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Pittsburgh Wood Project

Deconstructed and reclaimed boards stacked on a dolly in a workshop
Construction Junction The Reclaim Project R.K. Mellon Foundation Landforce Michael Bros. Hauling & Recycling Greater Pitt Tree Service PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources

Pittsburgh is the "Steel City" but with the decline of the steel industry, many of Pittsburgh's surrounding boroughs are experiencing significant economic downturns. The loss of jobs has resulted in a loss of population and vacant properties. What if solving one problem could help solve the other?

The Problem

In Beaver County, just northwest of Pittsburgh, boroughs like Aliquippa, Midland and the city of Beaver Falls have hundreds of vacant properties which are a blight to the community and contribute to the devaluation of real estate, create health hazards, and often harbor unwanted activity. The economic challenges not only contribute to the problem of growing vacancy, but also produce rising unemployment rates. These communities are often disconnected from opportunities for employment due to geography, transportation challenges, and barriers such as former incarceration.

The problem is twofold: We need to remove the vacant properties and we need to create jobs for individuals with barriers to employment. Adding to the challenge is doing this in a financially sustainable way.

Our Solution

We are working with The Reclaim Project to train returning citizens from incarceration in the needed skills to deconstruct vacant buildings as well as wrap-around job readiness training. We are working with Construction Junction, a robust reuse store on the Southeast side, to build a supply chain to capture the valued materials coming from deconstruction and demolition projects and process them into products ready for the marketplace.

40 houses in the three municipalities are part of a current deconstruction pilot. The goal is to continue to expand the boroughs seeking to utilize federal resources to remove their vacant properties and create jobs for returning citizens. In addition to the wood coming from the reclaimed project, UWE will be aggregating sources from around the Pittsburgh area to feed a processing, sales and distribution operation based in Construction Junction.

In 2023, UWE will begin to expand the wood utilization project to include the aggregation and processing of downed urban and community trees by siting a new biomass facility in the Pittsburgh region. This expansion opportunity will contribute to a scalable solution for capturing carbon, creating jobs and diverting thousands of tons of wood from county landfills in the region.

"With our early engagement with Jeff Carrol and Urban Wood Economy, we have had the ability to provide a business model that not only makes sense but enabled our start-up to raise the needed funding to launch the project."
Chuck Verrett | Visionary and Co-Founder, The Reclaim Project