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When city plans exceed reality, or the money dries up, or people simply leave in a mass exodus, skyscrapers vacate and slowly decay. These abandoned skyscrapers range from forsaken structures aborted long before their doors opened to icons from a bygone era. From North Korea to Venezuela, these structures differ in their stories and circumstance, but each is a fine glimpse at post-apocalyptic urban decay. Story: This massive pyramidal structure (above, furthest left) is a 105 story symbol for the absurdist ambitions of Kim Jong Il and the hermit kingdom. Story: The Tower of David, one of the tallest buildings in Latin America, is the quintessential slum-scraper. Story: The Buffalo Central terminal has been looted for artifacts, vandalized by bored delinquents, used for art exhibitions, explored by ghost hunters, and even sold for $1. Story: Once the tallest building in San Francisco, the PacBell building is a Neo-Gothic marvel abandoned last decade. Story: Construction began on the Book Tower in 1916, just a few years after Henry Ford transformed auto-making forever with assembly line production. Troy Dunn navigated the Las Vegas underground tunnels in search of a mother whose adult daughters want to reconnect with her, for Dr Phil September 3.
Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic. North Las Vegas Code enforcement officer Matthew Meanea looks over a backyard pool May 18 at a vacant home that had been occupied by squatters in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
A view through a window into a home that had been occupied by squatters is seen May 18 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. LAS VEGAS — Sometimes, it doesn’t take long to spot the flaws in lease documents submitted to the North Las Vegas Utilities Department to get the water turned on at a house. North Las Vegas and the rest of the Las Vegas area is grappling with a squatter problem, fueled by a big inventory of empty houses abandoned by people with deep financial problems when the economy crashed — and by the widespread use of bogus leases, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
Local government agencies have taken different steps to clear squatters or prevent them from moving in.
Las Vegas police don’t have a dedicated squatter unit, but received at least 4,458 squatter-related service calls in Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County last year, more than double the tally in 2012.
Las Vegas city officials recently launched a pilot program to secure abandoned houses with a sheet plastic made of polycarbonate, a supposedly unbreakable alternative to plywood.
In Henderson, police and the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors created forms for landlords to fill out, to show whether the occupants signed a lease with the actual owners. In North Las Vegas, police, code enforcement and utilities officials use paperwork traps to spot fake rental contracts and push squatters out. By all accounts, it’s not difficult for squatters to find an abandoned home, and it’s easy to draw up a bogus lease. In the first four weeks that North Las Vegas police targeted squatters, they cleared more than 50 houses and made four arrests, Vaughn said.
Squatters move to nice and run-down houses, come from “every walk of life” and target neighborhoods city-wide, according to Vaughn. Officers cleared a two-story house in May where a woman and five children lived for eight months, with no water service for the last two months, Vaughn said. The squatter showed up one day in a U-Haul truck, said she’d rented the place, and held two garage sales to sell furniture and other belongings left when the prior occupant moved out.
Susan Ragsdell, who lives across the street, said the larger house has been vacant for two or three years; the smaller house for five years. Southern Nevada’s once-battered housing market is recovering from the Great Recession, but it’s still ripe for squatting. Squatter homes can become drug dens, weapons caches and fraud labs, and magnets for child neglect or other criminal activity, police say. Statewide, the state Legislature last year made crimes of housebreaking, or forcibly entering a vacant home to live there or let someone else move in without the owner’s consent, and unlawful occupancy, or moving to an empty home without permission. North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Anita Wood proposed creating a task force in May 2014 and tactics to target squatters. Water doesn’t flow until officials verify the lease is real, utilities director Randy DeVaul said. Another tactic: Code-enforcement officers, working with police, compare the landlord’s name and signature on an applicant’s lease with property records.
Code-enforcement officer Matt Meanea said squatters had used so many identical tactics that he looked online to see if someone posted step-by-step instructions.

