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A Plight of (Abandoned) McMansions

Abandoned, half-finished houses and townhouses - concrete block shell rising out of weedy lots - are scattered across South Florida, remnants of the sudden and brutal downtown in the housing market. I had written about the effect on neighbors who live with these uncompleted eyesores where work stopped abruptly over a year ago. My column focused on the Croissant Park neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. But the Victoria Park neighborhood in the city's east-central reaches probably suffers as many of these shells as any community. I received this e-mail from Jay Holloway, president of the Victoria Park Homeowners Association, describing the plight:

Yes the unfinished projects have been a problem in our neighborhood. We have appealed to the building dept to no avail yet. City code inspectors cite where possible. Developers don't want to complete projects without a buyer lined up in the wings. Appliances and AC units are stolen from completed projects making the good projects less salient. We have homeless, displaced construction workers living in unfinished townhouses and using them as a staging ground for neighborhood burglaries. We have resident complaints of late night drunken stays by street urchins in these projects. Periodically we get reports of the expensive hurricane windows being stolen out of the projects as well. Developers are in such dire straits they try to sell the projects unfinished to anyone who will take them off their hands. Their presence deters would be buyers of adjacent homes as they don't want to live next to an unfinished mess. The problem could take years to resolve meanwhile they are a blight on our otherwise attractive streets.



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croissant park resident

The city of Fort Lauderdale needs to ban tear-downs. These developers bulldoze perfectly good, and frequently historic, homes to erect several zero lot-line townhome/eyesores on a single lot. Then they try to sell those townhomes for double the original price of the single family home previously on the site. What kind of idiot would buy the townhome (which is essentially a condo with neighbors instead of a yard) for twice the price of a free-standing home in the same exact neighborhood? I'm currently renting a home in Croissant Park, but I would like to buy here. However, I worry that the home I'd buy would get boxed in by these cheap, hideous, towering structures. Plus, the trees here -- which make this neighborhood nice in the first place -- are being bulldozed indiscriminately. A 60 or 80 year-old fruit or shade tree is priceless, in my opinion. I'm a native Floridian. To see the few neighborhoods with character that we have get destroyed by greed is truly distressing. No wonder consumers are afraid to invest in homes here.

Jeff Dreyer

Go to www.re-burbia.com, a design contest where a few of contestants have designed solutions to the abandoned McMansion problem. Maybe this will spark some innovative thinkers to take action, potentially profitable action.

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