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Pennington County donated homes on Quincy Street to Habitat for Humanity instead of simply destroying them to make way for a parking lot. 

In a reversal of its typical mission of building or fixing up homes for low-income families, the Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity plans to deconstruct several older homes and buildings in Rapid City.

The move is not as counterproductive as it seems.

In a partnership with Pennington County, which is donating to the group several homes on Quincy Street in Rapid City, the group will deconstruct the homes to create parts to be sold or used in future home projects.

The hope is that Habitat for Humanity can salvage parts to be sold in the group's ReStore retail outlet, or to be used in future homebuilding projects, said Executive Director Scott Engmann.

Engmann said they will pull out things like doors, trim, old plumbing fixtures, cabinets and even flooring and sell the products in the ReStore to raise "much needed funds for the Habitat mission in the Black Hills, creating safe, affordable housing solutions targeted for the 16,000 people living below the poverty line," Engmann said. 

The county plans to use the area where most of the homes are now located for a parking lot to serve its new facilities planned for the former National American University building. The plan is to house their Health and Human Services, Detox and 24/7 Sobriety programs there. 

County Attorney Jay Alderman told county commissioners earlier this month that it had been a long process both to acquire the homes and also to find a new place for the homes or a use for them. Instead of just razing the homes, the hope is "to do some good in our community."

Commissioner Ron Buskerud asked Alderman if the county will end up with a bigger mess to clean up than if the homes had simply been demolished.

"Even if we do," Alderman replied, "we've made some effort to make a positive impact on the community."

Alderman credited Mike Kuhl, construction manager for the county, with the hard work it took to get this partnership to work. Kuhl said recently their desire is "to get the most beneficial use out of the materials that exist on the site as possible."

"Mike has been intimately involved in trying to find salvageable uses for the various structures on the site and has devoted significant time this past year to meet with numerous folks for that purpose," Alderman said. "From all of Mike’s efforts, it finally worked out best with Habitat."

Alderman said the structures left behind after Habitat for Humanity is finished will also provide valuable training for police and fire officials who do not normally get the chance to train in actual homes. 

Kuhl worked with county officials as well as Engmann and Rapid City Alderman Ritchie Nordstrom to arrange the partnership to work out. 

Engmann said Nordstrom has been an advocate for affordable housing for many years and was the one who originally approached him with the idea.

The addresses of the homes being salvaged are 304, 308, 322, 328, and 328 1/2 Quincy Street; 718 Fourth St.; two garages at 321 Kansas City St.; and 717 Third St.

Engmann said this is a unique situation for the nonprofit organization because they don't usually get the chance to deconstruct a row of homes. Whenever they do such a deconstruction process, it is usually just one home at a time.

Engmann also said the county donation of property is not only a major help to fill the need for more affordable housing, but also to keep materials out of the landfill.

"The ReStore recycling process extends the life of our landfills by reducing the amount of materials dumped," Engmann said. "The combined recycling impact of our Black Hills stores, not including material sold to consumers, is an estimated 50 tons per year, the equivalent of 40 Honda Civics."

Engmann said the group serves an average of 4,000 people per month through its ReStore operations in Rapid City and Spearfish.

He said donors include homeowners, remodelers, construction and supply companies. And like most thrift stores, part of the fun is the surprise as inventory changes every day and prices for many of the one-of-a-kind items are less than retail.

Habitat for Humanity is asking for volunteers with a level of comfort around construction sites or with construction materials to contact the local office to volunteer at 605-348-9196. The group will put teams together in the next couple of weeks because the deadline to get the work finished is Nov. 11. 

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Contact Jennifer Naylor Gesick at 394-8421 or jennifer.naylorgesick@rapidcityjournal.com.

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