If You Bulldoze It, Will They Come? Detroit, Buffalo, and Other Cities Think About Razing Vacant Buildings

Via Alan Vanneman
comes a link to this NY Times story about cities bulldozing blight
rather than trying to rehab it. A snippet:

Large-scale destruction is well known in Detroit, but it is also
underway in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo
and others at a total cost of more than $250 million. Officials are
tearing down tens of thousands of vacant buildings, many habitable,
as they seek to stimulate economic growth, reduce crime and blight,
and increase environmental sustainability….

[M]ore than half of the nation’s 20 largest cities in 1950 have
lost at least one-third of their populations. And since 2000, a
number of cities, including Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh,
Cincinnati and Buffalo, have lost around 10 percent; Cleveland has
lost more than 17 percent; and more than 25 percent of residents
have left Detroit, whose bankruptcy declaration this summer has
heightened anxiety in other postindustrial cities….

At least one city that has taken a pioneering approach to
confronting diminution has found that accepting shrinkage does not
mean problems go away. Youngstown, Ohio, once a bustling steel city
of 170,000 but now with only 66,000 people, has sought to head off
collapse by tearing down thousands of vacant houses — 3,000 so far
and 10 more each week.

Read the whole thing.

As someone who has lived in and spent time in shrinking cities
such as Buffalo and Cleveland, I understand the appeal – and quite
possibly the effectiveness – of clearing out huge swaths of vacated
land (that assumes, of course, that eminent domain powers are not

But if working on
Reason Saves Cleveland
taught me one thing, it’s that there’s
no simple solution to urban decline. Some of it is simply
historical – the Northeast is not going to dominate American
business and culture that way it did 100 years ago and cities such
as Cleveland or Buffalo or Detroit will never regain their earlier
populations or the density at which they lived. Read
more on that topic here

But it’s also clear that private and public sector boosters are
always more interested in laying big bets on giant development
deals that won’t transform a city or region even if they happen to
work out perfectly. What makes and keeps places livable and
attractive are the smaller-ticket items, such as quality of basic
services such as roads, law enforcement, business climate, schools,
taxes, and regulations. These aren’t sexy items but they are the
things that actually keep cities thriving.

Watch Reason TV’s #AnarchyinDetroit playlist to learn how
residents are taking their bankrupt city back, block by block:

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/12/if-you-bulldoze-it-will-they-come-detroi

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