Publication Date

Spring 2016

Document Type

Project Summary

Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Dwight Vick, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Robert Sinclair, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Toney Ford, Ph.D.


Background: According to an environmental justice case study by Kozol (2005), East St. Louis is considered the country's most distressed city. It has suffered from environmental and economic misfortunes for several decades. Many residents of the city have left due to the economic conditions of the city, which resulted in a loss of tax base. According to Hou (2010), the loss of tax base has had a severe impact on the community; the city that once had flourishing parks, streets, and businesses has now become blighted with condemned, abandoned, and foreclosed structures. Poor maintenance and neglect has led to decay of many of the structures within the city. While the local government works diligently to improve the economic conditions of the city, it is fiscally constrained (Hou, 2010).

Purpose: The purpose of this study is examine the feasibility of implementing a nonprofit organization in East St. Louis, Illinois with a mission of deconstructing condemned, abandoned, and foreclosed structures in order to assist in the development of the community. This study examines the market conditions of the city as well as potential barriers to entry of a deconstruction nonprofit in East St. Louis.

Methods: This qualitative study includes a case study of a local St. Louis-based deconstruction nonprofit organization to analyze a regional market conditions. The study further consists of semi-structured interviews of deconstruction nonprofit leaders throughout the nation to realize day-to-day challenges faced with meeting organizational missions. Local public officials are interviewed as well in order to examine what public policies or local government involvement is in place in the community that may attribute to the success or failure of a deconstruction nonprofit.

Results: An analysis of the data gathered in study demonstrates that it would be feasible for a deconstruction nonprofit to exist in East St. Louis, Illinois; however, the mission of the organization would have to be expanded to focus more on employment opportunities and civic engagements. While the organization could still aid in deconstructing condemned, abandoned, and foreclosed structures in order to assist in the development of the community as well as divert materials from landfills, the primary focus would have to be the economic and social benefit provided to the citizens of the city of East St. Louis. While challenges exist with working with the city, they can likely be overcome with steady communication and education regarding the benefits of deconstruction.

Conclusions: Replicating the Refab nonprofit model with the support of the city of East St. Louis is the most appropriate way forward. Establishing a used building material retail operations (UBMRO) in East St. Louis aids in instilling confidence in city leaders and residents that the nonprofit is there to aid in the development of the city. In order to be successful the nonprofit would need to work closely with the city of East St. Louis.