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US Plans To Bulldoze 50 Shrinking Cities 806

Posted by samzenpus
from the out-of-the-rubble-and-into-the-future dept.
chrb writes "Two days ago Slashdot discussed broke counties grinding their tarmac roads into gravel. Now the Telegraph reveals plans to raze huge sections of at least 50 US cities to the ground. The resulting smaller cities will be more economical to run, and the recovered land will be returned to nature."

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US Plans To Bulldoze 50 Shrinking Cities

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  • Suggestion: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Random2 (1412773) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:49PM (#28377969) Journal
    Can DC be first?
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:50PM (#28378003) Journal
    The article mentions Baltimore, which makes sense. If you've ever visited some of the, shall we say, less popular portions of that city, you'll find block after block of boarded-up rowhouses. It's actually kind of eerie. Hell, even if you take Amtrak and go past Charm City, you'll see lots of houses that are in dismal shape (but nevertheless, sadly, are still occupied).
    • by Ironica (124657) <`pixel' `at' `boondock.org'> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:01PM (#28378259) Journal

      The article mentions Baltimore, which makes sense. If you've ever visited some of the, shall we say, less popular portions of that city, you'll find block after block of boarded-up rowhouses.

      But if they tear those down, where will Marlo Stanfield's crew hide the bodies?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tcopeland (32225)

      > The article mentions Baltimore, which makes sense. If you've ever
      > visited some of the, shall we say, less popular portions of that city,
      > you'll find block after block of boarded-up rowhouses.

      I was just down in Richmond VA this past weekend and saw some of the same - albeit on a smaller scale. Really weird to see what should be primo storefronts boarded up. It'd be especially hard to restart those depressed areas given the current commercial real estate problems [blogspot.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:48PM (#28379253)

      It would be very interesting to close off part of a disused city or even a whole city and leave it as it is to see how nature would take over without human influences. Would it decay as some predict?. Would nature take over tower blocks for high rise living? ... The nearest experiment we have is Chernobyl, but thats nothing like American conditions such as weather etc.. and a 2nd city to compare how nature adapts to part or even a whole city without humans around would be fascinating.

      Also part of a disused city would be a very valuable and useful proving ground for advanced research in robotics, such as cars using the road networks and urban exploring robots. Its a once in a life time chance to gain unrestricted access to a big part of a city.

      Another very good use would be to leave part of a disused city as a film set of a slowly decaying abandoned city. (The WW2 Blitz in London created a lot of disused buildings that appeared in many films for decades). Part of a city would be an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity to create a huge film set that doesn't disrupting and interrupt normal working cities and its cheaper and easier for film companies to use. So its win win for these companies helping the US film industry and other businesses in cities otherwise inconvenienced by filming. The film companies must be able to see the potential. It would be such a good help to the US film industry for many years to come. They could even set up a joint company to manage the disused part of a city for the film industry and lease parts out to film companies world wide.

      • by ElectricRook (264648) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:21PM (#28380883)

        I imagine it quickly converts to tent-city with no sanitation or trash pickup.

      • by Eil (82413) on Friday June 19, 2009 @12:12AM (#28385211) Homepage Journal

        It would be very interesting to close off part of a disused city or even a whole city and leave it as it is to see how nature would take over without human influences. Would it decay as some predict?. Would nature take over tower blocks for high rise living? ... The nearest experiment we have is Chernobyl, but thats nothing like American conditions such as weather etc.. and a 2nd city to compare how nature adapts to part or even a whole city without humans around would be fascinating.

        Large sections of Detroit have been like this for 10 years, so you don't have to go very far. Yes, there is some human influence in these areas (traffic, vandalism, fires, etc) but there certainly is no such thing as maintenance or improvement to these properties.

        One of the saddest things I've seen was a gigantic brick-and-stone train station with beautiful architecture that looked like it hadn't been touched in 50 years, except of course to replace the wood boarding up the windows and update the graffiti. Something like this should be a museum or a landmark, but I guess no matter how beautiful a building is, if it's on the trashed side of town, then it's effectively worthless.

