Visual Impact Systems Helps “Life Remodeled,” Pro Bono, With New Six-Day Project around Cooley High School
We spent an entire week (October 2-8, 2022) in Detroit—specifically in the Cooley High School area—to help, pro bono, the non-profit Life Remodeled with executing their planned week-long project to “remodel” the surrounding neighborhood. We were responsible for some graphic design and capturing the project photographically. Most of the graphics work was done before the ‘build week’, and most of the photography was done during the week-long ‘campaign’.
Their 2022 “Six-Day Project“ focused on clearing blight from vacant properties and beautifying many of the homes in over 300 city blocks around the school. All of this happened with an army of 6,000 volunteers from businesses, churches, and other nonprofit organizations.
COOLEY HIGH SCHOOL/NEIGHBORHOOD
In December 2020, Life Remodeled publicly announced their intent to transform the Cooley High School into their next “Opportunity Hub.” After nearly two years of listening and sharing, they have heard clearly what many Cooley residents desire to be done with the High School. After that, they received invitations from hundreds of Cooley residents and alumni—indicating strong unity in the community—who are ready for Life Remodeled to join the Cooley Community in a ‘partnership’.
Life Remodeled received survey responses and petition signatures from more than 1,000 Cooley residents and alumni, and more than 30 letters of support from key Cooley community leaders and several of Detroit’s most influential civic leaders, who say they are ready for Life Remodeled to begin the repurposing Additionally, Life Remodeled has signed Letter Of Intent agreements with nine dynamic organizations who have committed to leasing more than 80% of the building and deliver impactful opportunities directly requested by Cooley community members.
So, on November 10, 2021, they announced their ‘official’ desire and proposed a detailed plan to develop Cooley High School with nearly 150 Cooley community members, alumni, and Life Remodeled partners from Durfee/Central, Cody, Osborn, and Denby communities present.
[ VIDEO: Public Presentation of Life Remodeled’s Plans for Cooley High School ]
Life Remodeled’s goal is to ‘TRANSFORM’ Cooley High School into an “Opportunity Hub” for Detroiters of ALL ages. It would be similar to their current Durfee Innovation Society, but would be adapted to the ideas, hopes, and dreams of Cooley community residents and alumni.
Additionally, Life Remodeled desires to provide five years of neighborhood beautification, blight removal and free home repairs. (As Life Remodeled has done in projects prior to Central/Durfee, the home repairs include the choice of a new roof, new windows, or new furnace.)
The thing is, Cooley High School has been sitting vacant and rotting since 2010. The windows and much of the copper have been ripped out, there was a fire that decimated the auditorium, and there are substantial active roof leaks that are on the verge of destroying the very foundation of this building beyond repair if they are not repaired soon.
Now, even though all of this—and much more—is true, the ‘legacy’ of Cooley High School does not have to be over. Life Remodeled wants to have an opportunity to put this facility to use—in ways community members want—before it IS too late!
To ‘prove’ how serious Life Remodeled is in serving the Cooley community and its residents, they had their annual “Six Day Project” in the neighborhood October 3-8, 2022. They had 6,000 volunteers—consciously limited to 1,000 per day—to help with blight removal and beautification.
In addition to the ‘normal’ activities—mowing and trimming overgrown brush and weeds on vacant properties—they provided free lawn care services for Cooley community residents. (Specifically, they mowed over 400 lawns of seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities). This greatly increased the level of interaction between community residents, Life Remodeled staff, and their volunteers who live outside the Cooley community.
To add some exciting elements to make it the most interactive Six Day Project they had ever done, they provided a limited number of homes near Cooley High School with increased services to upgrade their curb appeal, which included removing unwanted bushes, and painting house numbers on curbs.
One VERY unique thing they did—something Life Remodeled had never done before—was to put a freshly-potted mum plant on each porch of the houses in the areas where the beautifications were happening in. There were OVER 2,000 plants provided to the neighborhood and a few churches.
