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Green demolition begins in Rockwood

Destruction of Fred Meyer makes room for urban renewal
by: Shanda Tice, Jonas Butler, almost 2, keeps a close watch Thursday, March 15, on the progress of the deconstruction of the Rockwood Fred Meyer on Southeast Stark Street where more than 95 percent of materials will reused or recycled.

On a cool Thursday morning in Rockwood, the city of Gresham's latest effort to revive Rockwood while also combating global warming began at the vacant Fred Meyer building.

Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis spoke to about 40 people during a ceremony that heralded both the environmentally friendly demolition of the structure and a new beginning for the economically depressed area.

'Taking this building down is bringing this community back up,' he said. 'Not only are we doing the right thing for the revitalization of Rockwood, we are doing the right thing for the environment.'

Several large piles of separated debris were behind him as he spoke, belying the sensitive nature of the deconstruction effort. Work crews from Sandy-based Konell Construction and Demolition were sorting the myriad materials from the 85,000-square-foot building.

The company's Barry Smith told the crowd that 98 percent of the building would be recycled into future construction projects, both at the Fred Meyer site and elsewhere.

The 6.5-acre property is a crucial part of the Rockwood-West Gresham Urban Renewal District, an entity approved by voters in 2003 to improve blighted areas of the city. The site is in the Rockwood Triangle, bordered by Stark Street, Burnside Street and 181st Avenue, in the heart of Rockwood.

Gresham's urban renewal district bought out Fred Meyer's lease for $2 million in 2006, in an effort to control what is developed there.

Bemis, also chairman of the urban renewal district commission, said the new development would be a mix of residential and commercial space. It will celebrate diversity, light rail and pedestrian access, while also allowing for daytime and nighttime activities, he said.

'This project sets the tone,' Bemis said. 'We will be as careful in planning as we were in deconstruction.'

He thanked those in attendance, including many former city councilors and members of the urban renewal commission, along with officials and residents who helped get the urban-renewal issue on the ballot.

Smith said workers went through the building and harvested phone lines, electrical wires, sprinkler equipment and other mechanical duct work. This creates a hollow shell that allows the building to be processed faster, he said.

Inside the building, wall-mounted insulation was laid bare and hundreds of wires dangled from the ceiling.

Some of the wood will be turned into hogsfuel, large beams and rooftop heating/air conditioning units will be resold and concrete will be broken into rock-size pieces and reused. All told, where the majority of 4,000 tons of material would have once gone to the landfill, 98 percent will be used again.

'We process it all,' Smith said. 'It's a niche we built, and we're proud of it.'