The Independent Institute's Edward J. Lopez has this editorial disputing the oft-repeated claim that eminent domain is needed for redevelopment:
A decade ago, three dying blocks in the heart of Seattle were acquired and redeveloped as fancy retail without eminent domain. To get big anchor stores to commit, the initial investors used an impressive array of contingent contracts, land swaps, and street maintenance promises from the city. That got mid-size retailers and national chains interested in some of the key corner locations, which paved the way for boutique shops and hangouts to fill in the rest. The project sparked about 100 other private initiatives to the tune of 12 million square feet of planned construction between 1998 and 2000.
Seattle isn’t alone. CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Rivercenter in San Antonio. Santana Row in San Jose. Mockingbird Station in Dallas. These are the projects of which urban planners dream. Mixed-use residential and business communities supporting eclectic retail and nightlife, with rippling effects onto surrounding neighborhoods. Even the land for Disney World, a tract bigger than San Francisco, was acquired privately. Eminent domain wasn’t critical to these projects.