    • by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:05PM (#28379591)

      A lot of cities were hit by middle and upper class people leaving the city and going to the suburbs but I think Baltimore may have been hit even worse than most. Why live in Baltimore when you can live in Columbia and have access to the jobs of Washington DC as well as Baltimore? When people leave they take their tax base with them. The drop in taxes cause drops in services such as schools and police -- this forces even more people to leave. Wash rinse repeat and soon you have a city that once had a population of 1 million but now has a population closer to 500,000. You also have a school system and police force that can barely keep up (and often can't keep up at all) with a poorer and poorer population that needs the services even more. Maryland has one of the highest median house hold incomes of any state in the union but Baltimore hardly gets enough money to try and keep the city going. So Baltimore has these problems but I don't think you can say that Maryland is part of the rust belt. Baltimore does have a handful of trendy neighborhoods that middle class people do want to live in, but sadly those neighborhoods are the exception. I guess if you bulldoze those houses that aren't used anymore you would increase the value of the houses that are still standing. I guess a large number of parks that people might be able to enjoy would be better than vast number of boarded-up houses we have now.

  • better idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by rev_sanchez (691443) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:53PM (#28378059)
    We wall these areas off and turn them into Escape from New York style maximum security prisons. As long as we don't fly Air Force One over that airspace we should be OK. Kurt Russell is getting a bit too old to keep helping us out with that sort of thing.
  • Urban Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:54PM (#28378077)

    White flight into the suburbs has brought us nothing but Wal-Mart and SUV's. I grew up in a suburb, and I hated how I was not able to go anywhere without a ride from my parents because everything was so far apart. Should I have children, I will not put them through that sort of social isolation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Yeah, I'm sure they'll thank you for moving them downtown to get harassed by bums, shot at by gangbangers, and attend a school where the teachers wear body armor. I can see them giving you the "World's Greatest Dad" cup now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by doconnor (134648)

        Bums are mostly harmless, and the odds of you getting killed in a car crash in an auto-dependent suburb is far greater then being killed in a gang war.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Trahloc (842734)
          I live downtown in a major international city and I can tell you the chances of being run over here are higher than in a suburb. I don't know about you but there were only couple thousand cars that went through my suburban city while there are hundreds of thousands that drive around my lofts block, except the weekend. It's pretty dead then.
        • Re:Urban Transit (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:59PM (#28379471) Journal

          You know, It may be true statistically speaking but I don't fear driving a car as I do standing on the street minding my own business while two idiots shoot at each other while trying to run away at the same time and emptying 8 or 9 or more rounds of ammo each.

          I've seen it happen live on multiple occasions, one of which I was less then 5 foot from one of the gang bangers who got shot. I'm not scared of guns, I own my own, I wouldn't have any reservations shooting someone to protect myself or someone else, but I also down stand down range at a shooting/taget range. In the one instance, It was in Venice CA (a suburb of Los Angelos and within the greater LA area) on a business meeting, I went for a walk afterward to find some lunch, and next thing I know, I hear a gunshot right beside me and a bullet whizzing by, I ducked behind a car and was joined by a woman and her toddler sized kid as I heard several more gunshots. There was about a dozen more shots when we saw someone attempting to run backwards by the car go down while shooting. He dropped the gun as he hit the ground, the action was open signaling it was empty, and blood started pooling around his upper torso. The shooting stopped and everyone waited a minute or so before standing back up. It felt like it took forever when it happened, 5 or 10 minutes when thinking back about it, but it happened in less then 1 minute.

          No one who wasn't in the gunfight was injured outside of emotionally, I mean watching a stranger die in front of you isn't exactly pleasant. I don't know if I witnessed the death blow or if he was hit before we saw him go down, there was no blood spray or bodies flying through the air like in the movies. The cops said they thought it was a rival gang ordeal where someone went into another territory.

          If I had a choice of putting my kids through that or a car accident, I would pick the car accident any day. I doubt too many young kids can go through that without being fucked in the head for a while. That's probably one of the reasons why people don't make it out of the inner city.

