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Getting Unemployed Properties “Back to Work” – Part 1

One of my mother’s established clients, and two of his friends, purchased shut-down school properties. Then, the men transformed them into facilities needed in their respective communities.

 

A few examples…

 

  1. A one-story elementary school, near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was turned into a summer camp for boys and girls from low-income families.

 

  1. A one-story elementary school in northeastern Illinois was remodeled, then licensed as a community-owned and operated nursing home and rehabilitation center.

 

  1. A small, two-story high school, in the Chicago area, was reconfigured to serve as the new home for an overcrowded orphanage.

 

During a twenty-year span, the three entrepreneurs saved over fifty abandoned structures from demolition. In every instance, their goal was to put the property to good use in its local community.

 

For every remodeling project, local people were employed to do the work.

 

  1. A large advance crew cleared out and cleaned up the property, before any other work could proceed.

 

  1. A general contractor handled the rest of the project. That included the employment of the different types of skilled trade and craft persons needed to pull off that particular type of project.

 

The abandoned properties shared many problems.

 

  1. The buildings had been closed up at least two years, usually over three.
  2. The seasonal elements – rain, snow, ice, wind, heat, mold and mildew, etc. – had taken their toll on both the interiors and exteriors of the building(s), also the land.
  3. Sand, wild plants, wild creatures, pests of all sorts, etc. had taken up residence – and in the most unbelievable of areas/spaces.
  4. Woods had warped, rotted, cracked, and separated.
  5. Paint had chipped, faded, crackled,  and washed off many, if not all, surfaces.
  6. Wood stain had paled and turned a greenish black, or black.
  7. Varnishes had cracked and turned ugly shades of grey, or weird shades of red or yellow.
  8. Commercial grade wallcoverings had separated from their backings, and/or peeled from the walls. Then, stuck to the floors.
  9. Exterior metalwork, rails, fencing, doors, windows, frames, etc. had been beaten severely by the weather, and years of neglect. Some of it before the property had been closed down.

 

Working on any of the projects was not an painter’s idea of a dream job. Well, not for most. Even when the pay scale was high, and his or her contractor-boss was likeable, fair and accountable.

 

In July, a retired commercial painter e-mailed that he’d worked on several properties purchased by Jerry’s group.

 

“I was a moderately skilled painter on my first project done for them. I needed the job. Jerry said he saw my drive and potential. By the time we finished that first school, I’d used every skill I’d learned in apprentice school. And, I worked into a steady job, helping to save abandoned small schools, hospitals, motels, etc. Gratifying work if you can fit into it!”

 

I never knew the inventor-entrepreneur that led the small group of property benefactors. He wore many hats.

 

But, his worn coverall appearance, and laid-back, no-nonsense approach to nearly everything that he did was legendary. And, respected. Even among the infamous street gangs – eg. Hell’s Angels – that terrorized and paralyzed older neighborhoods on the northwest, west, and southwest sides of Chicago.

 

Saving shut-down and abandoned properties has become popular, as the “GO GREEN” philosophy and approach grows in North America. And, around the globe.

 

Each of us, including painters, has a role in preserving and protecting the natural resources we have. In  restoring, reviving and revitalizing properties and buildings that already exist. Especially when they are restorable or revivable.

 

Welcome any opportunity to do what you can. One of those opportunities is to repair-renovate-restore-rejuvinate-retrofit-re-use our buildings. And, the lands upon which they set.

 

Read Part 2: Painting Them: Getting Unemployed Properties “Back-to-Work.”

 

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A painter is as entrepreneurial and innovative as the next person – including in the reviving and revitalizing of existing man-made resources.

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Thanks, everyone, for doing your part to make this world better for others.

And, thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

 

Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved

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