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Greg Trainor

I'm saving materials from vacant buildings and creating jobs.

Published

February 19, 2016

Neighborhood

Holmesburg

Cohort

Spring 2014

Greg took what he learned at CPI and ran with it! Connections he made and knowledge he obtained through CPI led to major gains for the nonprofit he founded, including the warehouse they use free of charge, material donations, tool donations, and new projects and partners.

Greg’s nonprofit is Philadelphia Community Corps (PCC), a job training and salvage program that deconstructs abandoned housing and salvages the materials to reuse in rehabilitating low-income housing. By doing so, the organization aims to fight both unemployment and neighborhood blight.

When Greg took CPI, PCC was at an impasse—they were a salvage non-profit without a place to store the salvaged materials which were supposed to be used to fund the program. They also needed more leads on buildings that owners were looking to demolish.

During the CPI class on zoning, Greg learned about Registered Community Organizations(RCOs), and realized they are an established network of engaged citizens. PCC was looking for community groups and Community Development Corporations to partner with.

We didn’t have any money for advertising or marketing, and here were all these organizations who care about their neighborhoods, and I had a way to contact them. We talked to 30 RCOs. It was the best advertising we could “buy” at that time.

One of the first RCOs they met with was the Holmesburg Civic Association. The next day, one of the attendees at that meeting contacted Greg. His name was Gerald Guzinski, and he said he loved what PCC was doing and that he had a warehouse space and office they could use free of charge

After moving into the warehouse, the first material donation came via one of Greg’s classmates from CPI. Donald Simon, President of Central Roxborough Civic Association at the time, called Greg to tell him “I know someone who has a big pile of granite, do you want it?” PCC ended up getting 6,000 pounds of black and white granite from a developer who was demolishing an old church!

Greg now talks with developers all the time, and credits CPI with teaching him the vocabulary surrounding planning, development, and zoning.

Without CPI, I wouldn’t have been able to talk the talk.

When other job training programs saw the warehouse they believed in the potential of PCC and were willing to partner. YouthBuild Charter School was one such program; upon visiting the warehouse, Marty Molloy, YouthBuild’s Director of Vocational Programming, decided to create a deconstruction track in partnership with PCC within YouthBuild’s building trades program.

YouthBuild hired Greg as a salaried YouthBuild Trades Instructor, and for the first time since he started PCC in 2009, he was able to be employed doing the work he loved: job training and fighting blight.

Another major opportunity came out of PCC’s RCO outreach. Joe DeFelice, Chairman of Mayfair CDC’s Board, introduced Greg to Joe Palmer. Joe founded the nonprofit Scioli Turco, which uses the process of conservatorship to help CDCs and RCOs address abandoned buildings in their neighborhoods.

Scioli Turco and PCC are now partnering; the former gets access to the property and the latter does the deconstruction or selective stripping of the property to prep it for rehab or rebuilding. Through this partnership, Greg believes PCC will be busy stripping and deconstructing rowhomes year-round!

In Fall 2015, PCC salvaged materials from the former site of West Philly High School while utilizing the space to provide training and career opportunities for students. During this project an estimated 50,000 lbs of waste were diverted from landfills for reuse, simultaneously, 25 trainees received on-site training and in-class lessons on the topics of building deconstruction and material reuse.

This project was a partnership between Strong Place Partners (the developer of the building), YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter SchoolPower Corps PHL, and the Building Material Reuse Association.

In addition, their deconstruction class was taught in a vacant classroom – utilizing the space for its original purpose one last time. Of the 25 trainees involved in the project, 5 have landed full or part-time jobs with renovation crews at West Philly High School.

Thanks in part to CPI, Greg and the Philadelphia Community Corps are getting closer to their goals.

To have a Philadelphia without abandoned housing and to use deconstruction to employ as many people as possible.

PCC’s ideal project is in a neighborhood with high rates of abandonment as well as home ownership, so the people who live there will benefit the most from the removal of the blighted housing.

Greg hopes that upon the completion of such a project, PCC will be able to obtain a contract with the City and/or developers.

Update, 5/3/21

CPI lessons helped Greg’s nonprofit, the Philadelphia Community Corps (PCC), make a bigger impact in the city. While reducing abandoned housing and creating jobs through deconstruction and salvage is still their goal, the PCC is growing and adapting to new challenges.

Originally, Greg was serving as Executive Director while leading trainee crews. The dueling responsibilities spread him too thin. In 2018, they changed their model. They started referring jobs to contractors and lowered the number of trainees in a group. Now trainees are working alongside potential employers. This transformed the experience into an internship structure and improved job placement rates.

Before, we were competing against the demo contractors for jobs. Now they’re our friends. We send them a lot of jobs, and vice versa!

In this new model, the PCC collaborates with other contractors to help transform Philadelphia’s demolition industry into one that is sustainable and creates jobs.

Learning about the city’s Registered Community Organizations (RCOs) in CPI helped Greg navigate lead conversations between residents communities and developers. Greg says two common causes of tension are the community’s desire to preserve architectural history and creating more local jobs locally. The PCC solves both of those problems in a way that improves the real estate developer’s bottom line. When it comes to historic preservation, Greg says if they can’t save the building, they can at least save the skilled craftsmanship and “embodied energy” in them.

We come in as sort of a compromise, a bridge, between these two communities. We’re the win-win.

Before the pandemic, the PCC moved their reuse center, Philly Reclaim, to a bigger warehouse. Their new location in Tacony is a 20,000 square foot space. There, Philly Reclaim sells salvage and reclaimed materials back to the community at a discounted price. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Philly Reclaim launched its own COVID-relief effort by giving out $100 e-coupons. By the end of 2020, they’d given out over $30,000 worth of building materials.

It was worth it to us to get people to the new location, clear out inventory to make room for new donations, and help people work on their homes during a tough time.

The PCC Founded started in Philadelphia, the PCC but is now they’re working on projects from the Jersey Shore to the Main Line. They are seeing an increased demand from people who see deconstruction tax deductions as a sustainable benefit to their bottom-line and community.