Newsweek on 06 December 2010

A Historic Wreck in Louisiana?

by Jeff Benedict

A Historic Wreck in Louisiana?

Five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an effort to condemn homes in the name of business development. But the decision, which cleared the way for an "urban village" in Connecticut, sparked a revolt; more than 40 states have since put curbs on eminent domain. For the owners of homes to be condemned, however, the reality of injustice lingers. According to a recent report by the Castle Coalition, a property watchdog, at least 20 neighborhoods--including the one in Connecticut--have been snapped up for projects that hit a financial dead end.

Now, in Louisiana, the state is halfway to demolishing more than 250 homes and historic buildings in New Orleans--many of which were rebuilt, with federal dollars, after Katrina. The goal is a new medical complex. But while the wrecking ball is swinging, the project is $400 million short on financing, according to Louisiana's own projections. The state is confident it will get the money--but why isn't there a law that prevents demolition before funding is secure? Without one, too many paradises will be paved, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, for less than a parking lot.

Benedict is the author of Little Pink House.