Just north of the houses pictured yesterday is a large parcel of vacant land (between Hunt, Broadway, and Mangum), all owned by the City of Durham
This land was residential at one point in time, but is now zoned commercial. While most of the houses along Mangum were demolished before I was aware of the area, two of the houses along the Broadway portion of the property (to the right in the above picture), 107 and 109 Broadway, were demolished recently, and were not owned by the COD prior to demolition. In the above picture, you can see the upturned soil and debris from the most recent demolition site by the trees.
Here is a picture of 109 Broadway and a part of 107 Broadway, now demolished
The question surrounding these demolitions, and the ongoing demolitions around the city is - why? Was the house really a threat to public health, the ostensible justification for demolition power? Certainly the house was in worse shape than this picture at the time of demolition. But it seems a mite suspicious that the city owns a large portion of the surrounding land, and it prioritizes the demolition of houses that give it a square-ish piece of property to sell. How did it aquire this land? Soon after the demolition of 109 Broadway, the "For Sale" sign went up on this now-squarish piece of property, now zoned commercial. Did development prospects drive the demolition of 109 Broadway?
I don't think it is bad that this block should go commercial in and of itself. Even the loss of the historic architecture, while painful, is not what bothers me the most here. The question is - public health, or the possiblity of economic development? The city is not vested with the power to demolish property for economic development. Yet, economic development seems to continually lurk in the justification for which abandoned properties are demolished, and when. Sure the city wants to collect property tax on this land. But at what cost to the neighborhood? Supposedly the city wants residents in and near downtown - will this be a big warehouse with vast surface parking in front? Or first floor retail compatible with Little Five Points?