Nicetown building project kicks off with demolition pep-rally event

The latest step in a unique building project in Nicetown will involve a 350-year-old French company, about 120 alternative high-school students and two long-vacant houses on Wingohocking Street.

Also in that mix are several sledgehammers which students from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School used this week to begin demolishing the interiors of 2006 and 2007 Wingohocking St., just next to the Nicetown Court II development.

Projects meet

The two homes, like the larger Nicetown Court I and II, are being re-done in conjunction with the Nicetown Community Development Corp.

However, the Wingohocking rehabs will be done in partnership between YouthBuild and the Saint-Gobain Corp., the French parent company of Valley Forge-based CertainTeed building materials manufacturer.

The students, working with Saint-Gobain expert staff and YouthBuild leaders, will spend nearly a year learning the construction trade with a specific focus on green building techniques in the multi-family properties.

The launch

On Tuesday, the Wingohocking project kicked off with an array of city and business officials on hand to cheer on the students who wielded sledgehammers to knock down an old front door.

The YouthBuild charter provides an alternative high-school experience for out-of-school students, combining rotations of construction-site experience with in-class work, said Simran Sidhu, the school’s executive director.

“These will be our 86th and 87th houses in Philadelphia,” she said, and the second YouthBuild is doing in conjunction with Saint-Gobain.

The first, a two-family home at 4620 Greene St., kicked off in 2010 and achieved LEED platinum certification, which organizers hope the Winghocking ones will as well.

Second chance

At the time, Saint-Gobain was partnering with YouthBuild in several other cities, including Worcester, Mass.; Schenectady, NY and Akron, Ohio, as part of a three-year, $550,000 foundation grant program.

Because of something that happened at the Germantown site in 2011, Philadelphia got a second shot, said Carmen Ferrigno, Saint-Gobain’s vice president for communications.

Ferrigno recalled visiting the work site and talking to a YouthBuild student who described having formerly sold drugs on the streets not far from the home he was now working to rebuild.

“The students were extremely motivated,” said Ferrigno, noting that their interest led to other work together, including a visit for YouthBuild students to CertainTeed’s Valley Forge executive offices, to give them a glimpse of the business side of construction.

The YouthBuild students who will work on the homes are part of school’s Advanced Construction Green Team, who have expressed interest in pursuing building trades after high school, Sidhu said.

“From a service point of view, this team understands the contribution they’re making long term, just beyond the building they’re doing,” she said.

Work on the homes should be complete by March.

The homes will be sold to pre-qualified low-to-moderate income buyers through Nicetown CDC.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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