"…in cities like Philadelphia, because the blight happens so gradually, because it is so spread out and isn't caused by some natural disaster but is actually man made, people don't notice how cancerous this problem truly is."
— Greg Trainor, founder of Philadelphia Community Corps
A passion project more than three years in the making is finally underway in Germantown.
The Philadelphia Community Corps, a nonprofit that revitalizes blighted neighborhoods by deconstructing houses and salvaging the materials for reuse, broke ground on its first project in October.
The Philadelphia Community Corps was founded in 2011 by Philadelphia resident Greg Trainor. Trainor decided to start the organization after working to rebuilding homes along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
"Nobody questioned down there that these homes needed to be cleared out so that rebuilding could begin," he says. "But here, in cities like Philadelphia, because the blight happens so gradually, because it is so spread out and isn't caused by some natural disaster but is actually man made, people don't notice how cancerous this problem truly is."
They drive away investment, attract crime and drag down property values throughout the city by an estimated $3.6 billion, the PCC says.
But Trainor and the Philadelphia Community Corps believe they can help reverse blight.
A new approach
"The problem is beyond trying to rehabilitate one house at a time," Trainor says. "People have tried that method for decades and it hasn't worked."
Since founding the PCC, Trainor has worked to raise funds and bring his vision to fruition, but admits it has been a struggle. After reassessing the business model, he says he realized he needed a for-profit partnership to get things moving.
He found that partenership over the summer through a man named Chris Stock and his Mt. Airy based salvage and restoration shop, the Philadelphia Salvage Company.
Trainor, who worked with Stock at the Salvage Company for several months, pitched the idea for a partnership in early August.
"Chris immediately saw the potential," Trainor said. "Philadelphia Community Corps needs an experienced for-profit partner to break through the barriers to entry into the structure removal industry, and Philadelphia Salvage Company needs a reliable supply of reclaimed building materials."
They immediately got to work seeking opportunities, and through the collaboration PCC was awarded their first contract — to provide first-phase deconstruction of nine vacant homes in the Germantown-Logan section of Philadelphia, just outside the main entrance of La Salle University.
Employing 10 workers from the Mural Arts Program, the PCC has set to work soft-stripping the nine vacant homes, disassembling by hand so that as much of the structure can be salvaged as possible.
It's a long process — made even longer because PCC also works with ex-convict reentry programs and provides job training.
To Trainor, it's worth it. The project is creating interest from local neighbors, politicians and administrators at La Salle University, and Trainor sees the pieces of his vision finally falling into place.
"It's exciting to have the project off the ground," he says. "It's taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but we're ready to keep moving forward."