Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The wrecking ball

This picture by David Schalliol is fascinating for many reasons.

Threatened with Demolition

This home is on Chicago's South Side.  It is in walking distance to the green line elevated at 35th, the Metra station at 35, and the red line station on 35th.  It is close to some parks and White Sox baseball field.  It is also near the Dan Ryan Expressway.  It is about 4 miles to Chicago's tallest landmark, downtown's Willis Tower (neé Sears Tower).

As you can see it is an astonishingly beautiful home.  This sort of architecture is getting rare.

This house is slated for demolition.  It is fascinating how a single family residence close to downtown and accessible to transit can face the wrecking ball.  It is easy to lament the destruction of such a magnificent home, but sometimes the alternative is more terrible.  The alternative is feral houses.  If I were a resident of this neighborhood I would much rather see an empty field than an empty house.

This highlights the importance of good governance.  The city of Chicago established the Fast Track Abatement program in 1993 to facilitate the removal of blight.  The city of Detroit established the Land Bank in 2008 for the same purpose.  During that 15 year lag the city of Detroit lost considerable population.  Feral houses are a symptom of a larger dysfunction in Detroit; a reflection of the failure of the political institutions of the city.  If Detroit established a similar program in the mid 90s much of the excess housing supply would be cleared, preventing the build up of blight.

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