Plans for shuttered Pontiac school include community center, greenhouses

click to enlarge The former Webster Elementary School in Pontiac. - Photo from Google Street View
Photo from Google Street View
The former Webster Elementary School in Pontiac.

The long-vacant Webster Elementary in Pontiac has been purchased by a nonprofit that plans to reopen the building as a community center.

The group Micah 6 Community plans to offer gardening classes, a small business incubator, greenhouses, and exercise space at the former school, according to a press release.

“We at Micah 6 Community are excited to collaborate with Mike Stephens to bring back Webster Elementary School as a pillar of our community to serve Pontiac residents,” says Cole Yoakum, founder and director of Micah 6.

The nonprofit purchased the property on Pontiac’s west side from Mike Stephens of Ottawa Towers. The 57,496-square-foot historic school sits on a 4.81-acre parcel. Building renovations are expected to begin in 2017.

Webster was one of eight closed schools purchased from the Pontiac School District by Ottawa Towers in 2015 for a total of $800,000, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. The district is in a consent agreement with the state to restructure after years of declining enrollment and rising debt. 

“As a business owner dedicated to this community, it was important that Webster Elementary be purchased by an organization that is committed to improving Pontiac neighborhoods,” Stephens says.

The Ottawa Towers, two downtown Pontiac office buildings once occupied by General Motors, have been in litigation with the city since 2012, when they sued to block the demolition of the neighboring Phoenix Center parking garage and amphitheater.

Micah 6 owns 1.5 acres of community gardens in the neighborhood behind the school and has donated 5,000 pounds of fresh food in the Pontiac area in the last three years. The nonprofit works with community groups such as Visions Clubhouse, a psychosocial rehabilitation center, according to Tuesday’s release.

The 55-member Leadership Oakland Cornerstone XXVI class will be constructing a 26-by-90-foot greenhouse on the grounds and planting seedlings for Micah 6 community’s gardens on April 23.

The annual Day of Service, led by the current Leadership Oakland class, is a way for the organization to give back to the community, says class member Marylynn Hewitt. 

Leadership Oakland’s nine-month Cornerstone Program provides developing leaders the opportunity to delve into the issues facing the region, from education, government and the justice system to health, human services, race, and ethnic diversity.

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