The City is looking to step-up its demolition program to combat what it “defines” as urban blight. By the destruction of selected homes in specific areas of the urban core, the City hopes – and I use the word lightly – to bring new development to the areas left by the destruction of homes. Not long ago, the City set out on a path to do just that with the Renaissance Point project – a project that so far has yielded very little in the way of the goals that were set.
The reality is that a razed home is a lost home and leaves in its place nothing more than a vacant, weed-prone lot that will more than likely never be used as a home site again.
The Fort Wayne and Allen County areas have historically been overbuilt with homes. With a county plan commission that has rarely met a subdivision it didn’t like, the march toward a subdivision littered county is all but assured. With subdivision construction comes flight from the inner core of the city – or vice versa. But either way, the urban core is being decimated by a policy of subdivision construction coupled with a policy of demolishing older homes found in the urban core.
A grant application prepared by the city claims that over the past 30 years, 50,000 families have left the urban core. As part of a larger federal grant application, the city is seeking $4.8 million to raze 400 homes throughout the city, again with a focus on the southeast. That is 400 empty lots, and, even if the city uses its program of selling the empty lots to the neighboring homeowners, an empty lot does not have the value of one with improvements.
As the city pursues its war on the urban core, a soon-to-be released study by IPFW opposes the strategy of razing older homes, and, instead suggests that the better policy is to secure the homes for future restoration – sometimes called mothballing. Mothballing can be a solution to the rising vacancy rates of the city’s older neighborhoods if the city is truly interested in salvaging what is left of the core of Fort Wayne rather than waging war by demolition.