Graham Kilmer

First Buildings Deconstructed Under New Law

But Ald. Bauman fears high bids from companies may make law impractical.

By - Jun 29th, 2018 05:49 pm
2075 N. Cambridge Ave. Photo by Dave Reid.

2075 N. Cambridge Ave. Photo by Dave Reid.

It’s the first deconstruction of a home in Milwaukee since the passage in January of an ordinance requiring the demolition method on homes built before 1929, and the work on this started yesterday. Ald. Bob Bauman, a sponsor of the legislation, was there at 2075 N. Cambridge Ave. to see it all start.

The two buildings on the site being deconstructed are owned by Don Heinemeier, and were being taken down to make way for a new apartment development with several dozen units.

This ordinance sponsored by Bauman and Ald, Nik Kovac requires that the demolition of buildings constructed before 1929 be done by deconstruction, as opposed to mechanical demolition, and the salvageable materials within be saved. The sponsors hope to create a new market in the city for repurposed building materials, reduce fees the city pays to dump trash, and also create jobs.

There are a number of city-owned properties that have to be demolished. And using the requirements of its residents preference program, firms going after the deconstruction contracts will have to meet workforce goals and train unemployed or underemployed city residents in this new trade.

For private homes like the ones being deconstructed on N. Cambridge Avenue, the owner or developer is able to collect tax credits for a charitable contribution of the materials being repurposed from the home.

Heinemeier said he wouldn’t have deconstructed were it not for the ordinance. He adds that he thinks the deconstruction ordinance is about creating jobs, which he liked. “I’m not a green guy, but it sounds like there’s some good tax deductions for the owner, through charitable donation. So I’m fine with it,” he said. 

The ordinance was always first and foremost about creating jobs, Bauman said when he first introduced it, and continues to say now. But like many attempts at job creation, there are hurdles. And leaving the little celebration Thursday, only lightly attended and mostly by employees of the contractor, Bauman said he was concerned about how the law was working out.

Right now, all the bids heading to the city for deconstruction projects are much higher than expected, sometimes four times as much as city officials expected, and three times what it would cost to just knock the house apart with heavy equipment, Bauman said.

On Thursday, Bauman looked at Mike Goffman, owner of Recyclean Inc., one of the few companies in the area that does deconstruction, which is taking down the house on Cambridge, and offered a warning: “Just so you know, unless we get bids coming in that are reasonable, my colleagues will scrap this.”

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Categories: Politics, Real Estate

3 thoughts on “First Buildings Deconstructed Under New Law”

  1. Ted Reiff says:

    Good afternoon, I just finished reading “First Buildings Deconstructed Under New Law” and noted one mistake and a couple of possible mistakes.

    The mistake: the author noted: “…the owner or developer is able to collect tax credits for a charitable contribution…” The donation is not a credit which is a one-for-one offset to a tax liability based on the appraised value of the donated materials. In reality it is a tax-deductible donation whose true value to the owner is a function of their tax bracket.

    The possible mistakes:

    1. There is no reason for the cost of a residential deconstruction to be 4 times the smash and dash price of mechanical demolition. Our firm, The ReUse People of America, has deconstructed – fully or partially – over 3,000 residential buildings since our founding 25 years ago.
    2. The last paragraph simply does not make sense. That is, how can the owner of deconstruction contracting company state that “Just so you know, unless we get bids coming in that are reasonable, my colleagues will scrap this.” I thought he was the one providing the bids not soliciting them and who are his colleagues?.

    In addition to our deconstruction activities we have training programs for contractors as well as a certificated course for under-served populations. All training done by an OSHA outreach trainer. Over 72 contractors and 350 students have been trained under our programs.

    All this has resulted in our diverting 400,000 tons of construction materials from local landfills and provided building owners over $200,000,000in tax-deductible donation receipts.

    I wish the City of Milwaukee the best of luck with this program – it should be a winner.

    Ted Reiff
    The ReUse People

  2. MollyO says:

    I am very sad to see these old homes destroyed.
    More ugly apts on the east side.

  3. Mrs A says:

    Deconstruction is working out wonderfully for Chicago and it’s surrounding counties – perhaps Milwaukee should have done more research and educated themselves on the actual process before they passed ordinances that don’t work well or created a system that doesn’t make sense. Job creation is great and all, but the main point of deconstruction has always been diverting materials from the landfill for reuse. Anyone can push over a building with a bulldozer – of course taking apart a building by hand is going to cost more money. Done correctly, it’s actually profitable – not to mention the right thing to do for the planet.

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