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Demolition as Stimulus

January 12, 2009

Tear It Down?

Tear it down?  Picture by Jeramey Jannene of Urban Milwaukee

Via Calculated Risk comes the idea of utilizing stimulus funds to demolish abandoned buildings and other structures that would cost more for local governments to tear down later.

As the Obama team has noted, properly chosen infrastructure projects provide the best bang for the buck. These projects provide jobs today, and they are an investment in the future. We need more projects …

And since Obama asked for suggestions … How about a demolition program?

First, if any state and 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. The Federal Government could pay for this demolition.

Second, how about a tax credit for demolishing residential housing units? In many areas there are old, vacant housing units. These are a public nuisance, but the owners have no motivation to demolish the property. Why not provide a tax credit if the properties are demolished in 2009? This could eliminate housing units from the housing stock, provide local jobs, and possibly remove a public nuisance.

A demolition plan would probably only add a few billion to the stimulus package, but it would be well targeted providing jobs in many communities and prepare the land for renewed growth in the future.

This sounds like a really great idea.  Why not extend it to underused roads and bridges? The Hoan Bridge and 794 interchange in the Third Ward take up an incredible amount of space in an area that is ripe for revitalization (or, at least, it was before the economic downturn).   Downtown activity drops off dramatically when you cross south under the highway, where the only thing that’s in business are cheap parking spots for workers commuting from places that would be better served by enhanced transit service.

  1. January 15, 2009 8:42 am

    I’m all for replacing the Hoan with a lower bridge and opening up more area in the Third Ward for development. But the idea of tearing buildings down as stimulus has been tried, it was called “urban renewal”, and it was a very very bad thing for cities.

  2. January 16, 2009 4:20 pm

    As someone who lives in a southern suburb of MIlwaukee and who uses the Hoan Bridge on a daily basis, I can say without reservation I’d support replacing the Hoan with a lower bridge and a highway that isn’t raised. However, I believe I’m in the minority…

  3. January 17, 2009 12:27 am

    Hi Dave, I think the thought about demolition was related more to specific buildings around the country that are in a state of repair that would require demolition. Less of an urban renewal and more of a “make work” type thing. I agree that simply tearing buildings down wouldn’t help much.

    But… demolition of the Hoan is an idea that really ought to be studied further. I live southwest of the it and it’s truly a dilapidated and unnecessary road in its current shape. The initial outcry was strange because no one suggested that we just cap the end of the road and say good-bye to St. Francis and the rest of the south suburbs. As much as I love exploring the area under the bridge and across the rivers, it’s an area that’s prime for development of some kind.

    Thanks for the comments!

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