THE OAKLAND PRESS: Revive Pontiac teaches job skills, harvests vintage building materials

By Anne Runkle, The Oakland Press

POSTED: 06/27/16

Everything old is new again for a Pontiac community service agency.

Under its Revive Pontiac program, Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency is salvaging building materials from long-vacant buildings to sell in the vintage materials market.

Ten workers who are learning job skills in a 12-week program joined elected officials who have supported the program at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, June 27, at a former storefront and apartment building slated for demolition at 330 W. Huron.

“You can’t buy 100-year-old oak anymore,” said Ron Borngesser, OLHSA chief executive officer, as he explained the value of harvesting materials from the building, which dates to 1920.

It has been vacant for about three decades and had recently been home to squatters, he said.

Enrollees in the program make $14 per hour and receive classroom and on-the-job training. They finish the program with several certifications that make them employable in the construction and demolition trades. They also receive financial education and other life skills. OLHSA will begin another session for new enrollees later this summer; Revive Pontiac can take up to 12 students at a time.

OLHSA is working with the city of Pontiac to identify other buildings that may be a good fit for the program.

Profits from the sale of materials will help OLSHA continue to provide services to the community and will make Revive Pontiac self-sustaining. Currently, it is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says the county acquired the building through tax foreclosure.

Meisner is a big proponent of “deconstruction,” the harvesting of building materials, because it identifies alternative uses for buildings that have long sat vacant.

“Deconstruction is demolition’s smarter cousin,” he said. “What we heard again and again with buildings like this is, ‘This just isn’t marketable.’”

He said older buildings can be costly to renovate because of newer codes regulating hallway widths, stair step rise and other regulations.

Materials salvaged from buildings, such as wood, marble, electrical fixtures and tile, can be found on sale at revivepontiac.org and in a store at 125 Saginaw St. in Pontiac.

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