New site for senior center planned

The former 47,000-square-foot Village Market grocery store at 08337 M-140 Hwy., in South Haven Township, has been purchased by Senior Services of Van Buren County. The agency plans to renovate at least half of the facility into a senior center and lease other space to potential partners.

SOUTH HAVEN — A nonprofit that provides services and activities for older adults will soon be breathing new life into a grocery store that has sat idle for two years.

Senior Services of Van Buren County announced this week that it has reached an agreement with Village Market Food Centers and Murk Management to purchase the former Village Market building at 08337 M-140 Hwy. Once renovations are complete, Senior Service hopes to open its new Senior Center in South Haven sometime next year.

“We can’t thank the Murks enough,” said Diane Rigozzi, executive director of Senior Services. “This could not have been done without the very generous donation of $2.1 million dollars toward that building from Dennis and Kay Murk and some of the equipment from Steve and Darla Murk.”

Rigozzi had first approached Steve Murk about possibly purchasing the 47,000-square-foot building shortly after Village Market closed in December 2017.

The building had been appraised at $2.5 million and Murk Management was willing to donate 50 percent of the cost toward Senior Services’ purchase of the facility.

“That was still out of reach,” Rigozzi said.

But earlier this year, Steve Murk approached Senior Services again about the building.

“They said, ‘we’re lowering the price to $400,000,’” Rigozzi said. “I just about cried.”

This isn’t the first time the Murks have practically donated one of its buildings to entities in town that are in the business of helping others.

In the 2004, after the Murks built the Village Market on M-140 Highway, they donated their old facility on S. Bailey Avenue to South Haven Community Hospital, which then went on to reconstruct the building into what is now Bronson South Haven Wellness Center.

Senior Services, which oversees three senior centers and offers programs, meals and activities throughout Van Buren County, receives the majority of its funding through two taxpayer-funded millages.

The nonprofit doesn’t intend to ask for additional funds or fees toward the purchase of the Village Market building.

“We put down $100,000 on the building from our reserves,” Rigozzi said. The remaining $300,000, she went on to say, will be financed and paid for from rent Senior Services pays for the building it currently leases for office and activity space at First Baptist Church, and from rent that Moore Pharmacy pays for its drug store that has been located in Village Market for the past several years.

“We will continue the lease that was started with Moore Pharmacy which will help pay for the mortgage and ongoing utilities,” Rigozzi said. “We will also investigate other potential partners that will complement our Senior Center.”

Senior Services does not intend to use the entire former grocery store space for its programs and activities. Instead, it intends to use the northern portion of the building that once contained the deli, coffee shop, produce and portions of the meat department.

That area will be converted into a full kitchen, dining area, coffee area, stage with seating for an audience, offices, restrooms and activity rooms. Senior Services may also use some of the space for pickleball courts.

It is estimated renovations will cost approximately $350,000, to be paid for through a fundraising campaign.

“We have a building committee and a fundraising committee,” Rigozzi said.

Senior Services has operated its South Haven senior center at First Baptist Church on 76th Street for the past four years. But during most evenings the facility is used by other groups.

“First Baptist Church has been amazing, but we don’t have this full-time,” Rigozzi said. Storage and office space is also limited.