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Thread: Excess capacity - too many developed, but vacant subdivisions

  1. #1
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Excess capacity - too many developed, but vacant subdivisions

    Is it like this where you are? What were they thinking?





    http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/...32333752.shtml

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I would be buying those lots up with every penny I had. For now it acts as a buffer, but with utilities and already platted, in the future it will get developed. I would pay 10% of the asking price if that.

    Around here we have developers still trying to get large plats approved. I am not sure why as we have plenty of housing stock. I think the glut will last for at least 10 years if not longer. If we didn't build a new subdivision between now and then I would support that.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I think it is pretty cool. You get all the urban utilities (I presume), but effectively have acres to yourselve.

    The extra supply of vacant platted lots isn't too much of an issue to me. The issue is many municipalities have placed structure SF minimums (ie 1,400 SF+) on the future houses that prevent the sale/development of these lots.
    Last edited by mendelman; 08 Nov 2010 at 12:36 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Destinee?

    Looking at old aerial photos of the Buffalo area in the late 1920s, I'd imagine it's not too much different than what it would have been like living in a speculative subdivision during the Great Depression. Your bungalow or Dutch Colonial, a grid of streets extending as far as the eye can see, with only a few houses on the horizon.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Skokie, just north of Chicago has blocks with one or two 1920s bungalows and two-flats and the rest of the homes will be post-war era. Must of been mighty quiet for a few decades on those blocks.

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Skokie, just north of Chicago has blocks with one or two 1920s bungalows and two-flats and the rest of the homes will be post-war era. Must of been mighty quiet for a few decades on those blocks.
    Same as the neighborhoods subdivided between 1925 and 1929 in Arlington Heights, IL. Though, for those who built in 1928 in a (now) central Arlington Heights subdivision, you could at least still walk to the small downtown and train station.

    I doubt the people now in their exurban Georgia barely developed subdivision can walk to anything, but vacant platted lots - that commerical node that was going to front the subdivision or be down the road is likely completely unbuilt.

    Although I said it is cool in my first post, that was from a purely academic position - I wouldn't want to live there myself.
    Last edited by mendelman; 08 Nov 2010 at 3:04 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    I agree that this is normal and occurred before. One thing that may be different is the theft of building material today. Around here we have a bizarre mix of platted lots with no streets to them, half-built subdivisions, lots of foreclosed homes, and I'm still dumpster diving for scrap lumber from clueless developers continuing to build homes. Very strange, but the wood, irrigation, and metal waste I don't mind.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I did an analysis for a developer in the Chicago region just as the market was turning. He was looking at acreage that had sold twice in the last five years, and the owner now wanted $20,000+ per acre. By my estimate, there were enough approved single family lots and condo plats to meet the demand for development for beyond the next twenty years.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    To a certain extent it sounds like an argument in support of growth boundaries, no?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Same as the neighborhoods subdivided between 1925 and 1929 in Arlington Heights, IL. Though, for those who built in 1928 in a (now) central Arlington Heights subdivision, you could at least still walk to the small downtown and train station.
    This is interesting for me to read as Arlington Heights was the town I grew up and I lived in this exact area (right on Arlington Heights Road). Living there throughout the mid-70s through the 80s, and being within walking distance to downtown I found that as a family we really didn't partake much in the downtown area. There was the Jewell supermarket and a couple of restaurants but that was about it.

    I realize now its downtown has gotten more dense and I there are more amenities as a result, but back in the 80s I think most families drove to or towards Schaumberg for their wants and needs.

    I do feel thankful for growing up there though, great town.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Destinee?

    Looking at old aerial photos of the Buffalo area in the late 1920s, I'd imagine it's not too much different than what it would have been like living in a speculative subdivision during the Great Depression. Your bungalow or Dutch Colonial, a grid of streets extending as far as the eye can see, with only a few houses on the horizon.
    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Skokie, just north of Chicago has blocks with one or two 1920s bungalows and two-flats and the rest of the homes will be post-war era. Must of been mighty quiet for a few decades on those blocks.
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Same as the neighborhoods subdivided between 1925 and 1929 in Arlington Heights, IL. Though, for those who built in 1928 in a (now) central Arlington Heights subdivision, you could at least still walk to the small downtown and train station.

    I doubt the people now in their exurban Georgia barely developed subdivision can walk to anything, but vacant platted lots - that commerical node that was going to front the subdivision or be down the road is likely completely unbuilt.

    Although I said it is cool in my first post, that was from a purely academic position - I wouldn't want to live there myself.
    This was a very common pattern in most of the country, I think. People had big plans in the 1920s -- and they came to ruin for nearly twenty years because of economic conditions and then war.

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Skokie, just north of Chicago has blocks with one or two 1920s bungalows and two-flats and the rest of the homes will be post-war era. Must of been mighty quiet for a few decades on those blocks.
    I think I've posted these images from South Euclid, Ohio before.









    There's several subdivisions in South Euclid that were originally intended as upscale developments. A few large houses were built in the 1920s, the Depression and WWII hit, and the remaining lots sold for pennies on the dollar, which were developed with starter homes in the 1950s. I call the phenomenon Upscale Downscale.

