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French Worsted demolition debris to be put to good use

March 17, 2012

The French Worsted Mills building No. 1, which dates back to 1897, will be coming down in the next few weeks.

WOONSOCKET – The name of John Baccaire's company is Coventry Building and Wrecking, but he will tell you his business is actually just another way to recycle.
Baccaire and his daughter, Project Manager Kim Baccaire, have been busy this winter overseeing the “recycling” of the former French Worsted Mill complex off Hamlet Avenue and have reached a milestone in the massive undertaking.
The final large weaving mill at the site, a five-story brick, concrete and steel structure dating back to 1897 and known as Building No. 1, is about to come down. It will follow the removal of an even larger six-story mill building and four smaller structures at the six-acre site.
As John Baccaire sees it, his method of demolition — the slow gnawing away of a large structure with a crane bucket or large backhoe claw — allows the salvaging of valuable wood and steel girder components of the structure and even the resale of better-than-modern bricks.
Everything Baccaire reuses under the process keeps demolition materials from being carted off to the landfill. It is a process that extends the life of landfills and also lowers the cost of taking down a structure that might otherwise end up being destroyed by a neighborhood-threatening fire.
Coventry Building and Wrecking fences in its work areas and also maintains a 24-hour security patrol while demolition is under way.
Baccaire has learned how to maximize the reuse of demolition byproducts while managing the removal of many other former mills since founding his family-run business in 1975.
“The more you recycle, the less you have to take to the landfill,” he said. “I'm not going slow, I'm salvaging. That is what we do.”
As the company's crews continued to eat away at the remains of Building No. 2 at the site last week, workers cleaned up steel beams for sale to metal salvage companies and loaded pallets of 600 cleaned-and-stacked bricks onto flatbed trucks arriving to pick them up for brick supply companies.
Coventry Building and Wreck-ing gets $180 a pallet and the hard, solid, construction-type bricks will be used for pavers or even new construction projects, he said.
The wrecking crews also take care to pull out the mill's large yellow pine beams so they also can be recycled for profit.
The old growth wooden beams are prized because of the grain in the wood and Coventry Building and Wrecking sells them to a company in Texas that cuts them up for wood veneer products.
“Yellow pine is scarse and you can't cut it down anymore so these beams are worth some bucks,” Baccaire said.
The company even has a use for the broken concrete that its excavators push into piles at the site. The chunks of concrete are put into a machine that breaks them up and separates out the steel re-bar rods used to reinforce the construction material. The resulting clean crushed concrete can be used as a fill material for other construction products, he noted.
The re-bar and any other scrap metal from the buildings, such as the large boiler tanks removed earlier in the project, are shredded for processing by a scrap company, he noted.
In all, Baccaire expects to collect about $150,000 from recycled materials and that will be on top of his company's $700,000 fee for removing hazardous materials including asbestos and window weather stripping and the subsequent demolition of the cleaned structures.
The demolition project started last October after the mill complex' owner, 153 Hamlet Ave. LLC, a company owned by Henry Vara of Boston, settled on removal of the deteriorated mill buildings as the best option for reuse of the six-acre site for commercial or mixed used development. The city is working on designating the area as a medical use enterprise zone and there is even talk that it might have a role in the restructuring of Landmark Medical Center under its planned acquisition by the for-profit Steward Health Care.
Baccaire is just taking down the mills and isn't involved in the planning for the site's reuse, but expects the property will be ready for whatever comes along when his crews complete the job.
“It will be flat, just like a football field,” he said.
Todd Brodeur, a well-company owner from Uxbridge, stopped by the site last week to see what remained of the mill property his great, great-grandfather John F. Worrall had once worked at as a mill superintendent. The first mill at the site was built in the 1820s and was later replaced by more modern structures that came with the French Worsted operation under French and European owners.
Walking recently through the emptied manufacturing rooms of the former French Worsted operation and the smaller companies using the vast complex in later years, Brodeur said he could still see quality in the old building.
“It is just amazing how stuff was built back then compared to today,” he said. “They just built things much better than they do today.”
The building had a long untended leaking roof and the deterioration caused by that problem is also clearly apparent on many of its floors.
Brodeur expects there will be interest in the site once the last old building has come down like the others.
“I'm glad industrial land like this is being recycled and will be put to good use in the future,” he said. “I don't know what that will be, but hopefully something nice like housing. Housing is where the money is today.”

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