MUM PLANT DELIVERIES
The $150,000 donation that Amazon made will support youth programming at the Durfee Innovation Society and support community programs and events for Detroit neighborhood organizations. These neighborhood organizations include:
– University District Community Association
– Calvary Community Association
– College Park Community Association
– Oakland Boulevard Community District
– Core Cities Neighborhood
– Patty Turner Community Partner
– STV 313 Neighborhood Safety
– Happy Homes Community Association
– Palmer Woods Association
Ian Conyers, Head of Community Engagement at Amazon, said that “Life Remodeled has been dedicated to strengthening our communities block by block. Amazon believes Life Remodeled has created a scalable revitalization strategy, and we are proud to support their efforts hand in hand with donations to Detroit block clubs and neighborhood-focused organizations.”
In addition to the generous donation, Amazon’s representatives will also install 100 “Ring” doorbells on residents’ houses—closest to Cooley High School—that desire to have them. (Mayor Mike Duggan stopped by the first home to get a device, the Coyle Avenue residence of Francis Rowland.)
AMAZON “RING” INSTALLATIONS
Krystine Walker’s home was one of the 100 installations that happened. Walker said the majority of her neighbors on Lauder Street already have the device, so she is happy to finally have one too.
“This is cool, because I couldn’t figure out how to do it myself, so I sent it back. “I was going to get one… I couldn’t figure out the drilling, so this is awesome everyone else seems to have one.”
The Life Remodeled team believes the donated Ring devices will help bring peace of mind and support neighborhood safety in the Cooley community.
Chris Lambert, Founder and CEO of Life Remodeled said that “Blighted vacant properties are visually depressing eyesores, and they can also contribute to unsafe pathways for students walking to school and other neighborhood safety concerns. Installing the Ring doorbells was an idea presented to us by community members, and we are glad to be able to provide this benefit to the community with Amazon’s help.”
The property development company Schostak Brothers & Company also donated a generous $100,000 in honor of their company’s 100-year anniversary. Many of their employees also were out in the neighborhood clearing blight and beautifying the area.
[ Message from CEO Bobby Schostak ]
[ David Schostak and team participating in the beautification ]
Chris Lambert emphasized that “I’m convinced our 2022 Six Day Project last week was our best yet!” He gave three reasons why:
1) We received strong positive feedback from more community members than ever before.
2) Our long-term volunteers who’ve served on the Life Remodeled Six Day Project regularly since 2014 repeatedly told me the Cooley community was the most engaged and embracing Detroit community in which they’ve volunteered.
3) Ms. Frances Roland has lived in the Cooley community for more than half a century, and she used to regularly walk the Cooley High School track for exercise. Last week we cleared a massive amount of brush from the property, and on Day 2 of the project, we witnessed Ms. Roland walking around the gravel Cooley track. She proudly proclaimed this was the first time she’s graced this path in 12 years because now she finally feels safe again.
Lastly, check out some of the media coverage that Life Remodeled received during the Six Day Project in the Cooley neighborhood:
[ Fox 2 News / Life Remodeled in Cooley w/ Ilitch Charities ]
[ Fox 2 News / Life Remodeled Cooley w/ Amazon Ring Doorbells ]
[ WDIV Story / Life Remodeled Cooley Community ]
[ WXYZ Channel 7 Story / Life Remodeled: Cooley Community ]
The following are a few examples of the graphic design work we provided:
[ NOTE: See almost 4,500 pics of the volunteers and what they did on the Six-Day Project here:
The following links are for more information about the previous project Life Remodeled just finished (Central/Durfee project in Detroit, Michigan):
NEWS and MEDIA COVERAGE
Here is a video that WXYZ (Detroit) did about Life Remodeled:
Take a tour of the Durfee Innovation Society (DIS):
How does the Durfee Innovation Society ‘measure up’? Well, click here for some statistics.
Paul W Smith interview with Life Remodeled CEO Chris Lambert:
CW50 feature about Life Remodeled’s”Lean on We” campaign:
Summary video of the 2021 Siv-Day Project:
If you are also interested in more information or supporting this great non-profit, contact Mark Besh at Visual Impact Systems (248-548-7000), or click the link below to be taken to Life Remodeled’s website.