. The neighborhood is residential, with undeveloped wooded land to the southeast of the school property.

Though the building has been slated for demolition at several points in recent history, it’s in remarkably good shape and was in active use until just a few years ago. In addition to cosmetic renovation for *cino’s custom uses, the building is in need of a new heating system and windows. The current boiler system, combined with single-pane aluminum windows, is not just financially unsustainable, but also environmentally unsustainable. That’s bad news in a way, but we see these immediate needs as an opportunity to model conscious energy choices to the community and make a positive impact on the local ecosystem.

In the years since *cino purchased the Huss property, we’ve used the building as-is to host a community garden, festivals, storytelling nights, service-learning groups, meetings, meals and many other gatherings.  We look forward to realizing the full potential of the property as a vibrant space for a wide variety of community-building activities.