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Reclaim Detroit hopes to rise from the ashes of its building fire with the public’s help


When word spread that a massive fire was blazing in Highland Park, people were concerned and started asking around about the building. Concern turned to disbelief and sadness when word got out that the building going up in flames was Reclaim Detroit.

The fire took it all: Reclaim Detroit’s facility. All of the wood. All of the flooring. All of the gorgeous fixtures it saved from Detroit-area homes and businesses. It felt devastating, especially in light of the spirit of preservation that the city, its residents and its fans had been working so diligently to create, maintain and promote.

SignHonestly, it’s a total loss.

How sizable a loss is it? The place where Reclaim Detroit called home wasn’t your normal office. At 500,000 square foot, the warehouse on Hamilton was so large that one of the many firefighters on the scene told me that he got tired trying to walk around just two sides of the building. It was huge. Its collection was massive. Its efforts were similar in size and scope.

At this point, it would be easy to mourn the loss of that history, those things, all of the items that cannot be recreated or restored now. But organizers at both Reclaim Detroit and its parent company – if you can catch them between calling fire departments, employees and their longtime community partners – are coming at this tragedy with hope and resourcefulness. And they need the public’s help, both in Detroit and neighboring communities, to help them rebuild.

Talking to Deputy Director Jeremy Haines, you cannot help but hear the drive to get to the next step. The whole staff is focused on getting back to work, getting their gear together and getting everyone back into the community, Haines said.

Reclaim Detroit“We’re bootstrapping it right now,” Haines admits. “We’re still assessing the loss and figuring out what we need to rebuild.”

But in that same breath, Haines said the team of men and women who staff Reclaim Detroit are already back on the job.

“We’re still working. We’re working through it,” Haines said Friday. “We called everyone in (and) we’re really committed to pushing forward.”

According to its organizers, since its start as a social enterprise in 2011 Reclaim Detroit has deconstructed more than 135 blighted homes in Detroit, trained and employed hundreds of Detroiters in environmentally sustainable deconstruction practices and diverted thousands of tons of material from landfills. Basically, organizers say, Reclaim Detroit “has put deconstruction on the map as a viable strategy for tackling blight.”

Craig Varterian, Executive Director at Reclaim Detroit, added that insurance will help with some of the replacement costs but the majority of the real recovery costs are not covered – including identifying and relocating to a new home and all of the lost income and wages while the program is halted. Reclaim Detroit is estimating the full cost of recovery at nearly $500,000.

LogoPeople and organizations already have stepped in to help, Haines said. One such group is Henry Ford Health System, which has once again shared one of its nearby warehouses with Reclaim Detroit. Having a space on Holden is a good start to getting going again, Haines said.

What does Reclaim Detroit need most right now? Tools, for starters. Jobs, for sure. Donations, an absolute YES and then some. To help, you can donate to their fund-raising page. You also can follow Reclaim Detroit on Facebook to keep up with their tool-related needs.

Most importantly, you can spread the word. Talk to people and businesses about fire safety and suppression systems. Talk to people about Reclaim Detroit and how we need to tear down buildings with an eye on how these items can be reused, reclaimed, revived. Talk to everyone about Detroit, its spirit, its drive to maintain and advance.

This isn’t a tragedy in one sense if by going through the fire (literally and figuratively) you show the world that you handle yourself and your business with dignity, with the thought of others and the hope of serving the community now and in the future. And that seems to be exactly how Reclaim Detroit is doing it.

Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus. Now’s the time. To donate, click here.

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One comment on “Reclaim Detroit hopes to rise from the ashes of its building fire with the public’s help

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