Shifting gears

Features - Demolition

Independence Excavating, Independence, Ohio, levels a former Chrysler Stamping Plant, looking to provide new mileage at the established landmark.

May 17, 2012
Lisa McKenna

The down-sizing of the U.S. automotive manufacturing segment in recent years may have been disheartening for many, but in many cases it has also led to business growth opportunities and the chance for a clean slate.

That’s the hope of Independence Excavating, Inc., based in Independence, Ohio. Last year the company won the contract to demolish the former Chrysler Stamping Plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, so that the site would be suitable and attractive for redevelopment.

The 167-acre site is currently co-owned by the principals of Independence’s parent company, DiGeronimo Companies, along with Scannell Properties of Indianapolis.

Chrysler closed the plant after filing for bankruptcy in 2009. It was originally purchased for more than $45 million by Maynards Industries, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The industrial auction house and appraisal company sold off most of the Chrysler stamping presses in late 2010, then sold the largely emptied property to its current owners.

Ballpark Estimates

As of early May, Independence was in the midst of demolishing the 1.8-million-square-foot facility, originally comprising a low bay, 18-foot structure and a high bay portion, with ceilings of 45 feet. In addition, the property included numerous outbuildings, such as a boiler house, a baler building and a hazardous waste storage building, that all were to be demolished as part of the contract.

Independence began demolishing the property in late 2010, starting with the low bay portion at the site’s west side. So far one tenant has leased a small section of the site which is being redeveloped alongside the demolition.

Leo Slansky, project manager with Independence Excavating, observes that while the plant closure had been considered a negative in the community, due to the lost work and jobs, there is also a positive side. “The whole idea is to demolish it to redevelop the property,” he says.

Slansky notes that the building is worth far more in scrap value than if left standing. “Our contract is to get everything down to top of concrete,” he says.

As of March, the company had demolished about a million square feet of the main building, and had begun work on the high bay portion of the structure—a more complicated part of the job containing the bulk of the structural plate and steel.

“The building is a heavy steel construction,” Slansky says. “We’re getting a lot of plate and structural out of here.” He explains that the high bay portion housed some 16 large bays, each 360 feet long, which originally contained the mammoth-sized stamping presses used by Chrysler.

An 18-foot deep basement below the high bay portion housed some of the most valuable scrap materials at the site: numerous huge steel box beams that were used to support the stamping presses. Those beams were removed early on in the process, Slansky says.

To access the basement beams, the company cut through the concrete floor and the basement wall, then used a wrecking ball to break the concrete up and form a ramp. A large excavator fitted with a grapple then pulled sections out. From there, a loader ferried the beams to the yard where they were cut and loaded.

The budget for the job, Slansky says, is in the ballpark of 30,000 gross tons of steel. All of the scrap metal and other recyclable materials have been prepared and sorted on site. “We’re shipping everything in a prepared state,” he adds. The company has decided to cut the plate and structural to the mill size of 2 feet by 4 feet.

“Basically we can get a higher revenue if we cut it up on site here,” Slansky explains. The bulk of the plate and structural, he says, has been sold directly to a nearby mill.

Slansky notes that plate and structural steel likely accounts for two-thirds of the scrap being recovered, while the remaining one-third is sheet and lighter metals. “You have the mix of the lighter stuff, light metal, catwalks, things like that, that really don’t fit into a heavy plate and structural order,” he explains.

Scrap vs. Salvage
Although it is one of the first automotive plants that Slansky recalls the company having demolished, he still characterizes the work as “conventional wrecking,” in that it didn’t require such procedures as controlled drops or blasting.

In fact one of the most consuming parts of the job, Slansky says, has been the effort to salvage items left behind before demolition began. “If you can salvage it ahead of time,” says Slansky of the remaining equipment, “generally you can sell it for a premium over scrap.” The challenge, he says, is being able to find a buyer before your demolition schedule catches up with you. Fortunately, Independence was able to sell a few of the large overhead cranes that were left behind, as well as a few thousand linear feet of the crane rails and some electrical equipment.

Thanks to the large scale of the property, sorting and prepping has been easily accomplished. “You have a lot more room where you can demolish it and take it apart in a manner where you don’t just make a huge mess,” says Slansky, referring to the various piles of scrap located throughout the site where the low bay building once stood.

Slansky says with Independence’s process, a primary wrecking machine operator typically “bulk-sorts” the materials as he wrecks the building, placing heavy beams in one area, and sheet and C&D in another. “Then we come in with a 320 excavator, which is a fourth the size and a fourth the cost,” says Slansky. That operator further sorts the C&D debris from the clean sheet, he explains. Slansky says the siding, roofing and sheet metal generally is shipped to one of the local scrap companies that has a shredder. Most of the C&D materials are destined for Kurtz Bros. Inc. in Cleveland.

Meeting Leadership in Energy an d Environmental Design (LEED) requirements isn’t part of the contract, Slansky says, however the company has worked to adhere to a number of them. “Any brick or concrete that we demolish is going to stay here on site to get recycled in the future,” he says. “The only thing that gets disposed of is a little bit of miscellaneous C&D inside the building and the flat roofing, which is probably two inches of insulation and a little bit of roofing, asphalt and aggregate.”

“I’m willing to bet we’re well over 90 percent [recycling] on a job like this,” Slansky adds. He says all trucks leaving the site are also tracked as is typically done with a LEED job.

As for equipment, Independence is using two large Hitachi 850 excavators for most of the wrecking. One is fitted with a large 175 shear, and the other with either a grapple or a third-member smaller shear for pulling or cutting the building apart and for reaching roof trusses.

The company also has a loader for moving the steel around and intermediate sized excavators fitted with either a grapple or a smaller shear.

“We may do some prep cutting ahead of time, with laborers and torches, if the building is too heavy for the shears to cut,” Slansky notes. He says the heavy steel beams, for example, are all cut by hand. The project’s crew includes about 10 laborers and a dozen operators, Slansky says.

Concrete work on the property isn’t part of Independence’s demolition contract, and Slansky says that job won’t likely be awarded until the future uses of the property are known.

“I would expect that as part of the future redevelopment of the property, there’s going to be another contract where all the concrete gets removed,” he says. “I know they’re not intending on taking it anywhere; it’s all going to be crushed here.”

Even so, he adds, earning the concrete contract would be highly interesting for Independence. “Our demolition division is ideal to demolish all the concrete, the crushing division to crush it and our site work division to redevelop the property,” says Slansky, “so it’s exactly the type of work that we do the best.”

Balancing Act
Slansky says it’s still too early to tell whether the project will be profitable for Independence. “Our contract is based on an estimated steel revenue, so basically it is heavily dependent on how much steel there is and what the scrap market does,” he says.

Most importantly Slansky points out, “Our number one goal is to do the job professionally and do the job safely.”

Beyond that, Slansky says, efficiency of operations will matter, particularly if the steel quantities fall below the expected amount of 30,000 tons. “If there’s 28, hopefully you’ve wrecked it efficiently enough that you don’t need that extra 2,000 tons worth of revenue,” Slansky observes.

“It’s never a perfect world, but hopefully you are efficient enough so that it is proportional,” Slansky adds. “That’s always the battle.”


The author is a managing editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at

A video report of the Twinsburg Chrysler Stamping Plant Demolition is available at