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The ordinance would see homes built in or before 1929 deconstructed and their building materials salvaged in lieu of demolition.
Ald. Bauman said the proposal was principally about job creation. But added it was also a solution to some of the adverse environmental impacts of demolition and also a way for the city to save money on landfill fees. The ordinance was held-over Tuesday by the committee on Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development to resolve some pending legal issues the Department of City Development wanted ironed out before it was voted on.
The policy is partly modeled on a similar one in Portland, Oregon, Bauman said, where a “very robust” market for salvaged materials has actually lowered the cost of deconstruction.
Allowing contractors to sell valuable salvaged building materials could drive the prices to deconstruct down as material sales drive down the net cost of deconstructing. The dream scenario being that demolition contractors actually pay to deconstruct a building for its materials.
An example of that nearly happening was the Tower Automotive building on the north side where it was, “Demolished at almost no net cost, because the value of salvageable materials was so great.”
Right now the market for salvaged building materials is relatively weak, Kovac said, because there isn’t a reliable supply. He said this ordinance could “prime the market” like other cities have done.
As far as the materials are concerned, 1929 was chosen as the cutout date because, “Residential construction stopped not only in Milwaukee but throughout the United States in or about 1929 and didn’t really start up again until after World War II,” Bauman said.
So homes built before 1930 represent 43 percent of the cities one to four family housing stock, he said. And the construction material changed significantly between 1929 and the mid 1940’s when building picked up again in both materials and specifications.
The ordinance will kick in whenever the city is set to demolish a structure or a private contractor seeks a permit to demolish. And there are exceptions to the mandate to deconstruct if there are safety considerations or the salvageable materials have been damaged by something like a fire.
While Bauman and Kovac are both historic preservation hawks in Milwaukee, because demolition and deconstruction jobs employ individuals from underserved communities in the city Bauman said “I do see this primarily as a job creation tool.”