Alma College buys historic opera house

By Brittany Pierce

Copy Editor

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Alma College recently purchased a historic building downtown that eventually will be used for student housing, retail and meeting space and much more. 

The 55,000-square foot Wright Opera House, located at the corner of State and Superior streets, was originally built by lumber baron Ammi Wright, according to a college press release. 

The cost of the purchase was not revealed.   

“Initial funding (to purchase the building) has come from the college’s capital fund,” said Alan Gatlin, the chief operating officer and vice president for finance and administration.   

“The college has also received a Community Re-development grant from the state of Michigan and the project will also qualify for federal tax credits for historic building preservation from the National Parks service.   

The college also hopes to raise money from community members and Alumni who believe the project would add a tremendous value to the college and the community.” 

However, the building is not currently ready to be used by the college. It needs to be further renovated before use.  

“We expect the total project cost before considering the state grants and tax credits will be in the $5 to $6 million range,” said Gatlin.  After the project is complete, the building will be far more than just another residence hall.   

“The basic plan is for retail space on the first floor, some performance and meeting space on the second floor and apartments on the second and third floor. There would also be space for a classroom or two as well.  

The performance space could be used for small concerts, wedding receptions and business meetings,” said Gatlin. 

As of now, it is unclear when the project will be finished and there is no timeline set in place.  

“A time frame to finish the project has yet to be determined, we need to secure all of the necessary remaining funds before we re-start construction,” said Gatlin. 

“Once we re-start we will move as quickly as possible but renovating a historic building that has suffered a major fire is a challenge and does not lend itself to a strict timeline,” he said.   

This is not the first time that someone has attempted to convert the Wright Opera House into housing. In the past, a developer took on the task but failed to complete it.   

“Previously a developer not related to the college purchased the property and was trying to redevelop it.  The college had agreed to lease all of the apartments from the developer if he was successful.   

The college had not tried to buy or develop the property until the current developer failed,” said Gatlin.  

“A few years ago, the current developer experienced problems completing the project and eventually the project stalled.”  

The lender and contractors were not paid and eventually a lawsuit between the lender and the contractors who had been renovating the building and the developer was started. 

“As part of the settlement of that lawsuit the college entered into an agreement where it paid the contractors and the lender certain amounts and the developer in turned signed over ownership of the building to the college. The terms of the agreement between the college, the developer, the lender and the contractors are confidential so we can not disclose the amount of the payments,” said Gatlin.   

As for the other college apartment project downtown, it is unclear when that will be finished or whether that is still an ongoing project at the college.  

Trump’s communication explains time in office

By Caden Wilson

News Editor

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, American presidents have capitalized on technological innovations to communicate with their citizens and promote their systems of belief.  

Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats of the 1930s and 1940s nursed the nation through the Great Depression and most of World War Two. John F. Kennedy’s appeal on national television secured his victory against Richard Nixon, just as Barrack Obama’s utilization of social media did against John McCain in 2008.   

Saturday will mark the end of the first year of President Donald Trump’s administration. Like his predecessors, Trump’s use of modern communication technology has greatly influenced the political atmosphere, although in the sitting president’s case it may not be for the better. Donald Trump’s first year in office is most telling through his biggest obstacle- communication.   

Dr. Joanne Gilbert, Chair of Communications and New Media Studies at Alma College expressed concern with the White House’s rejection of the example set by previous administrations.  

“The Trump dministration does not so much communicate with the press and the media as it condemns them so I find it deeply troubling and problematic because the messages I see coming out of the Trump administration are generally not founded on truth,” Gilbert said.   

David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson of the New York Times, a publication often criticized by the sitting president, have kept a comprehensible list of every untruth or falsehood expressed by the White House since Trump’s inauguration in an article entitled “Trump’s Lies,” which cites sources refuting every inaccurate statement.   

“We are using the word ‘lie’ deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying,” Leonhardt and Thompson stated on the NYT website.   

January 20 to November 11 of 2017, Leonhardt and Thompson refuted 90 lies. They state that there are many more untruths or exaggerations, which are not directly lies and may include unfounded evidence. It is stated that from January 20, Trump’s first day without misleading the public was March 1.   

Gilbert cited this rhetoric as: “potentially extremely damaging to deride anything the media say as false because I believe that Americans will be confused about who exactly to believe and whether or not facts are up for grabs.”  

The New York Times reports that of the days in which the president said nothing misleading, he is usually absent from Twitter, golfing, or vacationing at Mar-a-Lago.  

Unlike President Barrack Obama, Trump prefers his personal Twitter account over the official president’s twitter and mostly rejects the possibility of a social media manager, letting him convey his thoughts instantly with his 46.6 million followers.   

“The current president’s twitter feed has been and perhaps will be the downfall of his administration,” said Gilbert. “I think discourse that is based in ignorance, fear mongering, hatred, and vitriol does nothing to communicate important information but rather emboldens the very worst instincts of people and enables them to feel justified in actions that range from ugly and abusive to absolutely unconscionable or reprehensible.”  

Trump’s frequent outbursts caught the attention of the world as the creation of a call-out culture never seen before by a sitting president.   

“Rather than communicating about specific policies and issues, much of the information that comes out of the Trump administration is name calling,” Gilbert says.  

Gilbert cites Ad Hominem, a phrase used by many involved in the communications field, which translates from Latin into “mud-slinging.”  

Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy of the New York Times assembled an article entitled “The 424 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List.” It does as the title says, up through January 3, 2018.   

Gilbert states that she believes there is intentional hostility on part of the White House against the mainstream media and anyone else who contradicts the president.   

“I do think that an administration that uses phrases such as ‘Alternative Facts’ should be deeply suspect and should be a great concern to all of us regardless of the side of the aisle we’re on.” 

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