Redevelopment of former school into Pontiac community center receives $12M boost from state

What’s happening: It was good news for the Micah 6 Community nonprofit in Pontiac last week, as it was announced that the community development corporation was receiving more than $12 million in funding support from the Michigan Strategic Fund toward the CDC’s ambitious Webster Community Center development. The project will transform the historic Webster Elementary School into a small business and nonprofit hub, and community center.

What it is: The Webster School was open from 1920 until it closed in 2006. Micah 6 purchased the building in 2016 and has since utilized the grounds as a community garden, producing 5,000 pounds of food each year. The century-old building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2022.

What’s planned: Micah 6 plans a historic rehabilitation and redevelopment of the former school as a community center that offers space for theater performances, special events, and food-related support and entrepreneurship. The Pontiac Community Foundation will lease two classrooms as a neighborhood business incubator. And outside will be the aforementioned community garden, three greenhouses, an athletic field, and playground.

[Related: Read "Fresh fruits and vegetables store opens in Pontiac" on Metromode.]

How they’re doing it: The nonprofit has assembled a series of grants, loans, and donations since first announcing the project in 2016. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) recently announced that the Michigan Strategic Fund was supporting the project with a $7.6 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based loan and a $5 million Revitalization and Placemaking grant, this on the strength of the project’s anticipated $28 million total capital investment, creation of 43 new jobs, and retention of 24 jobs.
Coleman Yoakum, Micah 6 Community. (File photo: David Lewinski)
Why it’s important: “Once it is open, this building and its tenants will serve more than 16,000 people a year through arts programming, health and wellness initiatives, entrepreneurship opportunities, and youth activities,” Micah 6 Community Executive Director Coleman Yoakum says in a statement. “We couldn't have done it without so many partners at the MEDC, the foundation community, all levels of government, and especially our neighbors and community members.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.