A former North Las Vegas police chief, Joe Forti, said he didn’t see squatters until the mid-1980s. Today, it can be difficult to sort through foreclosure, bankruptcy, county recorder and other filings to figure out who owns the home, and track down owners who left the area when the economy collapsed. North Las Vegas was one of the fastest-growing cities in America when the southern Nevada real estate bubble burst. When the crash came, the city declared a financial emergency, its bonds fell to junk status and its housing woes became especially severe. In 2008 and 2009, lenders were filing more than 1,000 default notices and repossessing more than 500 homes in North Las Vegas a month, according to RealtyTrac. With thousands of empty homes around the valley, a squatters market began to take shape, according to police and real estate pros. People would break into a house, change the locks, draw up a fake lease to show a police officer or real estate agent if they stopped by, and post a Craigslist ad to “rent” the property to others. Nevada Bankers Association CEO Phyllis Gurgevich said it appears that some people collecting the “rent” are telling squatters that a bank will pay them to move out.
The Las Vegas area is grappling with a squatter problem, fueled by a big inventory of empty houses abandoned by people with deep financial problems when the economy crashed. Some squatters have used fake rental applications, prompting utilities officials to use paperwork traps to spot fake rental contracts and push squatters out. Some squatter homes can become drug dens, weapons caches and fraud labs, and magnets for child neglect or other criminal activity.
Today, if someone tries to get water turned on at a house listed in the city foreclosure registry, utilities officials are alerted to give the application closer scrutiny and try to contact the owner of record. While a slumper like Detroit has its fair share of empty giants, even cities with tiger cub economic growth like Bangkok are not immune to the plague of creepy abandoned high-rises. The Beaux-Arts style of the classical building recalls a time when Detroit possessed the resources and momentum to rightfully emulate Parisian architecture. There is no government interference, just 2500 squatters carving up its 45 stories for purposes ranging from housing to business. It is a gorgeous old structure plagued by a series of humiliating footnotes, caught in a perpetual fall from grace. Completed in 1925, the giant is capped with 13 foot tall art deco Eagles looking out over the great San Francisco expanse. Before long though, the building fell into disrepair and became an overpopulated den of urban plight – a favela that sprawled up.
It is the old style of high-rise – more a kin of masonry than a child of steel and glass.
The late Gothic architectural marvel once shuttled around thousands of workers, from stockbrokers to barbers, in its eight high-speed elevators.
Four daughters were raised in foster homes after their mother was deemed unfit due to her drug use. He was born with a remote control in his hand, and is grateful to finally have a haven at Recapo for his pathological love of daytime television. An open box of Pop-Tarts, a child’s bicycle, furniture, barbecue, mop, water bottles and other items were still inside on a recent visit.
She squabbled with neighbors, sent her kids with buckets to get water from neighbors’ hoses, and ran an extension cord to another squatter house next-door for power.
State figures say it grew from 165,000 to 230,500 residents from 2004-2014, a more than 70 percent increase. Squatters might meet their “landlord” at a convenience-store parking lot to pay rent in cash. But that cash-for-keys program is for the owner of record, not for anyone who happens to be living in the house. Paul Monea, a career con-artist and Tae-Bo infomercial huckster, bought the mansion from Tyson for $1.3 million, but the Feds seized the property after finding Monea guilty of selling the house and a 40 carat diamond right to an undercover FBI agent, posing as a drug dealer.
Meanea is pictured outside a vacant homeA former North Las Vegas police chief, Joe Forti, said he didn't see squatters until the mid-1980s. South America brings vertical favelas to the list, and Poland has a tower named after a pop-culture villain. Its old school ambition is not lost on current Detroit residents but its function certainly is.
The building includes apartments, home-brew PlayStation arcades, beauty salons, and perhaps the most suspicious dentistry operation in the new world.

While the building was purchased in 2007 for $118 million, it has since been left to decay quietly in its own upscale way. As basic services and utilities declined over the years, tenants began disposing their garbage out the window and obtaining illegal electricity. For years, the classic structure with an ornate copper roof stood for the old world extravagance of Detroit. It has been the domain of urban explorers and desperate vagrants ever since being completely abandoned in the late nineteen-eighties. Troy Dunn went to the Las Vegas underground tunnels where Cindy was living with her husband to see if she wanted to get her family back.
And even San Francisco, a city with a high recreational scooter to human ratio and droves of individuals who see the world just beyond the tip of their nose, has its very own abandoned skyscraper. At a time, the Buffalo Central Terminal was an important hub servicing hundreds of trains daily. It is also a constant reminder of the decades old malfeasance of Skelator – an urban Castle Grayskull looming on the Polish horizon.
Now, it has taken on an altogether different metaphorical role as a sad reminder of when the eminent address spoke for the industrialist success of one of America’s finest cities.
While inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places preserves its era appropriate charms, the future of the towering structure is unclear. The ghost of ambition’s past arrives in the present like a howling specter, creating eyesores, dangerous conditions, and free housing for opportunistic urban survivalists. The graffiti and dilapidation tells the story not just of Detroit’s acrimonious decline but also the abandonment of rail travel in the United States.
The project was abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union due to Soviet subsidies to North Korea coming to an end. Still an Art Deco architectural masterpiece, the structure possesses a prominent tower worthy of superlatives, and its halls are said to be haunted by ghostly apparitions waiting for trains that will never arrive. By the eighties, the tap water was polluted and only one of the three elevators partially worked – making its way halfway up the building. The property has changed hands many times in the last decade and plans exist to drop hundreds of millions in restoring the old-school giant.
Expat urban spelunkers have explored the building and returned to Khao San Road with stories from its upper reaches. Perhaps a redevelopment boom in downtown Memphis will reignite a need for the large ghostscraper.
The hollow shell stood vacant for decades, just towering above the city – a failure too large to ignore but too painful to acknowledge.
Last Halloween, the TV show Ghost Hunters filmed a 6 hour marathon in the creepy old building. A couple of brave urban explorers over at Bearings snuck past the guard and explored the tower’s heights.
Edificio Sao Vito was formally evacuated in 2004, though crackheads and drug dealers have taken to the abandoned structure like moths to a flame.
The North Koreans spent years denying the structure’s existence, removing it from photographs and excluding it from maps of Pyongyang. Allegedly, the Mayor of Sao Paolo tried to demolish the building because it obstructed his otherwise pleasant view. While rail travel is receiving some political buzz in Washington, the fate of this gorgeous structure is uncertain.
While this bit of urban lore may or may not be true, the building has been flirting with demolition for the last decade.
Many have flirted with re-purposing the old building, from the Detroit Police to casino developers, but for the moment it stands quietly on the outskirts of the modern world like an old ornate wrench that fits no bolt.
Construction on the structure resumed recently with Egyptian architectural firm Orascom leading the project. It is slated for completion in 2012, to sync with the 100th birthday of Eternal President Kim Il Sung, deceased since 1994.

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