Public forum addresses deconstruction in city

By Katie Seminara

Youngstown planners are looking toward a more innovative way to tear down blight in the community.

YOUNGSTOWN — The city’s development and planning department is looking at a new way to demolish vacant and abandoned structures.

Youngstown has more than 4,500 vacated structures and instead of demolishing all of them, the city is hoping to use deconstruction.

The purpose of deconstruction is to create jobs and to create ways to reuse abandoned properties and the materials left inside, said Bill D’Avignon, director of the Community Development Agency.

“It happens here a little,” he said. “Some demolition contractors try to salvage some materials, but not on the level we’re shooting for.”

The city invited the owner of RE-USE Consulting, David Bennink, to discuss the process and success of deconstruction with demolition contractors, as well as the public Thursday.

Bennink has more than 16 years of experience in the deconstruction business and his company has deconstructed 500 buildings and completed 3,000 salvage projects.

Bennink spoke to about 60 people at a public meeting at the Ohio One Building and also provided a workshop for nonprofit organizations and demolition contractors.

“I can see why people are in a hurry to get those down,” he said of vacant and abandoned properties in the city.

To put deconstruction into perspective, however, Bennink asked people to visualize the properties with full-grown trees that someone knocks down and throws into a trash bin.

“People would question and say, ‘Why aren’t you using those for lumber?’” he said.

The same question could be posed for vacant houses. They have just as many resources, Bennink said.

“There are a lot of buildings out there and we have to make an impact on all of them,” he said.

The city has applied for a $40,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, but D’Avignon said deconstruction projects will move forward with or without the grant.

“We intend to do a pilot project this year and a minimum of four [residential] deconstructions,” he said.

The goal is to divert 80 percent of the materials generally taken to landfill, D’Avignon added.

“In these times, it really makes a lot of sense to give people jobs, and the idea is that these structures have to come down anyway. Why not save some materials and put people to work?” he said.

Deconstruction creates 20 times more jobs than construction, Bennink noted.

“We want to make deconstruction the mainstream choice for building removal,” he said.

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