          • Re:Urban Transit (Score:4, Insightful)

            by xilmaril (573709) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:21PM (#28380885)

            You know, It may be true statistically speaking but I don't fear driving a car as I do standing on the street minding my own business while two idiots shoot at each other while trying to run away at the same time and emptying 8 or 9 or more rounds of ammo each.

            I've seen it happen live on multiple occasions, one of which I was less then 5 foot from one of the gang bangers who got shot. I'm not scared of guns, I own my own, I wouldn't have any reservations shooting someone to protect myself or someone else

            I've got a hot tip for you: if you've seen this multiple times, move somewhere that isn't a hellhole.

            Abandon your worldly possessions to do so if needs be. A place where this happens is not human-friendly.

          • Re:Urban Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday June 18, 2009 @06:40PM (#28381973) Homepage Journal

            If I had a choice of putting my kids through that or a car accident, I would pick the car accident any day.

            Then you've never seen a bad car accident.

            I was in emergency medicine for nine years, first as a military medic, then as a civilian EMT. I've seen plenty of gunshots and plenty of crashes. There is nothing that happens in a gang war that can make the kind of mess out of a human body that a moment of inattention on the road can. As far as deliberate violence goes, you have to get to bombs and artillery before you see that kind of destruction -- and street criminals don't generally go after each other with howitzers and B-52s.

            You think you were traumatized by watching someone getting shot? Try picking up pieces of bodies strewn across half a mile of highway.

      • Re:Urban Transit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:20PM (#28379877) Journal

        Yeah, I'm sure they'll thank you for moving them downtown to get harassed by bums, shot at by gangbangers, and attend a school where the teachers wear body armor. I can see them giving you the "World's Greatest Dad" cup now.

        Ah. The old "urban areas are crime infested ghettos and suburbs are all sweetness and light" fallacy.

        Ever heard of a city called LA? It's a sprawl addict's dream. A 100 mile wide city that has crime in abundance. It has nice areas too though.

        Ever heard of a city called San Francisco? It's a compact city enthusiast's dream. Things are so close together that you can (are you ready for this) WALK most places! Sure it has its crime-intensive areas, but they're the exception. The majority of the city is pleasant and safe enough that it attracts tourists by the million, and doesn't have the bums, gangbangers, and teachers in shining armour of which you speak. (OK, homelessness is a problem, but that's more to do with the city's temperate climate than anything else, and you'll find bums in other bay area cities including the low density ones.)

        The point I'm making here is that there are good and bad high density cities, and good and bad low density cities. However, low density cities have an inherent problem that high density cities do not - namely heavy reliance on automobiles to meet daily needs, extra expense of delivering utilities and services, along with the pollution and social isolation that comes from single-use zoning. This scheme in TFA looks like a good way to bring out the best in American cities and finally walk away from this unsustainable and wasteful settlement pattern that forces people to make car trips just to buy a bottle of milk or a postage stamp. What's the point in living in a city if you can't walk anywhere? You might as well live away out in the wilds.

        And FYI, high density mixed-use zoning is proving to be in high demand [wikipedia.org].

      • Re:Urban Transit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:32PM (#28380131)

        You do realize not every city is a post-apocalyptic hellhole, right? There are options other than living in a gang warzone or living in a secluded suburb miles from anything.

        Perhaps you should get out of your suburb more.

    • Re:Urban Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by harks (534599) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:09PM (#28378441)
      You never had a bicycle? Riding bikes to friends houses was the highlight of living in the 'burbs.
    • Re:Urban Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:19PM (#28379857)

      Yes pack all of the children into Harlem, the Bronx and the worst parts of Brooklyn & Queens (Its truly horrible in some places).

      Take your kids out of nature, grass, trees, clean air... and pack them into a filthy concrete jungle full of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Ask them to inhail that dark purple thick air that circulates the city... which is only visible from OUTSIDE the city when looking in :)

      Yes Mom will no longer have to give you a ride anywhere. Your kids can now either stay locked up in that closet you call an apartment (which costs $2500+ a month.) or they can venture out onto the subways, buses and crowded sidewalks were on average they will meet 1 prostitue, 10 illegal street venders, and 400 other children who's parents dont give a DAMN about them and how they're raised because like you... they let their kids run around in a city.

