Building Codes to Deal With Abandoned Big Boxes

Today from the Streetsblog Network, a report from Charlotte, N.C., on the city’s efforts to deal with derelict big box stores. Mary Newsom at The Naked City reports that a proposed new building code to address the problem is in the works:

blog_uptons.jpgAn abandoned store in Charlotte, NC.

The issue is important for neighborhoods where retailers have left
buildings behind and the buildings sit, empty, for months. (Take a look
at the photo at right, of the old Albemarle Road Upton’s, built in 1978,
photo taken in May.) Sometimes the vacancy occurs because a retail
chain goes belly up; other times the company opens a new store,
typically on a suburban greenfield site, and leaves the older building.
Those vacant and decaying stores have the effect of signaling to other
retailers: "Don’t move here, retail doom awaits!" And the aura of decay
can send a clear signal to other potential investors, too, of an area
in decline.…

To their credit, the city planners have begun
pushing developers of new big box stores to agree to language in the
rezoning agreement that puts some requirements on the retailer if the
store goes vacant: keep up the building, help market it to new tenants,
don’t put a noncompete clause on the property. But that doesn’t give
the city any leverage against abandoned commercial properties built
without any such requirements.

The city
currently requires vacant nonresidential properties to be secure. The
new code would extend to occupied buildings, and would require
properties to be sanitary and safe, too. It would require property
owners to maintain exterior walls, roofs, windows, etc. Broken windows
and doors, holes in roofs and walls, garbage on the site and rodent or
insect infestations would be potential violations. Near as I can tell,
there’s very little opposition to it from anywhere, so it should pass
easily in a few weeks.

Anyone out there know of other communities with similar ordinances? It seems they would create some disincentive for the type of slash-and-burn development Newsom mentions, where retailers abandon old sites in favor of new ones further out in the suburbs, leaving behind a desolated landscape.

More from around the network: California High Speed Rail Blog weighs in on the issue of how to price high-speed rail travel. St. Louis Urban Workshop looks at Missouri’s $4 billion road project and how it would be funded (a sales tax?). And the Chicago Bicycle Advocate links to a video on bikes and the law created as a training aid for the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Department of Transportation.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Did Portland’s New Parking Mandates Force Housing Costs Up?

|
There was a window a few years ago when Portland allowed developers to construct large apartment buildings without any parking. But even in Portland there’s pressure to subsidize cars at the expense of housing affordability. In 2013, city leaders decided to require at least one space per five units in buildings with 30 or more apartments. Larger buildings […]
Even though they weren't asked for it, consultant Kimley-Horn drew a fantasy map that would involve new projects designed and built by firms like Kimley-Horn. Image via CATS

Charlotte Transit Has Problems That Expensive Fantasy Maps Won’t Fix

|
Kimley-Horn, a multinational consulting firm looking to plan the next phases of the Charlotte area's rail expansion, also has ideas for new rail lines above and beyond the region's long-term blueprint -- projects that would be designed and built, naturally, by multinational consulting firms like Kimley-Horn. Trouble is, the firm's fantasy exercise does nothing to address the real challenges facing Charlotte's transit network.

Development Near Transit Too Pricey? Build More Transit

|
Charlotte, North Carolina’s new Lynx light rail system has proven to be tremendously popular. So popular that as each new rail segment is built out, it has spurred a boom in real estate development. The result has been an urbanist’s dream of transit-oriented growth in many ways — density, mixed uses, walkability. Mary Newsom, a […]

The Federal Government’s Smart Growth-Inspired Landlord

|
Robert Peck says he’ll gladly pay more to locate office buildings near transit – the time saved commuting makes it worthwhile. Peck isn’t any old office manager. He’s the commissioner of the GSA Public Buildings Service, also known as “the landlord for the civilian federal government.” He’s in charge of acquiring office space for all […]

Parking Madness: New York City vs. Wilkes-Barre

|
If there’s one thing to take away from Parking Madness, it’s that surface parking disasters have struck cities great and small, victimizing boomtowns and economically struggling places alike. Nowhere is immune. Yesterday the parking lots around the Cotton Bowl propelled Dallas over the downtown Duluth waterfront. Today we have a David vs. Goliath pairing with Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, taking on New […]

A View of the Suburban Ghost Towns Surrounding Charlotte

|
The decline of the exurbs — how real is it? Images like this, from Charlotte photographer Nancy Pierce, offer a compelling glimpse of how recent development spread too far before the bust. The photos were shot about 20 miles from Charlotte. Mary Newsom at the Naked City featured Pierce’s photos recently as a sort of cautionary tale, but she notes […]