Future of the Sunset Terrace remains unclear

By Melissa Deatsch

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With a newly inaugurated president, the building facilities committee at Oakland is faced with a big decision.  What will happen to Sunset Terrace?

Sunset Terrace has been the home to the University’s presidents in the past, most recently belonging to President Russi in 2013.  The building is rich with history, dating back to 1952 when it was built by the Oakland’s founder Matilda Dodge Wilson as her retirement home.  It has since been named to The National Register of Historic Places.  

Though complete demolition has not been ruled out, the committee is focusing on three main options for the terrace’s next use.  The first option, discussed at Wednesday’s meeting with the facilities committee, was the home for President Hynd. Followed by a Dodge Museum and Alumni House.

There are some things about Sunset Terrace that don’t make an ideal home for the University’s new president.  The Trustee’s noted that an ideal location for the president’s home would be closer to the academic side of campus, instead of the recreational side of campus where it is currently.

Another issue with the Terrace’s location is its proximity to the Meadowbrook Music Festival.  Oakland has received complaints in the past from residents off-campus from concerts.  Many of the members of the Board of Trustees made the assumption that the concerts would be very disruptive to the president.  

In addition, making the home suitable for the president would require some costly upgrades, such as the heating and cooling systems and kitchen appliances. 

Geoff Upward, the Executive Director of Meadowbrook Hall gave the presentation on using Sunset Terrace as a Museum complex of the Dodge brothers.  

“The University is a result of the Dodge brothers’ success, but this story is not being properly told,” Upward said.  

The proposal laid out a museum complex featuring some interesting concepts like classic Dodge cars, hands on engineering exhibits, and an after-school enrichment program.  

The proposal suggested that the transformation of Sunset Terrace into a Dodge museum would further the University’s cultural district, increase revenue potential for Meadowbrook Hall and expose thousands of Visitors to Oakland’s roots, all while preserving the historic building.  

“We can do all this with virtually no cost to the University,” Upward said.

The proposal for a new Alumni House was presented by Eric Berritt.  Berritt said he felt this concept would allow for “an opportunity to continue Matilda’s Wilson’s legacy and a solution the current space crunch [in the Office of Alumni and Community Engagement.]”  

With this solution, a variety of alumni events could take place at Sunset Terrace.  The alumni center is always looking for unique places on campus to host their events.  However, many end up in the Oakland Center.  

Events such as pre basketball game receptions and 50th Reunion Hospitality Event could immediately move their location to this space.  Berritt proposed an Alumni Hall of Fame to be located in the Foyer, as well as the upstairs bedrooms converting into office space.  

The proposal for the Alumni House as well as the Dodge museum would require an addition of a 30-car parking lot near Sunset Terrace.

The Board of Trustees noted that they are open to hearing more ideas of what to do with this space.  This process is still in the early stages.  This meeting brought forth some ideas will soon be advanced upon.  The next facilities meeting is set to take place sometime in June.