Redevelopment Wreck in Iowa

Nearly a year ago, city officials in Burlington, Iowa, a small city on the Mississippi, began invoking eminent domain on the properties of elderly residents who lived in the Manor neighborhood of the city, a WW-II era development. Click for the more background.

Yesterday, just before start of the Iowa caucuses, City Manager Bruce Slagle announced that the developer for whom the city had seized the homes had suddenly pulled out of the project.

According to the Burlington Hawk Eye, the developer, Minnesota-based Robert Muir Co., told the city its vision to have a mix of shops and restaurants built in the neighborhood “no longer fit within the company’s goals.”

So, Burlington, Iowa, is now saddled with an empty 24-acre site that has already cost the city $5.16 million to acquire. The city plans on increased tax revenue from the development to gain back some of that money, but first they have to find another developer.

While there is hope for the future, Burlington is further proof that having a plan is not enough to justify the government’s seizure of private property and that city officials need to be more skeptical about their grand visions of redevelopment. While the city officials might have the city’s interest at heart, developers have their own interests, too, and the two might not always be shared.