Thursday, May 30, 2013

Empty Lot Backstory

When I was a kid growing up in western Michigan, the empty lots on my mostly pre- and a little bit post-World War II block were places where no one had built a house yet. They made convenient playgrounds for products of the baby boom, but before the boomers had grown up and moved on, the vacant lots had houses on them. 

By contrast, in the much older city of Hudson, the vacant lots are places where buildings used to be, and I'm always curious to know what was there and what happened to it. Recently someone gave me a bound copy of the Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Hudson 1968-1969. Browsing it, I discovered the backstory of this empty lot in the 200 block of State Street--now an ersatz parking lot and, judging from the signs that adorn the fence, something of a problem area on the block.

On August 2, 1968, the first resolution presented and adopted by the Council read in part:
WHEREAS, the Commissioner of Public Works of the City of Hudson heretofore has filed his certificate in writing, certifying that the structure located at 239 State Street is in such a derlict [sic], unsound and structurally defective condition as to constitute an immediate hazard to the health, welfare and safety of a considerable number of persons . . . 
RESOLVED, that the Commissioner of Public Works be and he hereby is authorized and empowered to enter into an agreement for the immediate demolition of the structure located at 239 State Street at a cost not to exceed $1,300. . . .
Forty-five years later, nothing has taken the place of the unsound structure, and the Common Council is still passing resolutions to demolish neglected buildings. Curiously, the amount authorized recently for the demolition of a house on Fairview Avenue is exactly twenty times more than what was authorized in 1968: $26,000 in 2013 as compared with $1,300 in 1968.

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