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Chairs piled in Marchant Building Desks, chairs and other furniture lie piled high in the Marchant Building, awaiting a new home. (Trevor Bryant photo)

A moving story

Marchant Building's stored belongings get a second life

| 13 October 2009

For more than 20 years, the Marchant Building has been a de facto warehouse for UC Berkeley. Mounds of tablet-desk chairs, an enormous scale model of San Francisco, discarded dormitory furniture, issues of the New York Times dating back to the '60s, catalogs from Berkeley Art Museum exhibits, and a large statue of a bear with a broken claw are among the items that have been stashed in the building, located at 6701 San Pablo Ave. With the building's recent sale, however, the day of reckoning has come. All the stuff must go somewhere.

Stake your claim

On Friday, Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. there will be a free-giveaway day at the Marchant Building, 6701 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. Freebies include office supplies, tables, chairs, and desks. For information, e-mail Tamera Garlock at tgarlock@berkeley.edu

Figuring out who owns what has required detective work, says Tamera Garlock, a moving coordinator for the campus's Moving and Event Services unit, but she and fellow move coordinator Tasha Dowdakin "didn't want this stuff to go in a dumpster or for some department to lose things they didn't know were here." To keep unclaimed items out of the garbage bin, the unit is partnering with Cal Overstock and Surplus to sell the campus's excess materials. Both units, coincidentally, are housed in the Marchant Building. While their staffs are helping to clear out their building, they are also pulling up stakes to relocate to the Regatta building in Richmond.

This is one moving project writ large: Garlock estimates the Marchant Building's three-story structure is the equivalent of three football fields stacked on top of each other. Offices share the facility with large expanses of storage space.

Students from the campus ReUse program have pitched in to find new owners for many of the items and to keep them from going into a landfill. Local nonprofit organizations including Rubicon, Shelter Inc., Fred Finch Youth Center, and El Portal Community School, a new charter school, are reusing eight huge truckloads of unwanted objects from the Marchant Building.

Other items have been transformed, getting a second lease on life. Students repurposed crates to be used as chicken coops. And they sawed off chairs from school desks, assuming freestanding seats would have more takers. One especially happy reunion took place: a pallet of possessions including a treasured coffee table that once belonged to Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien was returned to his family.

There is a still a lot of stuff left at the Marchant Building. Garlock encourages people looking for office supplies and furniture to come to the giveaway event on Oct. 23. "With a little bit of love and paint," says Garlock, "these things can be useful for many years to come."