Pfizer Abandons Property It Stole From Kelo

I missed this story last week, but apparently Pfizer is abandoning its New London headquarters, and the land that it used the power of government to steal from Kelo et al. now lays fallow.

Kelo Pfizer CartoonSusette Kelo’s little, pink house in New London, Conn. — like the houses of all her neighbors — is now a pile of rubble, overgrown with weeds. But Pfizer, the company that called for the demolition in order to build a new research and development plant, announced Monday it is packing up and leaving town in order to cut costs after its merger with fellow drug-giant Wyeth.


The Fort Trumbull neighborhood Pfizer had bulldozed today consists only of “weeds, glass, bricks, pieces of pipe and shingle splinters,” according to the Associated Press. Nobody has built the high-rise hotel or the luxury condos the city’s planners had envisioned. The credit crunch and housing collapse took the air of out of that grand plan.

And Pfizer’s sparkling R&D facility that was supposed to anchor the city’s “rejuvenation?” It’s being shuttered as a cost-saving measure following Pfizer’s merger with Wyeth. Some of the 1,400 jobs there will move across the river to Groton. Some will be terminated.

The best-laid plans of central planners, it seems, have once again gone awry-unless you look at it from Pfizer’s perspective.

The Hartford Courant reports Pfizer may sell the building and the land, which it got for nearly nothing. Or it may lease it out. So, the drug giant still gets the profits from the government’s taking. But for New London? No more R&D jobs. No development of Fort Trumbull. Just some rubble where families once lived.


Update: I was on vacation last week, so I totally missed the fact that Steve Verdon covered this already. Still, we can keep being mad, right?

Brookins cartoon courtesy Richmond Times-Dispatch via Doug Mataconis.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Franklin says:

    It’s not entirely apparent from your post, but you know that Verdon covered this, right?

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    Still, we can keep being mad, right?

    Works for me, plus you got the cool cartoon, too.

  3. Serves New London right; I hope they enjoy their new brownfield.

  4. Alas, it is now precedent for all of us. About five miles from my house the same thing happened here in St. Louis. A mall developer got one of our fine cities to condemn a bunch of properties and force people from their homes and then ran out of money and backed out of it. You can see this neighborhood and the boarded up commercial buildings on Lindbergh just south of I44 if you are interested.

  5. TangoMan says:

    Still, we can keep being mad, right?

    Don’t get mad, get even. Work like a beaver to get liberals off the Supreme Court. We can thank them for the Kelo Decision:

    Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

    Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the principal dissent, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas.

  6. gustopher says:

    I disagree with Señor TangoMan about this being either a bad decision, or a liberal decision.

    It was upholding the precedent of HHA v. Midkiff (1984), Berman v. Parker (1954), and a collection of other precedents going back to the early 1900s. And, it left the definition of “public use” to the states, which should please the 10th Amendment fans in the audience.

    That’s not to say that using eminent domain to reward large corporations like Pfizer is good policy — it’s staggeringly risky economically, and hopefully everyone involved has had their political careers wiped out. But, bad policy can still be constitutional.

    I think that the so-called Conservative wing of the court was willing to sacrifice 100 years of precedent to accommodate their preferred outcome. We’ve got a name for people like that… Judicial Activists.

    (I would put DC v. Heller in the camp of regretfully constitutionally correct decisions, along with Kelo)

  7. Drew says:

    Your derision of Pfizer is perhaps well deserved.

    But similar derision for people who most assuredly must have known this was a potential, dare I say likely, outcome – you know – a certain group called Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer – is absent???????

    The silence is deafening.

  8. Ah yes, the longstanding legal principle of stare decisis for thee, but not for me.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Must be Obama’s fault somehow…

  10. Steve Plunk says:

    The original abuse of power came from the city council who condemned the property for Pfizer in hopes of filling the city coffers with tax revenue. Pfizer worked within the rules and acted in the self interest required of corporations. Scorn should be reserved for the council and the courts.

  11. Alex Knapp says:


    Pfizer worked within the rules and acted in the self interest required of corporations. Scorn should be reserved for the council and the courts.

    So as long as it’s legal, and in one’s narrow self-interest, it’s ethical?

    That’s a sad world to live in.

  12. I always traced the what’s legal is ethical morass back to Bill Clinton and Al “No Controlling Legal Authority” Gore, but YMMV.

  13. Anjin-san, just curious, but who here has said anything even remotely close to that. Stop projecting. Please.

  14. Steve Plunk says:


    Yes it is ethical. Pfizer did not write the rules but did work within the rules written by the elected council. Municipalities fall prey to planning staffs pushing these deals every day. Pfizer had a plan to develop, things changed, plans change. What’s unethical about that?

    The city failed in it’s fiduciary responsibility to have contractual guarantees in place to avoid this. Is that Pfizer’s fault? No. Many want to blame Pfizer but the responsibility rests with those who abused their power.

  15. Steve says:

    Since Pfizer isn’t going to do anything to benefit the city with the land why doesn’t the city council use eminent domain to take the land back and sell it to the original owners? At least, those they can find. They should sell it back to them for a discount given what they went through. If they can’t find enough previous owners then sell it to home developers for next to nothing to build regular housing but put a cap on the price of the homes and the builder’s profits. This will get some jobs started in the area and create a taxable neighborhood. The city council needs to get busy and entice some long lasting industry into that area.