I’m asked all the time why some places sit abandoned for so long. One reason is called “Demolition by Neglect”, a term used to describe a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a historic property to suffer severe deterioration, potentially beyond the point of repair. Property owners may use this kind of long-term neglect to circumvent historic preservation regulations.
To keep it simple, the term is usually brought up when an owner has abandoned a property listed on the National Historic Register, which can be difficult to demolish or renovate due to the fact that they are meant to be preserved. The owner can apply for a demolition permit as many times as they’d like, but they will usually be denied. Though the property can’t be demolished, it doesn’t mean there has to be any upkeep either, so the owner decides to let the building run it’s course.
After a couple of fires, some water damage and a bit of graffiti, they’ve succeeded; the place has become an eyesore and a danger to the community. After complaints from neighbors who are tired of kids throwing parties there or vagrants coming in and out of the property, the owner now has the community’s support when they decide to apply for yet another demolition permit. A prime example of this is the Belleview Biltmore in Clearwater.
This process occurs countless times and ends with the building being demolished or being saved before any irreversible damage can be done. The Bostwick Building in Jacksonville is a good example, where the city stepped in to save the building after it was clear the owner didn’t care about it.
Another example is the Thomas Strawn Packing House, where the previous owner applied for a demolition permit multiple times, acknowledging that he intended to demolish the buildings to sell the property, but was denied each and everytime. A couple of the buildings were lost due to fires over the years. In the end, the property was bought out and is currently in the process of being renovated.
So when people ask me why a place sits abandoned for so long, this is usually the reason why.