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When an Idea Takes Hold: Demolition's Contribution To Urban Renewal

News stories, blogs and op-ed articles are appearing throughout the media, espousing the benefits that demolition can bring to community redevelopment and urban renewal.

By: Cheryl Caulfield, IOM, CAE 

It's interesting to see an idea take hold of the nation's consciousness.  Once it does, it seems to spread like wildfire.  We in the demolition industry have noticed a growing number of stories appearing lately in the news media that praise the positive effects that demolition can have on urban renewal and a more sustainable environment.  

One of the most notable items that have appeared is an op-ed article published in the New York Times suggesting that a portion of a $16 billion-plus Bank of America mortgage settlement that is expected to go through soon be dedicated to urban renewal.   By that, the writer suggests that “meaningful cash goes to the demolition and repurposing of abandoned homes.”  

The writer says it's an “enormous opportunity…to help the forgotten victims of the mortgage crisis.  These are people who still pay their mortgages and property taxes but are caught in the devastating cycle that zombie houses can create in a neighborhood.”  The article points to studies that are showing that the demolition of distressed properties “reduces foreclosure rates in the surrounding neighborhoods and can improve the values of nearby homes.” 

Another news item in the Gaston Gazette serving the community in the Charlotte, NC, area explains how a firm working to redevelop a formerly contaminated industrial site says it now has 10 companies successfully doing business at the location.  It quotes Tom KcKittrick, president of the commercial real estate firm redeveloping the site as saying “We're basically recycling this entire site.”  This echoes what we at the National Demolition Association have been saying for years: we recycle the nation's most valuable resource, its land. 

Turning to the financial industry, we saw a blog entitled “Demolition as Stimulus” in the highly respected economics blog known as Calculated Risk, authored by economics expert Bill McBride.  He endorsed the message in the recent New York Times column mentioned above, and pointed to an earlier blog he had written proposing a demolition program be part of President Obama's stimulus package.  “First, if any state or local governments have old idle buildings waiting for future plans, why not demolish them today? This would provide jobs for local workers and prepare the land for future development and remove an eyesore,” he says. 

Mr. McBride concludes by saying that a demolition program would not only help in building communities, but it would also “prepare the land for renewed growth in the future.”   This is exactly what demolition contractors have always been doing: removing dilapidated structures, creating greenspace, restoring historical buildings, and making our towns and cities beautiful and useful once again.

About the Author: Cheryl Caulfield, IOM, CAE, is Executive Director of the National Demolition Association, a trade organization representing more than 800 companies in the North American demolition industry.



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