    An interesting variant of Upscale Downscale in Buffalo: a vacant lot in an otherwise wealthy neighborhood that was mostly developed in the 1920s would often be developed with a mundane, middle-class ranch house in the 1950s.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    The extra supply of vacant platted lots isn't too much of an issue to me. The issue is many municipalities have placed structure SF minimums (ie 1,400 SF+) on the future houses that prevent the sale/development of these lots.
    Additionally, at least where I work, we have many platted undeveloped lots, but part of the PUD approval required a specific set of models that were permitted for the development. I think these types of restrictions can really hamper the development of the vacant lots, because potential buyers/builders of the lot(s) may not be able to use the pre-approved house plans.

    I think this is the big difference between the present situation and the situation in the post-1929 era. It will be interesting to watch it play out.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    If you take a look at google earth images of the western shore of the Salton Sea in California you will see the outlines of literally hundreds of streets and cul-de-sacs. There were plans to develop the area in the 1950s, but promised improvements to the seashore's water quality never happened and I think the developer went belly-up and the area returned to the desert, so to speak.

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    If you take a look at google earth images of the western shore of the Salton Sea in California you will see the outlines of literally hundreds of streets and cul-de-sacs. There were plans to develop the area in the 1950s, but promised improvements to the seashore's water quality never happened and I think the developer went belly-up and the area returned to the desert, so to speak.
    The whole Salton Sea situation is a really interesting one and I came across a great blog full of pictures from there a couple years ago... I'll have to see if I can find it again.


    Regarding the article and the current situation, there are some some subdivisions in Macomb County, Michigan that have these problems. Macomb County was one of the fastest growing counties in the state in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, especially towards the north end in places like Washington, Chesterfield, Shelby, and Macomb Townships. You can drive through any of these townships now and see many half-finished subdivisions.

    Sure, living in one might give you a quieter neighborhood with lots of outdoor space but most of them were built with the assumption that after a minimum number of homes were built, associations would take over and perform street maintenance, plowing, etc. I have a friend who lives in a community where this happened - there are about 10 occupied houses, maybe 15 unoccupied, and probably another 50 cleared lots. Many with basements dug (some even had the concrete poured), piles of rotting lumber and rusty nails and other building supplies and even though the roads are paved, every time it rains they turn into mud from all the runoff. It really is a pain and extremely unsightly. And if you don't have four wheel drive, don't bother trying to visit after a snowstorm in the winter. They have had all sorts of legal problems with trying to get their builder to finish building, clean things up, or sell the empty lots to the people who already live there.

    And since the trend here has been to build detached site condo developments instead of just single-family housing, these developers are often locked into building homes of a particular style and quality so when they offer to resume building but putting in smaller houses, the homeowners who are already there fight them claiming it's a violation of their contract. It's just a mess for everybody involved.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  16. #16
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Regarding the article and the current situation, there are some some subdivisions in Macomb County, Michigan that have these problems. Macomb County was one of the fastest growing counties in the state in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, especially towards the north end in places like Washington, Chesterfield, Shelby, and Macomb Townships. You can drive through any of these townships now and see many half-finished subdivisions.
    My in-laws were part of the beginning of the recent suburban push in Macomb Co/Shelby Twp. They built a largish 2-story in a sub off 25 mile halfway between Dequindre and Shelby. They built in about 1995 and sold in 2002 or 3.

    My MIL now lives near M-53/26 Mile and everytime we visit I am amazed by the underdeveloped and undeveloped subs.

    But the roundabouts at the 26 mile bridge is interesting.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    My in-laws were part of the beginning of the recent suburban push in Macomb Co/Shelby Twp. They built a largish 2-story in a sub off 25 mile halfway between Dequindre and Shelby. They built in about 1995 and sold in 2002 or 3.

    My MIL now lives near M-53/26 Mile and everytime we visit I am amazed by the underdeveloped and undeveloped subs.

    But the roundabouts at the 26 mile bridge is interesting.
    I'll be showing my age here, but when we moved to ~12 and Dequindre when I was in elementary school, I had a turtle for a pet that was dug up for a foundation, and I used to raise salamanders, frogs, toads, snakes I caught nearby. 26 Mile could have been the moon back then.

    All single-age houses thereabouts until you go west across Dequindre. Boring suburbia and the mixed-age neighborhoods are much more interesting.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    I'll be showing my age here, but when we moved to ~12 and Dequindre when I was in elementary school, I had a turtle for a pet that was dug up for a foundation, and I used to raise salamanders, frogs, toads, snakes I caught nearby. 26 Mile could have been the moon back then.

    All single-age houses thereabouts until you go west across Dequindre. Boring suburbia and the mixed-age neighborhoods are much more interesting.
    Then they built Univeral Mall and the area went downhill....... What really put it on the skids was when they built 696 and all the motels and pancake places came! I was happy with the bowling alley and the arbys.. but noooo.. can't keep things like they were.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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