Ghost Towns of the Recession: Where Capital goes to die.
Rio Vista, CA
Once envisioned as an 855-home suburbwith families populating the grid of freshly paved streets and sidewalks, now the only life you’ll see in this desert development are cows and eucalyptus shrubs. Thirteen abandoned model homes lie clustered in the center of the development, and streets like “Serenity Drive” stretch on past empty dirt lots into the barren distance. Construction was halted in November 2008 when developer Shea Homes abandoned the project.
Downtown Phoenix, AZ
Before the housing market crash, an acre in downtown Phoenix was selling for about $90 a square foot. Today, it sells for $9 a square foot. Empty dirt lots checker the area, where developers once dreamed of high-rise condos and office buildings, and many businesses have closed their doors. Residents hope building will happen again once the market recovers, but in the meantime neighborhood organizers push for temporary fixes to the eyesore, like planting sunflowers and projecting movies onto the side of existing buildings.
When a bank couldn’t sell 16 new homes in San Bernardino County, Calif., they decided to bulldoze them instead. Four of the homes were completed and another dozen were under construction, but the bank figured that razing the homes would be cheaper than paying fines to the city. As the brand new homes came tumbling down, nearby residents took video and watched the rubble pile up. Now, a few scraps of the homes remain in the dusty lots.
Miami High-Rises, FL
One of the worst-hit real estate markets in the country, Miami is overflowing with empty condo units. For example, the Tao Sawgrass condos, have 26 floors of empty apartments. Property records show that 36 of the 396 units sold, but most of them were to investors. The owner maintains the property, security guards stand at the entrance, and employees shuffle through the lobby, making it look like people live there, but marketing director Carolyn Van Gorder for the company selling Tao’s units told the Broward/Palm Beach New Times that she “could not confirm or deny the presence of residents.”
Fort Myers Condos, FL
One condo owner is the loneliest number, especially when you’re the last remaining resident in a 32-story tower. Victor Vangelakos paid $430,000 for his downtown Fort Myers condo in 2008, but when the building couldn’t sell the rest of the units, they hashed out deals with the buyers, except for Vangelakos, who says his lenders wouldn’t agree to a swap. He now uses the apartment as a vacation home, but he says it’s eerie at night and birds have built nests in nearby apartments. The lone light in the building pictured here belongs to Vangelakos.
California City, CA
Perhaps an example of what will happen to America’s recession ghost towns, California City is one of the first real estate boom developments to become one. In 1958, a developer sectioned off lots and paved culs-de-sacs for a dream city 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. But the buyers and families never came. Today, the ghostly grid is used for skydivers and test flights by the nearby air force base and a prison lies to the north.