Vacate Your Premises Now; Your Government Might Want It Someday
In addition to taking land for planned private projects, local governments sometimes take land just because they think they might want the land sometime in the future. Unlike the court deciding the Kansas City, Missouri, case, most courts reject attempts by government to take property with no idea what to do with it. Connecticut courts rejected the condemnation of a yacht club in Bridgeport and homes in New London because the cities had no plans for the property. So did a Michigan court reviewing a condemnation supposedly for a stadium in Detroit.
It should come as no surprise that when the government takes property hoping to use the property sometime, the land often sits empty. That’s what happened in Dallas, Texas, where the City condemned an apartment building, kicked out all the residents, and now has left the building standing empty. Phoenix, Arizona, condemned a grocery store and ended up with a vacant lot. One project in Maplewood, Missouri, is being built now on downtown property that has remained vacant since the City condemned it for “urban renewal” 30 years ago.
Projects also fail when developers opt out of a project or decide the deal isn’t sweet enough for them. Cincinnati, Ohio, ended up with a parking lot when Nordstrom backed out of a planned development. Elgin, Illinois, has been condemning a local rare coin shop even though the development project fell through. Atlantic City, of course, has condemned many properties for casinos that were never built. East Hartford forced a local bakery to close under threat of condemnation but also ended up with no developer, no bakery and no project. And the New York Stock Exchange decided it didn’t need a new headquarters after the agency condemned all the property. Now New York is returning some buildings and footing a huge bill. Even the threat of condemnation can destroy neighborhoods, like Sunset Hills, Missouri, where many homeowners in a once closely-knit neighborhood sold their homes under threat of condemnation to a developer for a project that never materialized.
Far too often, owners lose their homes and businesses for projects that don’t get built or that never existed in the first place.
Sources: All of these situations are described in this report under their respective cities.