Salvaging the Situation: Homestead Inn being deconstructed

MILAN TWP. It's understandable why Jeanette Henry is ambivalent about seeing the Homestead Inn Motel
May 24, 2010



It's understandable why Jeanette Henry is ambivalent about seeing the Homestead Inn Motel come down.

She and her husband, Joe, bought the motel in 1960, shortly after its construction, and operated it for four decades. But occupancy slipped, and by 2003 the Henrys decided they would save money by closing the motel.

By next spring, the lot on U.S. 250 will revert to cow pasture.

"Something you've dealt with for 50 years, it's hard to take it down," she said. "You're always building, always trying to make things better. To see it demolished is not fun."

But Henry takes solace in the fact demolition is not an ending in the lifetime of the motel -- just a repurposing.

Rather than traditional demolition, Henry opted for a "green" alternative called deconstruction. It's a slow, careful process that involves taking a building apart piece by piece so materials can be salvaged and recycled.

As little as 10 percent of the motel will go to landfills, said Keith Ludwig, owner of Lakewood-based Dynasty Deconstruction.

Henry said she considered traditional demolition but decided on deconstruction after her daughter saw an article about Dynasty in a Cleveland magazine.

"The rooms were left just as the last guest left them ... everything was still in excellent condition, and I hated to see it all go to the landfill," Henry said. "So their plan sounded very good to me."

The first step was to empty the motel's 40 rooms. Mattresses were gathered in one room, sinks in another, towel racks and curtain rods in another.

The furniture goes to the United Service Organizations to equip a new Ohio National Guard training facility in Ravenna. Linda Fredrickson, a liaison with the USO of Northern Ohio's Corporate Angels program, said the donations should save the government $30,000 to $40,000.

In addition, travel-size soaps and shampoos from the motel will go into care packages for those in the armed forces.

"There's almost nothing that we can't find a home for," Fredrickson said. "So on top of keeping it out of the landfill, she (Henry) did a really great thing. And it will be very much appreciated."

Once the furniture is out of the way, Ludwig and his crew start pulling out pipes and taking down drywall. Doors and windows come out last to keep the building secure as long as possible.

Then, Ludwig said, pointing to the motel's northern wing, that's when the skid loader comes in.

"We start down there, and we just start driving into the building, bring it down, smashing it in," he said.

Work began Oct. 1 and is scheduled to finish by Dec. 31, so the Henrys won't have to pay insurance or property tax on the building next year.

That's a short time line, Ludwig said. One of his other projects, a hospital in Lake County, will take at least two years.

Such time-consuming projects rack up high labor costs. But Ludwig said with income from selling materials -- American Standard buys toilets for $10 each, for example -- he's able to keep his rate competitive.

About the only thing Ludwig isn't able to sell, he said, is the drywall. Porcelain is ground up and turned into new fixtures, metals are melted down, and tar roofing goes to surface roads.

It's a lucrative business, Ludwig said, and he expects to see more companies jump on the bandwagon.

But to Henry, the deconstruction process is a little like tearing off a bandage -- the longer it takes, the more painful. Watching the USO carefully wrap up the old brass lamps, however, made it easier.

"It's a longer process of getting to that point," she said. "But as I see the people that come and how grateful they are, then I feel better about it."