James Cadariu was planning construction of his hip, new coffee bar, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, in 2011 when he first heard about Reclaim Detroit, a nonprofit agency retrieving old and valuable wood and other treasures from Detroit homes set for demolition.
It sounded like material he could use at the coffeehouse he was fashioning on Woodward Avenue in Midtown Detroit.
When he eventually made his way to Reclaim Detroit's warehouse, then located at Focus: HOPE, he was delighted with what he found, stacks of rare, old-forest lumber, hand-carved mahogany doors and antique fixtures, some of it more than a hundred years old.
And something more personal — wood taken from a home on Grayton Street on the city's east side, two doors down from his uncle's house, where he used to visit as a child.
"To me, that was it," he said in an interview earlier this month. "Wood from a street where I used to play as a kid. This material, this wood they're saving, it all has a story to tell. It's so much a part of the city. That's what I really liked about it."
Reclaim Detroit, now more than 3 years old, is gaining national attention as a leader in the burgeoning deconstruction movement, where trained workers remove valuable material in homes set for demolition, and then resell it, creating jobs and sparing landfills millions of tons of debris.
The nonprofit employs 25 people, and has deconstructed 68 homes. It's a small dent in the city's 78,000 abandoned homes, but the momentum is picking up, with big banks, like J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, providing grant money. And the orders are coming in, with interest, from as far away as Japan.
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