Against the Bulldozer

Struggling cities are increasingly looking at the idea of bulldozing vacant properties and "shrinking". But two columnists argue it might not be such a good idea.
June 23, 2009, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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Writing for Citiwire, Roberta Brandes Gratz offers some historical perspective on clearance projects, arguing that few benefits are ever seen as a result.

"Granted some appealing urban gardens are now sprouting in these cities, where piles of debris might have accumulated. Clearly this is better than rubble-strewn lots.

But vast clearance? The fact is the presence of vacant buildings is nothing new in any of these cities; the condition in today's recession and industrial collapse is just worse. No citywide benefits ever materialized from mass demolition. And the big-bang projects that have sometimes risen where neighborhoods once stood– stadiums, arenas, convention centers, malls and the like - have not only failed in their promise and cost dearly but provided no fundamental basis for citywide resilience in good times or bad."

In the Los Angeles Times, Gregory Rodriguez says it's too short-sighted to give up on these cities.

"Sure, it is a given that cities -- like nations and civilizations -- rise and fall. We can find comfort in the fact that even as some U.S. cities decline, others thrive. And in the era of environmentalism and a romanticization of nature, the back-to-nature plan is certain to find a large degree of support. But in our rush to curb the excesses of industrialism and reduce our collective carbon imprint -- to "right size" -- I'm not sure we aren't undervaluing the role of cities in our society."

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Published on Thursday, June 18, 2009 in Citiwire
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