This week, Changing Gears kicks off a look at Empty Places across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again. In the first part of our series, reporter Dustin Dwyer explores the economic and social cost of emptiness. Things may be better in some neighborhoods, he says, but problems still abound.
Vacant homes in Detroit. Photo: Mary's Detroit Photoblog
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no one number that tells the story of all the empty houses, storefronts, offices and factories in the Midwest. But there are many numbers that tell part of the story.
Like this: One out of ten. One out of ten homes in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin was vacant in 2010. That’s according to the U.S. Census.
Or these numbers: Twenty-two percent of office space in the Cleveland area is empty. Chicago offices are 19 percent empty. Metro Detroit: almost 27 percent.
Those numbers are from the real estate firm Grubb & Ellis. Fred Liesveld from the firm’s Detroit office says those numbers have actually been getting better for almost a year. He said of the 27 percent vacancy figure: “We haven’t seen that in a decade. That’s just great news.”
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As Changing Gears kicks off its look at Empty property and places across the Midwest, here’s an assessment that may help put the problem in perspective.
According to AtlanticCities, 19 types of buildings dominated the post-war landscape, and share the blame for dragging the country into its recession. The list comes from University of Michigan professor Christopher Leinberger, an urban-use strategist.
Photo by Buckeye Impressions via Flickr
They include supermarket anchored strip malls; shopping malls with big stores at the corners; suburban detached starter homes; and self-storage facilities. They’re all designed for suburban communities where driving is required — and don’t suit a nation whose population may be shifting back to cities.
Now, a number of those places are emptying out, leaving behind headaches for state and local governments. That’s a subject we’ll be exploring in our series, which starts tomorrow. Continue reading
All over our region, the past is still present, in the form of empty buildings, property, even corporate campuses. The cost to our cities, in lost tax revenue, and in blight, is enormous.
But entrepreneurs, businesses and government agencies are taking steps to fill in those empty spaces. Throughout November, Changing Gears will take a look at reusing our empty places and the challenges involved. Our first report, from Dustin Dwyer, will air this Wednesday.
In some cases, it’s as simple as taking a building — like Union High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. (my
Union Square condominiums, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Photo by Micki Maynard
mother’s alma mater) — and finding a new use for it, such as condominiums. In others, it requires patience and cutting through lots of red tape.
We’d love to hear from you. What’s the best re-use that you’ve seen of a previously empty building? Let us know. Have you bought empty property? How do you plan to use it?
If you’ve got pictures, include them in your answers or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the location and how we can get in touch with you.