      White Flight isnt so bad when you realize what families were escaping to.

      The city has a lot to offer, but its generally better for single adults or married adults with carears rather than children. Having children in a city like NY... SUCKS.

  • Dayton (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:55PM (#28378101)
    Unfortunately Dayton, OH should be on that list. Just lost NCR.. you know it's bad when a company that was founded in your city over 100 years ago packs up shop without even giving the host city/state a chance to appease them.
  • by jskoda (1579933) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:56PM (#28378109) Homepage
    This seems like a win-win scenario. Construction companies get hired to demolish the old buildings, which stimulates the economy and if the right buildings get the axe, old run down buildings full of lead paint and asbestos insulation go away and are replaced with meadows, forests or new greener buildings. The catch would be all the geezers coming out of the wood-work to save all the "historical sites"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)

      No reason you can't save the historical sites while demolishing the rest of the neighborhood. If there's a significant building, build a park around it. It'll be in the middle of the wilderness, but that'll just make it all the more interesting.

      I suspect people will be a lot more likely to pay attention to historic sites when they're not in the middle of a boarded-up section of town, and it might be better for the buildings in the long run, since they're less likely to be destroyed in a fire. (Wildfires

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by peragrin (659227)

      In Rochester,NY we have been doing this for years. Some 200-300 abandons homes are destroyed and then the empty lots are resold. Advantagesare less housing for homeless and drug shelters. On the bad side other than cleaning up bad buildings it doesn't help a lot, and someone still has to pay for it.

      I really wish they had portable generator setup so you could do controlled burns and genrate electrcity from the heat produced.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:15PM (#28378575) Journal
      It's a complete waste of effort. The economy grows because we produce things, not because we dig holes and fill them up.

      At one time, everyone in society had to spend their effort on food/shelter production, basic maintenance. Then, as society progressed, farming techniques improved, it wasn't necessary for everyone to be a farmer. The people who didn't need to farm anymore started building more interesting things, like iPods, and books.

      I like my iPod, I'm glad the developers at Apple weren't wasting their effort building things and then demolishing them. For society to progress, we need people to think of new things, not waste their time building things that don't matter. That is the catch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by twidarkling (1537077)

        It's a complete waste of effort. The economy grows because we produce things, not because we dig holes and fill them up.

        So when your city raises taxes to fix the roads in the area no one is living in, and spend resources to fix water mains and sewers in those areas, instead of improving services in areas with people actually there, that's a good thing, right? More taxes for maintenance = good thing?

      • by Trahloc (842734) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:23PM (#28379925) Homepage
        You do realize that its more efficient to demolish an old building that is costing you money to maintain than to pay for it year after year after year? That's what we're talking about, not digging holes and then filling them up. This is the part of maintenance that most people don't think about, the 'throwing away' part. While I hate the green movement in many ways I can't but respect them for forcing people to acknowledge that waste management is an integral part of modern society, a part you seem to be forgetting.
  • Detroit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nautical Insanity (1190003) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:56PM (#28378121)

    Hearing this makes me think of Detroit. Its population is constantly shrinking and much of the city is in disrepair. I've ridden greyhound busses through it a few times and you pass mile after mile of boarded up, dilapidated buildings.

    It makes one wonder what the city would be like if it ended up being completely abandoned, sort of like Rome after the fall of the empire.

    Most likely there would be a half-attempted cleanup effort, but it would probably fail. Demolishing buildings isn't cheap. Returning the land to it's natural state is even more expensive, not to mention nature would probably do it herself over a slightly longer time frame.

    • Re:Detroit (Score:4, Interesting)

      by moosesocks (264553) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:03PM (#28379543) Homepage

      Demolishing buildings isn't cheap.

      Once you own the equipment, it's essentially a matter of paying for labor and fuel.

      Fortunately for detroit, there are extreme levels of unemployment due to the failure of heavy industries. They already have 2/3 of the resources necessary to begin a large-scale demolition project. Seems to me like you'd be able to do it very cheaply, given the abundance of surplus heavy equipment in the city, not to mention the hordes of laborers desperate for employment.

