Back in 2005, residents of New London, Conn. fought a famous eminent domain lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, they lost that battle. The court ruled that cities could seize homes of citizens purely for the benefit of a large real estate developer. That ruling spurred numerous eminent domain bills in State legislatures all over the United States.
So what ever became of the “urban village” planners intended to build on the property?
From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.
“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”
That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.
Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.
In the long run, the city may be better off with barren patch of land, a monument to eminent domain folly. Like most Master-Planned “Communities”, the complex of shops and condos the city had intended to build looked to be utterly hideous.