Finally, the hundreds of thousands of condemned, dilapidated and possibly dangerous properties that have been neighborhood eyesores throughout the state of Texas can come down. City councils, which had postponed planned demolitions of condemned buildings for fear of lawsuits, are now free to move forward with the much-needed work. Mechanisms are in place to get the demolition back on track.
At the beginning of this year, the Texas Supreme Court – responding to an appeal by a Dallas woman who questioned whether the city had the authority to raze a building she owned – ruled that condemned structures can be demolished as long as the property owner is given a specific amount of time after initial notification to appeal the decision. If no appeal is filed within that time frame, work can begin. Now that the dust has settled regarding the ruling, municipalities are ready to take down the buildings that have languished for so long.
This is great news, especially to residents of neighborhoods where rundown properties seem to be everywhere and have become dangerous places, even sites for drug dealing or vagrant dwellings. By demolishing these structures, the cities can help raise residents’ spirits, which had once been weighed down by decay. Now they can look toward revitalization and safer neighborhoods.
Not only will the cleaned-up properties be more pleasing to the eye, the community can also be assured that the land will also be free of all contaminants, such as asbestos, lead-based paint and underground tanks. Federal regulations require that testing for these substances in commercial properties be completed before the actual demolition begins. Many of today’s demolition contracting firms are trained as environmental specialists and are skilled at necessary services, such as tank cleaning and removal, asbestos abatement, soil remediation and hazardous waste management.
The demolition industry touches the lives of businesses and ordinary people every day in positive ways. It cleans up thousands of abandoned or outdated commercial properties nationwide known as “brownfields,” whose redevelopment is handicapped by the presence of real or perceived environmental contamination. Many of these sites are being rehabilitated by demolition contractors and transformed into environmentally safe housing, office space and even city parks.
The National Demolition Association has named environmental stewardship as one of its top priorities. To this end, demolition contractors improve the environment by leading in the nation’s recycling effort. Every day, contractors recycle building components such as concrete, steel, asphalt, wood and shingles. It’s common today for contractors to achieve recycling rates of up to 90 percent of demolition debris, thus reducing landfill usage to a minimum, reducing the demand for virgin material and contributing to a greener environment for generations to come.
Preservationists should also know that demolition contractors routinely preserve historically important architectural ornamentation and building facades. Gone are the days when buildings were simply bulldozed. Instead, experts comb through old properties and remove every single item that has resale value, down to antique doorknobs.
Communities are improved when demolition professionals remove deteriorated road and bridges and unstable structures damaged by fire, earthquake or weather. As the National Demolition Association says, demolition contractors recycle America’s most valuable resource: its land. And the message to Texas residents who have been forced to live with dangerous and ugly properties is clear: Relief in the form of greener spaces is on the way.
Cherry is president of Cherry Companies in Houston and past president of the National Demolition Association.