  • Urban Decay? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JonBuck (112195) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:56PM (#28378123)

    This reminds me of the "urban renewal" projects of the 50s and early 60s, when huge sections actually were razed in various major cities. Boston's West End was a victim of this.

    It's widely considered to be one of the stupidest projects the government's ever done.

    Here I thought we were supposed to encourage people to move back into cities so high population densities would make mass transit more viable. Silly me.

    • Re:Urban Decay? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:06PM (#28378365)

      Here I thought we were supposed to encourage people to move back into cities so high population densities would make mass transit more viable. Silly me.

      Actually, if you read the article, I think you'll find that's exactly the idea (and not just making mass transit viable, also garbage collection, policing, etc). The idea is to compact the city that has become only sparsely populated due to everybody leaving, into one or more denser pockets. The problem, of course, is that some old geezer isn't going to want to move out of the old neighborhood and will end up being the only one in the middle of nowhere but still expect his mail to be delivered to his door.

    • Re:Urban Decay? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@xoxFREEBSDy.net minus bsd> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:18PM (#28378639) Homepage Journal

      Part of the point of this is to raise population densities. Right now you have huge tracts of abandoned buildings, with people living here and there among them. It's a huge drain on public resources (providing police and, especially, fire protection to all the abandoned buildings), and doesn't really foster healthy communities.

      Most of the plans that I've seen, including the one in Flint, involve buying up abandoned properties and demolishing them, while simultaneously restoring ones in better areas and encouraging people to move from blighted areas into them. The result is condensing the remaining residents of the city into a smaller, more densely-populated area. More public services in a smaller area, better public transportation, etc.

      They're not trying to chase people out of the cities and into the suburbs or exurbs, quite the opposite. Most of the areas they're trying to get rid of were the original suburbs, and what they are trying to achieve is a rebuilding of the urban core.

      Yeah, it would be great to get people to move in from the suburbs and fill in the high-density rowhousing in places like Baltimore, but that's just not going to happen. Nobody wants to live there, not given the way the areas are now. And those areas aren't going to get better. What's needed is a "rebooting" of cities -- get people back into the core areas, demolish some of the older urban/suburban transitional areas, and show that cities actually work. When people out in the 'burbs see that a city can be a nice place to live again, and not just a ghetto for people who have nowhere else to go, then it'll be time for new construction. (But this time, build mixed-use and actually plan the growth, rather than just letting stuff grow and create huge tracts of transportation-dependent, single-use housing, miles away from commercial or industrial areas.)

      This is the first step towards making cities desirable again.

  • My support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:57PM (#28378135)
    If this plan includes Detroit, I fully support it. Otherwise, I think it's sad and wrong and I oppose it.
  • Detroit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:59PM (#28378191) Homepage
    Detroit seems to be the wisest place to begin with. High crime, lost Stanley cup, agony of the car companies. Let Sillicon Valley become the new city for car makers. Li-Ion rules!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ogive17 (691899)
      They aren't going to build the production facilities in Sillicon Valley, costs are way too high. Maybe the company HQ will be there, but the MFG will probably stay in the mid-west where land is plentiful and cheap and the cost of living is much lower.
  • Pollution? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pugdk (697845) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:59PM (#28378213) Homepage

    I think someone seriously underestimated the hazardous nature of building materials. R

    azing a building containing asbestos [wikipedia.org] or Ammonium bromide [wikipedia.org] which a lot of older buildings contain (fireproofing) and just leaving it there is quite stupid!

  • by smackenzie (912024) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:00PM (#28378233)
    A modest home in a lot of 7 abandoned (or un-sellable) homes is worth very little. But, if the home owners are willing to relocate, they could potentially own a similar home, closer to a "living" civilization, and bordering the nice new woods that has now been created out of all the empty districts. That home is worth a lot more.

    It's obvious that the kind of home growth that we saw over the last ten years is not sustainable for any substantial amount of time. And it's a little ironic that many of the same construction companies that were thrown together to build the homes might transition into companies that are hired to tear down the very same homes... but, having said that, nothing makes me happier to think that we might rollback at least some of the ugly brown areas and return them to Nature.
  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:01PM (#28378249)
    Rent them out to Israeli army for training purposes.
  • Cor! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dr_wheel (671305) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:02PM (#28378287)
    "But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said."


