Bringing Buildings Back

From Abandoned Properties to Community Assets

by Alan Mallach, Research Director, National Housing Institute

A National Housing Institute book
Paper, 344 pp.
Distributed by Rutgers University Press
Available now. Click here to order it.

Praise for Bringing Buildings Back

“In countless towns and cities, reusing abandoned houses and vacant lots is tortuously complicated and time-consuming. Alan Mallach's groundbreaking book is an exceptional 'how-to' guide to help communities transform these dangerous eyesores into safe and productive homes, work places, parks and gardens.”

– Don Chen, Executive Director, Smart Growth America

“Blighted, abandoned properties are one of the greatest challenges facing many cities throughout the country. Thoughtful planning for their reuse takes not only leadership but also faith in the future of our cities and towns. Bringing these properties back can revive neighborhoods, provide affordable housing, and relieve pressure to build in open space. This insightful work offers communities a range of effective tools to reclaim properties from abandonment. It is a strong contribution to the field.”

– Parris N. Glendening, President, Smart Growth Leadership Institute and Governor of Maryland (1995-2003)

“Abandonment remains a significant challenge to neighborhood revitalization and it is important for communities to explore long-term and strategic approaches to reclaiming vacant and abandoned properties. A comprehensive guide that highlights successful strategies and lessons is long overdue.”

– Michael Rubinger, President and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation


Abandoned properties are a plague across the United States, from rust belt cities like Detroit and Buffalo to small towns like Lima, Ohio, and Waterloo, Iowa. Even in Sunbelt cities such as Houston and Las Vegas, abandonment is a major problem, as investment flows to the periphery, leaving the older, inner neighborhoods behind. In Bringing Buildings Back, Alan Mallach provides policymakers and practitioners with the first in-depth guide to understanding and dealing with the many ramifications that this issue holds for the future of our older cities.

Combining practical suggestions with a thoughtful exploration of policy, Mallach pulls together insights from law, economics, planning, and design to address all sides of the problem, from how abandonment can be prevented to how best to bring these properties back into productive reuse. Focusing on the need for sustainable reuse and revitalization of America's cities and neighborhoods, Bringing Buildings Back shows how finding solutions for individual buildings can and must be tied to the larger process of making our cities economically stronger and environmentally sounder places to live and work. The book is replete with examples of how cities, community development corporations, and others have come up with creative, effective solutions.

Written by a distinguished urban planner and practitioner with three decades of experience, Bringing Buildings Back provides both a detailed toolkit and a call to rethink the way America carries out urban redevelopment. It is a book that should be on the desk of every mayor, city planner, community developer, or neighborhood activist, and used in every course on urban redevelopment or neighborhood revitalization.

About the Author:

Alan Mallach is research director of the National Housing Institute in Montclair, New Jersey, and the author of many books and articles on urban planning, housing, and community development. A member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners, his career has spanned the worlds of business, government, and academe.

Research support for this project was provided by the Fannie Mae and Ford foundations.

A National Housing Institute book, distributed by Rutgers University Press.

Bringing Buildings Back is available now. Click here to order it.

Back to NHI Research and Reports.