The practice known as “nuisance abatement” – using municipal ordinances to justify the destruction of neglected or abandoned properties – continues to take a toll on overlooked resources across the country. The process can be especially devastating to small towns which are already struggling economically. For many such towns, aging architecture may be their biggest potential draw; few small communities have much else to offer visitors but their inherent character. Small town leaders frequently fail to understand the appeal of that which they take for granted.
Such short-sightedness can easily thwart growth rather than encourage it. It is a fallacy to believe that a vacant lot is preferable to a dilapidated building with potential. In a small community where housing prices are already lower than the national average it is much more likely that someone will buy and renovate an existing fixer-upper than it is that they will build a brand new structure on a vacant lot – new construction is not cost effective in a dying town.
Economics aside, the newly leveled lot in most cases looks worse than the property that was “abated”. Seriously – how do the vacant lots in the photos below do anything to encourage an investor to want to build on the site? For less than the cost of demolition and dirt work, these buildings could have had their fronts patched and painted – such an effort would have made the town look much more attractive than the wasteland shown below.
Two recently leveled lots in a rural community are featured below. In the first example, three small commercial storefronts will never have the opportunity to give an entrepreneur an affordable start in business. In the second example, a brick building of interesting character will never be able to be harnessed as apartments or businesses:
Meanwhile, a few blocks away…
There you have it – an unfortunate mentality which ensures mediocrity in small towns and big cities alike across the country. On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s be thankful for the historic resources we still possess, commit to retain them and work to educate others as to their potential.