    Ya know they's in barney when the dustcarts dont' e'en have any rubbish to pick up!
  • Tent Cities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:06PM (#28378377) Journal
    This reminds me of the tent houses that were supposedly popping up all over the place a few months back, full of homeless victims of the recession. Turns out the only one (that I could find any real reference to) was in Sacramento, CA, and it was mainly because that city has such a good homeless program. The people living in the tent city weren't homeless because of the recession, they were normal homeless people, incapable or unwilling to find a job.

    The only city they actually mention in the article is Flint, Michigan; but Flint has been having problems long before this recession. The chances of it ever growing to it's former size are about the same as Bodie [bodie.com] ever being populated again: not likely, it's a ghost town.

    The article tries to spin it like it's the end of some American dream of having lots of space, and we are all going to have to start living close together now, because it's cheaper for utilities, etc. Not likely.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:11PM (#28378461) Homepage Journal

    FTFA:

    "Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow," he said.

    take older rust belt cities and remove the suburban sprawl surrounding them and prune them down to their urban core, and then you have a city layout from the days before the rise of the automobile

    as gas prices continue to rise, urban development plans will favor this model of development: tightly clustered cities with good public transportation, surrounded by parkland. a much more humane and livable environment. places like phoenix and las vegas and houston, nothing more than giant sprawling suburbs really, will become inhospitable to affordable living while rust belt cities will develop a new cachet as nice places to live: condos and coops in refurbished historical buildings surrounded by healthy woodlands, with easy public transport or foot traffic to anywhere you want to and need to go

    of course this cachet of "nice place to live" also has to imply some sort of job growth too, but as these rust belt cities shrink, they have ample opportunity to invest in emerging job sectors to bolster that sort of growth

    then the choice between sitting in your car in a traffic jam on the freeway at $4/ gallon gasoline in 105 degree phoenix won't look as nice as walking the charming old refurbished downtowns of historic cities. these old cities have good bones, they just need to be pruned and invested a little in, and natural growth will take hold again

    notice one city not mentioned as ripe for bulldozing: pittsburgh. yet pittsburgh is pretty much a poster child of a rust belt city. why? good planning for investing in future job sectors:

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_612352.html [pittsburghlive.com]

    now compare pittsburgh's sober but cheerful outlook to the armageddeon-level job losses at work in the newer suburban sprawl cities that relied too much on overheated sectors like construction

    detroit and flint and any other city heavily dependent on automobile manufacturing, alas, has a different story than pittsburgh. but this part of the larger picture at play here: the death of the automobile, the death of suburban sprawl, the return to small compact cities with a livable core surrounded by healthy woodland and with good public transportation

    i for one welcome the death of the age of the automobile and the idiotic environmental damage of gas guzzling automobiles and space wasting burbs, and the inhumane anonymity of living in the isolating mcmansions and sitting in traffic jams, in areas of the country no one can survive in without artificial air conditioning

    death to california

    long live ohio

    mark my words: the 1950s trend of everyone moving west will be replaced in 2025 by stories of everyone out west moving to the midwest belt

    for the same reason: better quality of life

    mark my words

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      death to california

      Don't worry. Our state government in Sacramento is working diligently toward that goal. :-P

      Government: We passed the largest state tax increase in U.S. history in the middle of a massive economic slump! Yay!

      California: (falls over face first and vomits jobs and taxpayers into neighboring states. people spend even less due to 10% sales taxes. tax revenues actually go down)

      Govenrment: D'oh! That haz teh FAIL! Who do we do now? I know! Let's raise taxes again! It'll be sure to work differently this time!

      Califo

    • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:26PM (#28378825) Journal

      Hint: "out west" consists of more than California. I envision exactly nobody leaving the Pacific Northwest for anything in the midwest.

      Oh, by the way: Portland (and Oregon at-large) pretty much pioneered the urban planning and growth boundary system that you are cheerleading with your car-hate and enviro-spew in the 1970s.

