« Smoking: The Post-Gazette has Officially Gone Bonkers | Main | Time for a Ban on Baby Bottles? More Public Health News »



Correct me if I'm wrong Sam, but as I recall the City of Pittsburgh didn't use Eminent Domain to take the 5th/Forbes properties, but instead opted to acquire them amicably.

Sam M


I tried to post this earlier but it didn't take. Sorry for the delay.

At any rate, as far as I know you are correct. Mayor Murphy swore off eminent domain in 2000--although not necessarily because he was against it on moral grounds. Here are some details:


I did not mean to imply that the current Fifth/Forbes debate revolves around eminent domain. At least for now.

Still, I think Kelo is an important issue because it appears to have had a major impact on how development gets done. To wit, what a municipality CAN do might have a huge impact on what it will even TRY to do.

Moreover, the Kelo case is an intriguing study in the separation of powers as the courts and legislatures jockey for position--or to abandon positions.

Again, as for Pittsburgh, I think that the "failed project" list to which I linked mentions us with regard to Murphy's adventures, not O'Connor's.

Jonathan Potts

There is an argument to be made that the threat of eminent domain was never really taken off the table, and that this provided a disincentive against property owners making upgrades to their buildings. You can judge for yourself whether that was a legitimate complaint or if it was an excuse for allowing buildings to detiorate.

sean mcdaniel

speaking of walls crumbling down...there's an article in the PG today about the city demolishing a building on forbes/market where the back wall collapsed. i worked in that area 30 years ago...and a lot of the buildings are in no better shape now than they were then. owners let the buildings go to hell when their customers disappeared. seriously, i still contend that one of the biggest reasons why businesses of all types and sizes left downtown is the reduction of the lunch hour. from about the late 1970s to the late 1990s, when i last worked downtown, i watched that 60 minutes shrink to a half hour or less. at my last two downtown jobs, people rarely ate out at lunch or shopped, compared to nearly almost everyone 30 years ago...and let's not even mention that bottom end wages haven't kept up with price increases.

30 minutes is barely enough time to put your computer to sleep, catch an elevator and walk across the street for a big gulp, let alone sit down for lunch at a real restaurant.

imagine dolly parton trying to sing about the average work day in 2006 ...working 8:30 to 5:30 or 6, and taking shit home to make a living.

oh the times they are a changin...and the work will set you free!


I've often wondered if anyone has measured the tipping point in this sort of scenario, where the projected payoff for not fixing up a property in a "blighted" area outweights the value of fixing up a property. At a certain point, it is more rational to not do any work on a property with the expectation that there's going to be a buyout by the local municipality.

I think that would interesting to see if someone had something like that.

sean mcdaniel

i don't think that many downtown building owners have been holding onto property for the last 25 years hoping for a big windfall. it's just a matter of people being stuck with rundown structures (through neglect, mostly willful) and using them for tax write offs. maybe the last five years that mindset has changed and these guys are hoping for a huge jackpot...but i don't think that was on their minds a quarter of a century ago or more. it would be interesting to see if anyone besides the URA was buying up these types of places.

The comments to this entry are closed.