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Deconstructing Baltimore

Marketplace Staff Jun 27, 2006

Deconstructing Baltimore

Marketplace Staff Jun 27, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: We can all use a second chance from time to time, even old buildings. “Second Chance” is the name of a non-profit that rescues parts of old buildings and resells them. The business model is catching the attention of recycling advocates and property owners around the country. Trent Wolbe reports.

TRENT WOLBE: Classical music breezes through a high-ceilinged showroom and perfectly-placed spotlights shimmer on beautiful old things

DANIEL SULLIVAN: To the left are these beautiful Philadelphia windows from the Philadelphia civic center with the state seal of Pennsylvania. To the right a huge oak cabinet probably from a pharmacy or some other commercial context. Unbelievably gorgeous.

Daniel Sullivan may sound like a salesman at a high-end antiques shop, but he actually runs one of Second Chance’s four warehouses on the rundown south side of Baltimore. All of the artifacts here have been donated. Some are simply dropped off at the warehouse.

But much of it comes from places like this home in Severna Park, Maryland through a process called “deconstruction.” Durrell Majett is a “deconstruction supervisor. Today he’s with a crew tearing down drywall.

DURRELL MAJETT: Basketball courts, sometimes we get carpet in good shape, stairs, doors, anything that’s of value and we can resell to the public.

MARK FOSTER: Most people think of architectural salvage in the decorative sense.

Mark Foster is the founder and executive director of Second Chance.

FOSTER: We go to the point of taking up floors and taking out dimensional lumber.

Second Chance charges about $25,000 to deconstruct a home. That’s about 25% more than someone would pay for a straight demolition, but it’s hard for property owners to resist when they can see about $200,000 in tax writeoffs from salvaged materials.

Baltimore likes Second Chance and not just because it’s recycling bits of the city’s history. About half its staff from the municipal job pool, and it guarantees employment after applicants have completed deconstruction training. Property owners technically donate the buildings to be torn down, but there are other incentives.

FOSTER: Second chance and its staff can go into that building and remove all the tax-deductible items from that building, generating significant tax deductions for you as a building owner. I think more people are coming to realize that yes, they can offset the cost of deconstruction and do a good thing at the same time.

And they get a healthy shot of good PR in the process, helping to create jobs for Baltimore.

Durrell Majett used to work at a London Fog coat factory. After it closed down and moved offshore, he was out of work. Now he’s happy to have a well-paying job that he actually enjoys.

MAJETT: It makes me feel good when you go in and take a mantle down and bring it back in one piece and you can see that it’s something that’s still living. Now I’m looking forward to being with the company until I retire.

Second Chance expects to have programs up and running in Philadelphia and Washington by 2007.

For Marketplace, I’m Trent Wolbe.

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