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Syracuse land bank to try deconstucting old homes instead of demolishing

Ryan Delaney
This house at 257 South Collingwood Ave. in Syracuse was the first the city's new land bank sold. Older, damaged homes will be deconstructed or demolished.

The Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank is going into the deconstruction business. Taking apart old homes piece by piece will be an option to just tearing them down.

In the last year, the land bank has acquired 165 properties that had been seized by the city for back taxes. Many are in such bad shape they have to be torn down. Instead of demolition though, Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright says there is some money available for deconstruction.

"It’ll provide more jobs, it’s more environmentally sustainable, I think those materials can generate a little economy of their own if they stay local," Wright said. "So we’re excited to see what’s entailed in issuing an RFP for deconstruction contractors to address some of these buildings."

Wright does note it costs 30 percent more to deconstruct than to demolish.

"Of course that means you have to rip out the nails, and remill it, and the lumber you get in the store today is graded for structural use, and these timbers would have to be processed if you can get them graded," Wright said.

And not all these homes would fit into a deconstruction category.

"Some of these houses are waterlogged, and they would not be a candidate for recycling," Wright explained. "But many of them have dry old lumber, which actually is of a better quality than anything you can get at the lumber yard today."

Wright says money from Onondaga County will be able to pay for deconstruction of five homes in this pilot program. The pluses of deconstruction include diverting materials from the landfill, and also creating job skills training opportunities.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.