What if we just bulldozed everything that was for rent for more than a year?
We'd make exceptions, of course, for buildings of particular historical or architectural value, but that should be a relatively short list.
But otherwise, what if when driving around Sandusky, wherever you now see an abandoned building, you saw an empty lot? A well maintained empty building looks like a sad orphan, one that hasn't been restored — especially one that bears witness to the architectural sins of the latter half of the 20th century, or was built using the disposable construction methods that became deriguer in recent years — looks more like a bad day in Beirut.
An empty lot on the other hand, maybe covered with wild grass, maybe even with a tree or a wildflower or something, looks at least vaguely pleasant. And if you're in a community that doesn't have for sale/for lease signs in half the windows because the supply of space has far out-stripped demand, then an empty lot looks like an opportunity.
You could even restrict for sale signs on empty lots. Make people feel like people might actually want the land. Every for sale sign, when they reach critical mass, starts to read, "warning, danger, put your money here only if you're tired of money and would prefer never to see it again..."
Obviously, land-owners would have to be compensated and funds would have to be found somewhere (prolly from the taxpayers) for that and for bulldozing. Then of course, there's all that new lawn to mow...
These are hurdles, but they seem surmountable to me. Especially so since I'm willing to bet that the hidden costs to the community as a whole for maintaining all this unused property must outstrip the costs of simply adjusting the supply to match reality.
Maybe I'm late to this party and barking up the wrong tree. Maybe this has already been suggested, studied, and rejected because it didn't make sense. Maybe it's already been suggested and rejected out of hand because it was politically untenable. (Of course my definition of political leadership is not simply achieving what is already politically feasible, but by identifying what we need to do and finding a way to make it politically possible.)
But maybe its just the kind of wacky, radical program a city like Sandusky needs.