I’ve mentioned before (here and here) that my hometown of Pittsburgh has an abysmal record of using eminent domain to achieve top-down, centralized urban planning goals, with disastrous results. Poor neighborhoods destroyed, a desolate and soulless downtown, and a languishing area downtown around Fifth Ave. and Forbes Ave. that the city has been trying to develop in its control-and-manage way for years. The city tried to use eminent domain to condemn properties for the Fifth and Forbes development, but one of the Institute for Justice’s best successes was in defeating that exercise of eminent domain for economic development.
Friday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had a column by Jonathan Potts arguing that the city should abandon its central planning ways and see how vibrant development can be when it’s done organically:
The city’s plan has been doomed from the start because it is based on a false assumption — that the best way to rejuvenate the shopping corridor is to turn it over to a single developer who would proceed from a comprehensive plan drawn up by the city and its planners.
American cities have been following this top-down blueprint for 50 years and always with the same abysmal results. Truly vibrant urban neighborhoods develop organically, with minimal interference from government and according to the needs of those who live and work there. Yet thanks to Pittsburgh officials, Downtown’s commercial district continues to decay, its vacant storefronts attracting no one save graffiti artists and vagrants.
He goes on to discuss how downtown property owners, not politically connected suburban developers, are the ones with the best local knowledge to know how to turn buildings into attractive and appealing housing.
Thanks to Pittsblog for the link.