Webster Elementary School
What's Our Plan?
When Micah 6 Community purchased their first home in 2012 we couldn't have been more excited about our neighborhood: lots of people, vacant land for gardening, and across the street a playground that seemed tailor-made for our community events such as block parties, neighborhood barbecues, soccer games with kids and Easter Egg hunts.
The playground, of course, was part of a larger property attached to Webster Elementary, a closed school that was boarded up when we arrived. Neighbors would tell us about the good ole days when the school was open and was the heartbeat of the neighborhood. We met many friends along the way who attended, taught or worked at Webster. It became an easy landmark for explaining to people where we lived-- everyone knows where Webster is located.
From time to time we would initiate half-hearted conversations about purchasing the property, but that was a pipe dream, we were a small organization on a shoestring budget. Add to that the complexity of talking to the school district which was torn on whether or not to sell their vacant buildings or hold on to them just in case the city came back, or rather, as a point of pride, wasn't ready to see them go.
In the summer of 2015, however, we heard the building was purchased by a developer who already owned several buildings in town. We approached him to let him know who we were and what we were doing in this community and of course to offer our two cents on what we'd like to see become of the place. He turned out to be a really good guy who weighs his investments both in terms of finances as well as "greater good." He said he had plans of building a farmer's market and garden complex, both things that were close to our heart and we were relieved to hear it was going to be going somewhere positive.
He approached us in November of 2015 with a proposition: "I see what you're doing, I like what you're doing, let's start talking about a number that we can agree upon so that Micah 6 Community can take over the building and use it to expand our work in this community." Through a couple of weeks of negotiating, a couple of months of finding partners and much prayer and discernment, we have decided to purchase Webster Elementary with the dream being to use it for several things.
Small Business Incubator
A school building is a perfect space to begin small businesses: classrooms, common space, facilities and more! We paid a visit to the Green Garage in Detroit and spent much time talking with them about their concept, vision, experiences and best practices and we think a space where Pontiac entrepreneurs can get started is a great use of the space.
With this, we will likely build out a few of the classrooms as starter cubicles with shared copy and printer access. Weekly we will have someone from a local bank who can come in and work on business plans, small business loans, etc. We will also leave one room with its original hardwood floors for anyone who seeks to host yoga, dance or exercise classes. There will also be several spaces renovated as meeting rooms and conversation rooms.
True to who we are at Micah 6 Community, we are excited about the possibility that a 4-acre playground presents for gardening and healthy food. Already this summer we have plans with partners from Leadership Oakland to build a 100-foot long cold frame on the property. We are already discussing further additions with what could potentially our first two small businesses on that property: a ministry that works with women who are coming out of sex trafficking that would like to implement a gardening therapy component and a friend from White Lake looking to begin a hops farm.
Our eventual plan is for five 100 foot long cold frames on the property for year-round growing. Click here for more information about our Webster Gardens.
In the space that is currently the library, we'd like to begin housing, cataloging and making available sources related to the history of Pontiac, the school district and the community at large. This will need to be a large scale effort involving many from the city gifting their documents, photos, stories and memories to the collection. We will begin soliciting these items in the summer of 2016.
The playground already has a full-size soccer field as well as a backstop for baseball. We intend to give these spaces a facelift and use them as early as this summer for events in our community.
Indoors is a basketball court that we intend to use for night leagues and gameplay as soon as next winter!