      • by atomic777 (860023) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:34PM (#28380153)

        Oh, by the way: Portland (and Oregon at-large) pretty much pioneered the urban planning and growth boundary system that you are cheerleading with your car-hate and enviro-spew in the 1970s.

        Sigh. Typical US-centric thinking, even by supposedly enlightened west-coasters.

        The idea of a green belt dates to biblical times [wikipedia.org], and the modern idea of a legislated development-free belt around a rapidly expanding city dates to 1930s London (England)

        But since the London greenbelt happened after the Great Disappearance of the Rest of the World in 1776, you can be forgiven for not knowing about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      "as gas prices continue to rise, urban development plans will favor this model of development:"
      No, people will pressure the market for electric cars.

      "then the choice between sitting in your car in a traffic jam on the freeway at $4/ gallon gasoline in 105 degree phoenix won't look as nice as walking the charming old refurbished downtowns of historic cities."
      until it's 105 below.

      The burbs will always be here, and so will the automobile in some form. It would be stupid to not use that kind of transportation.
      T

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:16PM (#28378593) Homepage Journal
    This is not a bad idea, but will this be considered 'taking' and therefore require that we, the taxpayers, buy the land from the legal owners. I have read that in some cases not even the banks want the place, and have abandoned it along with the owners. Given that we have already given money to banks to cover the losses, I would hope we would not cover the losses again. In addition, given that we have paid for these homes with tax money, we would not waste the asset.

    The issue to me is that hyperinflation that occurred during the early and mid 200's, and the hyperdeflation we are now living with. During the inflatory period, everyone was taking fictional money out of their fictional property values to buy real goods. Banks made money, people got stuff, everyone was happy. The problem now is that, like it was with credit cards, people owe more than they possible can pay, and so the best thing to do is to walk away from the house. All this is covered by taxpayers. We can complain, but nothing can be done.

    I think we just need to admit we have lived through 8 years of insanity, a national coke addiction, get over it, and move on. We don't need to pass blame, or punish people, just solve problems. If population is declining, and there are no jobs, and no people to live in the homes, then let's raze the land and return it to natural habitat. Hell, I say with a significant portion of a development is empty, pay the people to move, and raze the whole thing.

    But we do have families without homes. Families who were priced out of home given the greed of the home investors at the expense of the home owners. It seems that since we have already bailed out the banks and the taxpayers have already in effect covered those mortgages, it seems that the FHA could help families move into the foreclosed homes. Right now the FHA does not want to deal with the average foreclosed home. Right now the FHA thinks that homeless is better than a imperfect home. That a leaky roof is worse than no roof at all. So it seems to me that there is a lot of housing available, and a lot of demand for cheap housing. When I say this the first time, and I saw the brookings institute, I saw it as a plot to maintain unsustainable property values rather than an way to help the country move forward.

  • by amliebsch (724858) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:18PM (#28378631) Journal

    This is understandably a touchy subject for a lot of people. It's hard to overstate the sense of loss; more than that, the sense of historical obliteration. Neighborhoods where once happy, prosperous people lived productive lives are vacant, and one cannot help but feel that those happy, prosperous people are gone, perhaps never to return, and those empty houses stand like tombstones marking the death of their dreams.

    Of course, this is thankfully not really true - those happy and productive people simply moved to other places, where they continue to live out their happy, productive lives. We feel bad about razing these homes because we feel like we are razing the lives of the people that used to occupy them. But those people left those homes behind long ago. They've moved on - so should the rest of us.

    We feel sick about obliterating what should be valuable assets. This is a hard problem too. laborers built these structures, many of them good strong structures, some of them the likes of which will not be seen again. With care, they should be able to last centuries. But a society too obsessed with preserving the past - particularly a past that is not valued - is a moribund society. We should not carelessly annihilate our history. But at the same time we need to remember who we, historically, are:

    We are a dynamic society. We are a dynamic people. The only constant is change. These cities shrank while other cities grew. It is in many ways a reflection on the freedom of our society, that people and businesses decided to leave and go elsewhere. Other places gained while these places lost. Now it's time for the principle of creative destruction to come into play. It's time to give up on what people have freely decided they don't value. It's time to re-allocate resources from failure to profit. It's time to clear the landscape of the ruins of yesterday, to make room for the possibilities of the future.

