(written by Felicia Yu; photos by Ashby Leavell)
In the afternoon following our EI field trip to the Dansko headquarters, Raakel Toppila, Ashby Leavell, Hagley Fellow Chris Chenier, and I paid a visit to the Chrysler site, just across the road from Townsend Hall. We met with Dave Levandoski, director of 1743 Holdings, a UD subsidiary which is overseeing the demolition of the plant in preparation for UD’s new Science and Technology Campus.
Vintage Chrysler office decor
From the safety of his office in the weirdly under-occupied administration building, Dave presented us with a thorough overview of the site and how one goes about recycling a deconstructed car assembly plant. 85% of the material from the demolition is being recycled, with enough revenue generated from the sale of valuable materials such as stainless steel and copper to cover their costs, so that the entire demolition will cost UD nothing. Dave showed us example after example of recyclable materials from the site, from the obvious (steel, aluminum, batteries) to the not-so-obvious (still-working equipment to be reused; fluorescent lighting tubes with their components; solvents and oils from the factory lines, to be sent out for re-refining or to be mixed and used as clean-burning fuels). He also pointed out some materials that cannot be recycled, at least not at this time – the sludge from waste water treatment, and acres and acres of roofing material, sometimes two or three layers deep.
Witnessing the art of demolition…from a completely safe vantage point, of course
At the end of our visit, we were allowed to don hard hats and head down the back side of the admin building, where we were fortunate to get a look at real-time demolition just behind the building. We all agreed that the operators of the clawing tractors, pulling down whole chunks of building into piles of twisted metal and debris, had the best jobs in the world.
Felicia, Chris Chenier, and Raakel rocking the hard hats
Ashby and Felicia with Lynn McDowell of 1743 Holdings
The future of the Chrysler site remains a fascinating vision—while the area has been designated as the Science and Technology Campus, many elements remain to be fleshed out. Will they daylight the brook now running beneath the concrete? How much of the 235 acres now under impervious surfaces (out of 272 total) will be opened up? Will they preserve, and interpret, the old track on which they used to test M-48 tanks built for the Korean War? Well, we’ll have to wait to return as alumni to witness the answers to these questions.
“They should totally film a Transformers movie here.”
Another view from the fence
Thanks to Dave and Lynn for meeting with us and giving us a first-hand look at the incredible process of decommissioning and recycling a whole automobile assembly plant.