Crushed remnants of Erie's EMI building recycled for new building site
After months of knocking over walls, hauling away debris and squeezing a portion of eastbound West 12th Street into just one lane, demolition of the former Erie Malleable Iron Co. site is complete.
The Erie County Redevelopment Authority, the owner of the property, has transformed what was once a crumbling monument to Erie's manufacturing past into shovel-ready building site at the western end of the property, and a 70,000-square-foot space that awaits renovation on the Cherry Street end of the property.
And now, Erie's Bostwick Design Partnership, the Redevelopment Authority's architect for the project, is offering a look at its plans for a new addition on the western end of what's going to be known as Ironworks Square.
Architect Dave Brennan said the addition will include a new facade and an entrance where derelict brick buildings stood until recently.
"We are really combining the new with the historic and we are being very cautious about how we bring those two together. We want it all to blend," Brennan said.
Brennan said one of the goals is to recapture the look and architecture of the building as it would have appeared in the 1930s and 1940s.
In addition to installing new stairways and an elevator, restoration work will include having bricks pointed and installing a new roof, windows and concrete slab.
Renovation plans aren't complete and will take shape as tenants come on board, but Brennan said the design will likely include a conference space as well as some type of food venue, possibly a microbrewery.
The four-story portion of the complex, which had housed EMI offices at the corner of West 12th and Cherry streets, was determined to be structurally sound. But it will undergo a transformation. largely stripped of drywall and be given a look more in keeping with the building's past.
"You are going to see a lot of brick and exposed steel," Brennan said.
Tina Mengine, CEO of the Redevelopment Authority, said Erie-based EE Austin & Son has been hired for the next phase of the project as the Redevelopment Authority prepares to begin renovations to the remaining buildings.
Recently, "They were doing sand blasting and testing structural steel to make sure it is good and solid," Mengine said.
She said the Redevelopment Authority was hoping to make roof and window repair, hopefully before severe weathe.
"We want to avoid any further damage," she said.
Mengine said she's excited about the concept, which will include office space and possibly space for light manufacturing.
"I think it's really going to look great," Mengine said "I think it's going to be a statement for 12th Street and our future economy."
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Butler Republican who secured $3 million in Community Project Funding for the project in 2022, was expected to tour the facility Wednesday afternoon and to announce $1.5 million in funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
At more than one level, the work of the Erie County Redevelopment Authority, which purchased the 5.4-acre site in February of 2021, is about recycling.
On a large scale, the Redevelopment Authority, which paid $375,000 to purchase the property, is looking to find new uses for the former EMI plant, which closed is doors in 2001.
In another sense, a great deal of actual recycling took place as structural steel was set aside for recycling and more than 12,000 bricks were salvaged to make repairs to the remaining structure.
In short, the Redevelopment Authority took a green approach to restoring an industrial brownfield.
A key piece of that effort was crushing hundreds of tons of concrete into fine-grained rubble that could be used to fill in the foundation.
"We hauled away a lot but we crushed as much concrete as we could," Mengine said. "t had to be clean so we could use it as fill. We tried to be good stewards."
That effort kept hundreds of tons of concrete from being taken to landfills and saved the Redevelopment Authority about a half million dollars.
Ultimately, Mengine said the Redevelopment Authority spent about $110,000 to bring in top soil to finish smoothing and leveling the property.
If the contractor on the project, West Virginia-based Reclaim Co. LLC, hadn't been able to recycle the concrete, Mengine estimates that the Redevelopment Authority would have spent between $700,000 and $800,000 on additional fill material.
The savings from the recycled concrete were not unexpected, Mengine said.
"It was all part of the original plan," she said.
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