Set near central Detroit, Mich., the former Durfee Elementary-Middle School fell to disrepair. Instead of deconstruction, Life Remodeled began renovation and repurposed the building in 2017 to what is now known as the Durfee Innovation Society. A part of that renovation was dealing with the school's pool. It was determined to be too costly to maintain and they ultimately decided to fill it leaving space on top, roughly two steps down.
"We were so blessed to have partnered with Paul Albanelli and the talented members of the Decorative Concrete Council to bring this vision to life!"
—Chris Lambert, Founder and CEO of Life Remodeled
Four years later, in March 2021, volunteers from the Decorative Concrete Council (DCC) and the Manufacturers’ Advisory Council (MAC) of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) stepped in to offer their time and effort towards the community project - creating a splash with their expertise and artistic solution to what was once a bare-concrete space, now appropriately named "The Dive."
Life Remodeled is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization that was started in 2010 by a group of friends. They focus on the intentional and equitable revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods distinguished by significant need and hope, forming long-term relationships and partnerships. CEO and founder Chris Lambert has watched the concept grow from those few friends to thousands conducting six-day projects cleaning areas around central Detriot. According to its website, 2021 will mark the final year they'll work in the Durfee/Central community as they plan to start serving in a new area in 2022.
The Durfee Innovation Society exists to create substantial and impactful opportunities for Detroit children, families, and single adults while advancing collaboration among eight major sectors (arts, business, education, faith-based, government, human services, media, and philanthropy) in the city and its surrounding suburbs. A home for youth programs and community resources, the building is now at 100% occupancy with 39 tenants providing programs and services to more than 17,500 Detroiters annually in the areas of youth programs, jobs, and community resources. The "opportunity hub" houses an auditorium, a basketball court/gym, laundry service for kids to wash their school clothes free of charge, a study area, library, and arcade area with televisions and entertainment.
- Provides educational assistance to more than 2,500 children annually
- Workforce development programming, helping 4,500+ Detrioters to find employment
- Health and wellness services for 10,500 children, youth, adults, and senior citizens
The DCC is a professional organization dedicated to focusing on the issues, trends, and work of the decorative concrete industry, and to meeting the needs of the contractors who pursue this specialty market. Made up of decorative concrete contractors that install decorative concrete, manufacturers, and other interested parties, the mission of the DCC is “Advancing Decorative Concrete Contractors Through Education and Networking.” The Durfee Innovation Society project marks its 10th project - the first being right after Hurricane Katrina. There are already two projects in the works for 2022.
The MAC board advises ASCC on matters relating to associate membership and suggests methods of adding value to all membership opportunities.
Paul Albanelli, president of Albanelli Cement Contractors, Livonia, Mich. was the project manager for the installation of the decorative concrete at the Life Remodeled building. The project scope was to apply a four-color metallic epoxy coating to resemble water, to a concrete slab in an old pool that had been filled in, with special effects on steps and a ramp. Additional steps were added to allow additional access to the space, the ramp acts as a beach completing the ocean view illusion.
Albanelli arrived on site early that week to address and repair any cracks in the surface, using a solution donated by Roadware and the Euco Qwikstitch rapid-setting urethane crack and spall repair donated by The Euclid Chemical Co. After grinding and polishing for 1.5 days, the surface was finally ready for the colored epoxy coating - a donation also provided by Euclid.
With 17 years of experience, Rick Lobdell of Concrete Mystique began creative work of designing the water, beach, and wave effects to the floor. Roughly 12 volunteers from all over the U.S. came to Detroit to help - not including all the additional support behind the scenes.
Concrete contractor volunteers state that volunteering their time gains them an opportunity to practice their craft and a chance to experience new products they've never used before. For example, Lobdell hadn't utilized the epoxy from Euclid Chemical and found it very easy to use. He says he now uses it in projects all the time.
While easy to use, as with everything in concrete construction timing is key and volunteers had to start work immediately. The unsung hero of the story may very well be the mixing volunteer on the sidelines. The blends needed to be just right to provide the illusion of depth necessary, and without bubbles, all while getting buckets out in a timely fashion. Once started, explains Lobdell, the project needs to be worked on all at once - the water, the waves, etc. - to avoid pour lines.
"This project created one of the most unique and innovative spaces within our entire building," says Chris Lambert, founder and CEO of Life Remodeled. "We asked community members as well as students who regularly participate in programming at the Durfee Innovation Society what they wanted to see in the former pool, and it was clear they wanted to hold on to some of the historical significance and nostalgia they felt in that space. We were so blessed to have partnered with Paul Albanelli and the talented members of the Decorative Concrete Council to bring this vision to life!"
While the DCC and ASCC look for projects to do around the country that are typically focused on helping kids and veterans. However, you don't have to wait for the call to action. They encourage you to reach out and get involved in your own community. It doesn't need to be a big project - little things can make a big difference.