- Two blocks away from my house, there is a 5500 sf building on a 25,500 sf lot--a FAR of
0.22. Formerly a Chinese restaurant, the building spent about two years abandoned, and is
currently being modified to host a Comedy Zone.
This sounds like something that would happen on the corner of a suburban block full of
strip shopping centers. Nope--this happened right in the heart of so-called downtown,
next door to a turn-of-the-century building.
I have a feeling that one of the reasons for the presence of lots of abandoned property is
twofold. One, it is quite common to not even know who your neighbors are--even
downtown, most buildings are entered from the door facing the parking area. Abandoned
property owners feel zero pressure from neighbors to keep up the appearance.
Two, property prices are artificially low in an auto-centric city. That 5500 sf commercial
building near my house that went abandoned for a year? In a carfree city, that lot size
might have been 6000 sf--not 25,500--and the cost would have been similar. Instead of
buying 2000 sf homes on 10,000 sf lots, families will be buying similarly priced 2000 sf
homes on lots ranging from 1000 to 3000 sf (depending on district layout, distance to
To those of you living in Europe: in pre-auto-centric cities in Europe, how often do you
run into abandoned properties? What's the turnaround time between occupying tenants or
Oh, and I'm not talking about a student-oriented business that shuts down for the
summer, or even a property that takes several months to find a tenant or buyer. I'm
talking about properties where it's obvious that the owner has lost all interest in selling or
renting the property--no "for sale" sign, no utilities, overgrown vegetation, and possibly
burglarized and turned into a homeless campsite or druggie hangout.
A friend of mine used to work for a grocery store chain, and he said that frequently, large
chain stores are intentionally abandoned--they will maintain a lease or ownership of an
unused store with the sole intent of preventing a competitor from moving in. In many
cases, the chain store has built a new location very close by.