After decades, or in some instances a century, of operating
at one location in a city or town, scrapyards are being told to
pack up and move. Land that nobody wanted long ago now has
become prime real estate.
Month after month we hear about scrapyards being told to
move. Cities want the yards' land to build an office high-rise.
Or scrap piles detract from a condo developer's plans for ritzy
apartment-style living; he won't be able to sell two-bedroom
units for $1-million-plus if they overlook scrap (although
people look at scrap sculptures every day in dozens of cities
and towns). Or maybe it's the city itself-instead of scrapyards
and auto junkyards, city planners want "green space" in the
form of tree-lined walking trails and bicycle paths. Others are
looking to turn the sites into shopping centers or high-priced
This is not a new trend, but it seems like we are hearing
more and more about new redevelopment projects in cities and
towns. Who is to blame? Baltimore, I think. Charm City, as it
is nicknamed, installed an aquarium along its waterfront years
ago and it helped to revitalize the neighborhood. Now that's
the blueprint for every troubled city.
Camden, N.J., has an aquarium and a big concert hall, and
the city has more plans to renovate the land along its banks of
the Delaware River. Maybe that's part of the reason Warrington,
England-based European Metal Recycling Ltd. is anxious to pull
up stakes and move its Philadelphia shredder to a small town
downriver. Could a move by the company's big Camden-based
export yard be next?
In Worcester, Mass., family owned industrial scrap metal
dealer Leroy & Co. Inc. is in the way of a planned
expansion of CSX Corp.'s freight yard. The Salerno family has
been operating its business there for nearly 60 years. Because
of the nature of the business, its biggest fear is that it
won't be able to find a suitable place in Worcester to
relocate. Tell the neighbors you want to build a scrapyard next
door and they'll start yelling "not in my backyard."
Leroy & Co. isn't alone in its concerns. Other
businesses with deep roots in the Massachusetts city are facing
the prospect of being booted out of town. Some of the owners
have said they feel betrayed by city and state officials who
are pushing the expansion project. CSX executives have told
local reporters they are ready to work with all the property
owners to negotiate fair deals, but does a fair deal include
dragging the scrap company into court with an eminent domain
suit? City, state and CSX executives say the project isn't just
about CSX; rather, it's about a comprehensive transportation
plan intended to improve and enhance freight and commuter rail
traffic statewide and bring about 400 jobs to the area. What
about the jobs and livelihoods that Leroy & Co. has
provided for decades?
In Portland, Maine, officials wanted two small scrapyards in
the city's Bayside neighborhood for commercial redevelopment.
The city bought a 53-acre site along the Presumpscot River to
serve as the new location for New England Metal Recycling LLC
and E. Perry Iron & Metal Co., as well as the city's public
works department. New England Metal Recycling, a Schnitzer
Steel Industries Inc. feeder yard, agreed to the move, bought a
10-acre parcel and sold its two-acre scrapyard to the city.
Alan Lerman, Perry Iron's owner, choose to remain at Bayside,
earning him a firestorm of criticism from city officials.
Instead of using eminent domain to kick him off his land, the
city council enacted more-restrictive zoning and licensing laws
for scrapyards, and the state's Supreme Court rejected Perry's
challenge of those changes. And after all that anguish,
Portland officials canceled their beloved $40-million
redevelopment project after two of the proposed
tenants-MaineHealth and the United Way of Greater
Portland-dropped their plans for an eight-story office building
and a 700-space parking garage. The city intends to set aside
22 acres as "green space," while the remaining 10 acres could
serve as a new site for the city's public services garages, now
located in Bayside but supposedly slated to move to the
Presumpscot River site along with New England Metal Recycling.
I guess trash trucks aren't an eyesore if they're owned by the
Fortunately, some businesses have been able to reason with
city hall and persuade local officials that it might be better
to leave them where they are. Such was the case in Dallas,
where scrap processor Okon Metals Inc. and several other small
businesses managed to avoid the city's redevelopment bulldozer.
The city council agreed in October to allow Okon Metals and
several other businesses to remain in the Cedars West area, an
industrial district just south of downtown Dallas targeted for
redevelopment into high-end shops and apartments as part of the
Trinity River project. But Okon Metals and other businesses
persuaded council members that they could make the area more
interesting and more desirable. They plan to give the area a
"funky feel;" the scrapyard, a lumber yard and others will
raise the height of their fences, perhaps painted with murals,
while a construction company will build a fence that uses doors
and shutters instead of standard fencing materials. The
businesses also will undertake a process called "xeriscaping,"
removing many of the invasive plants and replacing them with
native plants that require less water and maintenance. They
also will sponsor local colleges and art schools to design
sculptures that will be erected in the area.
If only the folks at city hall elsewhere in the country
would work with scrapyards and other "unwanted" businesses,
they might be surprised by the solutions they could