Hamtramck innovates, finds reuse for blighted homes

The City of Hamtramck is busy utilizing a 15.5 million dollar grant through the HUD Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The funds will be spent toward purchasing, rehabbing and selling once-blighted homes throughout the city, as well as creating more mixed-use and commercial space.

"We try to rehab and reuse as much as possible, but there are some homes that have been sitting for so long that they're just not feasible to re-use them, so they have to come down," says Community and Economic Development Director Jason Friedmann.

Typically, those homes are torn apart, cleared away and sent to the landfill. But a new partnership between the city of Hamtramck and several actors will re-use the materials from those homes, while creating new jobs.

Midtown's Zachary & Associates, known for high-profile historic renovation projects like the 71 Garfield building and the Inn on Ferry Street, set up an entire woodworking workshop to turn old oak 2 x 4s, which can retail for up to $10, into window frames for historic homes. They're also training workers in the process, a skill set which can pay up to $30 an hour.

It's a difficult equation, saving materials from blighted properties. Friedmann says the cost of a typical demolition project is $6,000, while the cost of deconstructing a home, saving the timber, flooring and framing, can cost up to $18,000.

The city's pilot project is a blighted home on Carpenter Street, near the border of Hamtramck and Detroit. They'll deconstruct the home, save what materials they can, and try to get the parts of this old home back on the market.

"We're trying to figure out how long it takes to dismantle it and how long it takes the materials to get back into the construction system, because a big part of it -- you take the stuff apart, but what do you do with it? How do you reuse it?" Friedmann says.

They've also partnered with two classes at Henry Ford Community College. The students will figure out how to re-use the materials and will assist on-site in the deconstruction process.

Friedmann says the city of Hamtramck hopes to take down 100 blighted homes with the NSP grant money. If the pilot project is successful, they will deconstruct as many of the blighted structures as possible. That means less materials heading for the landfill, and more jobs in the city.

Source: Jason Friedmann, director of community and economic development, City of Hamtramck
Writer: Ashley C. Woods
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