    The ideas in this article are on the right track. We can't get sentimental about a past that is gone, never to return. Raze the unowned buildings, now sheltering criminals and vagrants. Hell, de-annex the empty land and return it to the township. Sell whatever mobile capital goods are underutilized. Wipe the ordinance book clean and start over again. Put every budget item and every tax on the chopping block. Clear the path for future opportunity, or it will never arrive.

  • by rlseaman (1420667) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:27PM (#28378859)

    Take a look at http://www.worldwithoutus.com/index2.html [worldwithoutus.com]. Houses decay if they are not maintained. They decay rather rapidly. Unless ownership can be conveyed in some fashion to attentive stewards, a house will come down one way or another. Far better to plan the inevitable downsizing than to pretend it isn't going to happen.

    All engineering should consider the full lifecycle. These houses were built in more optimistic times, but was it thought they would stand forever? The only real difference between sustainable technologies and cancerous growth is that the plan for obsolescence includes the needs of the many, not just the wants of the few.

    "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
    What profit has a man from all his labor
    In which he toils under the sun?

  • While I can... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:46PM (#28379189)

    While I can see the merit of this from the perspective of the city having to deal with the upkeep of such lands, my mind keeps coming back to the idea that this is more a move to increase, or bolster, declining property values by simply adjusting supply in regards to demand.

    Is this a move on the part of the "haves" trying to maintain the value of property that they will be selling/renting to the "have-nots"?

    Despite the common-sense this proposal appears to be based on, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that this may not be in the best interests of those most hurt by the current recession. Sure, maybe this will free up tax dollars for more important programs, but will it drive up rent prices and nullify any savings for the low-income familys? Will those freed-up tax dollars simply be spent on rent subsidies?

    The one good thing in all this, something I have no doubt about, is the return to nature. Now, THAT is something I have a hard time finding fault with.

    All in all, maybe we should give it a little more time to examine the long-term results of this plan before throwing the rest of the country into 'dozer mode.

  • by jchawk (127686) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:56PM (#28379415) Homepage Journal

    I live in an area that would be directly impacted by this type of plan. I own an old home in the North Side of Pittsburgh and I am in absolute support of this. 1/2 of the houses on my street are abandoned and boarded up. If the City were to come in and demolish them (which they have slowly started to do) it would not only increase the safety of the area. It would also raise the property values which would in turn increase tax income to the City.

    The problem we're faced with is no new development will happen in parts of the area until we purge the beyond repair buildings. Why would any erect a new structure next to a building that can barely stand?

    I certainly think this idea is better then doing what we've been doing for 30+ years. Letting the urban core of Pittsburgh slowly rot while the young professionals continue to avoid the City for the suburbs. City living in Pittsburgh is on it's way back in areas that are in better shape, demolishing the buildings that are not salvageable will only accelerate this renewal!

  • by grassy_knoll (412409) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:21PM (#28379891) Homepage

    http://blog.mlive.com/flint-city-beat/2009/06/flint_takes_international_spot.html [mlive.com]

    Kildee said this morning that there seems to be "a bit of hysteria about the whole scenario" and the Obama administration did not ask him to spread the word about the shrinking cities concept.

    Which is direct contradiction of TFA [telegraph.co.uk]:

    The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

    Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

  • by An dochasac (591582) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:59PM (#28380527)
    Yes there are parts of any sprawling American city which would be better off if torn down and rebuilt. This sounds too much like yet another bailout (as if $13.9 trillion [fdic.gov] tax dollars thrown into banks ^H^H^H^ black holes wasn't enough.) This is simply a plan to reduce property supply, prop up property prices and therefore bail out banks and property developers (generally wealthier with more $olitical influen$e than tenants and mortgage holders.) It is exactly like the government destruction of fruit during the Great Depression in order to prop up cannerys and megafarms:

    "...And the failure hands over the State like a great sorrow. The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit--and kerosene spayed over the golden mountains." - From "The Grapes of Wrath", John Steinbeck 1939

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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