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Productive Alternatives is giving new life to old 4-H building in Perham

Productive Alternatives purchased and began construction on building in the fall of 2021, and the changes are beginning to come together.

The second floor of the former 4-H building has been removed, making a new, vaulted ceiling visible.
The second floor of the former 4-H building has been removed, making a new, vaulted ceiling visible.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Longtime residents of the Perham community may remember skating at the old roller rink that used to be on Fourth Street SE. Though the building hasn't been a roller rink for many years now, it's remained a permanent fixture in the community, most recently housing the local 4-H program.

Now, new life is being breathed into the building again, since Productive Alternatives — a nonprofit organization that provides employment and day services to people with disabilities — purchased it and started construction in fall 2021 .

Significant progress has been made on the project since then. Completed by Hammers Construction, much of the past few months have been spent on interior demolition, new plumbing, and electrical wiring. This week, new interior walls are being constructed and painted.

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The old 4-H building, soon to be the new Productive Alternatives building, is located at 400 Fourth St. SE in Perham.
Perham Focus file photo

"We're excited for the new space," said Heather Meyer, Perham program manager at Productive Alternatives.

Since Productive Alternatives sold its former building, the organization has moved into a temporary space at ITOW Veterans Museum. While they're incredibly grateful for this space, Meyer said, they're excited to have a larger building more suited to their needs.

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The new building will feature plenty of room for all of the organization's clients, and a comfortable look and feel.

"The sun room is going to be very homey," said Jody OBrien, the employment service provider at Productive Alternatives.

Along with the sun room, the building will have a separate kitchen and dining space, which Productive Alternatives has never had before. There will be bathrooms and a shower room, and the space will be accessible for people with disabilities.

When Productive Alternatives first purchased the building, it had two stories. The nonprofit would have needed an elevator for clients to access the top floor, and so instead opted to remove the second level altogether. This left the original vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling beams of the old roller rink fully exposed and revealed.

"I always remember these beams, because if people were falling at the roller rink, they'd just skate over and hug them," Meyer laughed, remembering the building from her childhood. "They were a savior… I just love this ceiling."

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Office spaces, storage, and break rooms for Productive Alternatives employees will be in the back of the building.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Before construction started, Hammers Architect Brad Neuerburg asked Meyer and OBrien to make a wish list of everything they wanted in the space. When he came by to review their list, he noticed Productive Alternatives clients pacing around the inside space.

"He asked, 'Do they do this all the time?'" Meyer said. She explained to Neuerburg that while the clients go for walks outside in the summer, when the weather is poor in the winter, they walk around inside, instead.

"He said, 'Huh. I'm going to incorporate that into the building,'" Meyer explained. "We're going to have a walking track. We're not going to paint track marks or anything, but it will be a nice, smooth space for them to walk."

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The floor-to-ceiling beams of the building are being preserved as part of the construction process.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Productive Alternatives employees will have some new, exciting features, as well. There will be a separate staff entrance, a staff break room — which they've never had before — offices, conference rooms, a garage, plenty of storage, and even laundry machines.

"That will be really nice, because I'm currently taking all the laundry home," OBrien laughed.

The client space will be in the front, and the employee space will be in the back.

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A lot of the space in the building's interior will be bright and comfortable, with a walking path for exercise in winter months.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Meyer and OBrien have heard excitement about the new space expressed by clients as well as the general Perham community. They expect to move into their new space on April 22, once the project is complete, but that date could still change.

"A big thanks (to the Perham community)," OBrien said. "Everybody's been really supportive and wonderful to work with."

"It's a close community, and everyone supports each other," Meyer continued. "When there's a need, they help out."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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