Laura Parra had a dream — literally.
One night a few years ago, she dreamed she was walking around the Sunnyside neighborhood east of Adrian when she saw a building, opened up like a garage, with Oaxacan-style ceramics lining the walls and people sitting at tables, working, creating art.
That dream ended up being the inspiration for what Parra hopes will become a new center for community and culture in Adrian: the Sunnyside Cultural and Historical Center for Peace and Justice, to be located at 2471 E. Maumee St. in the building that was once the Red Door tavern.
Parra said the center — which also goes by the abbreviated name of Sunnyside Center for Peace and Justice — could serve many functions. It could host plays, concerts, dances, recitals or poetry readings. It could be a place for classes or workshops, or a center for activism. It could be a place for independent artists to both create and sell their work. And it would be a center for knowledge about the Hispanic history and culture of the Adrian area.
Parra, a retired teacher, grew up in Adrian. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University before moving south to find work in her specialty, eventually settling in San Antonio, Texas. She now divides her time between Adrian and San Antonio.
A similar organization in San Antonio, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, provides an example of what the Sunnyside Center could be, she said. The Esperanza Center’s programs include a Peace Market on the two days after Thanksgiving in which both local and global artists can sell their work, giving people an alternative to commercial retail shopping.
The building at 2471 E. Maumee St. has been vacant for a number of years. Parra remembers it as a place her brothers would frequent, but in which she and her sisters were always forbidden to set foot. It’s in deteriorating condition and the paint is flaking off of the red door that gave the bar its name, but when Parra was walking around the neighborhood thinking about sites for a cultural center, she started to wonder about the building. She called the county treasurer’s office to check on it, and found that it was about a year away from being sold at auction for delinquent taxes. And she waited.
The property went up for auction in August of this year, but the starting bid was too high. No one bought it. On Oct. 15 it went to a second tax sale, a “scavenger auction,” and Parra bought it then.
Although the dream is for the former Red Door to become a vibrant community center, there’s a lot of work that needs to happen first. Before any work can happen inside, the roof needs to be weatherproofed – and there’s a time crunch. Parra said the Sunnyside Center’s contractor believes there’s a chance the roof could simply collapse if it isn’t weatherproofed before winter, which would make the building unusable.
The Sunnyside Center has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise an initial $5,300 to weatherproof the roof by Dec. 1. As of this story’s publication, the campaign had raised $215 from nine donors in three days.
The Sunnyside Center for Peace and Justice is registered with the state of Michigan and has applied for nonprofit status from the IRS.
For more information about the center, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/sunnysidecenter.