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Brick and Mortar Blues & Dealing with the Emotional Aftershock of Commercial Demolitions

Commercial demolitions, while essential for urban development and revitalisation, can also have profound emotional impacts on local communities. Iconic buildings and beloved landmarks can hold deep sentimental value for residents, and their demolition can trigger feelings of loss, nostalgia, and even grief. This article will explore the “brick and mortar blues” – the emotional aftershock of commercial demolitions – and discuss strategies for coping with these feelings and fostering a sense of community resilience.


Section 1: The Emotional Significance of Buildings

For many people, the buildings in their community are more than just physical structures; they are repositories of memories, shared experiences, and local identity. Some factors that contribute to the emotional significance of buildings include:

  • Personal Memories: Buildings can be associated with specific events or milestones in a person’s life, such as a first job, a favourite childhood hangout, or where they met their spouse. The demolition of these structures can trigger a sense of personal loss.
  • Collective History: Iconic buildings and landmarks often symbolise a community’s shared history and cultural heritage. Their demolition can lead to nostalgia and a longing for a past that can no longer be revisited.
  • Community Identity: Buildings can also contribute to community identity and pride. When a beloved structure is demolished, residents may feel like a piece of their community’s soul has been lost.


Section 2: Understanding the Emotional Aftershock of Demolitions

The emotional aftershock of commercial demolitions can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Grief and Loss: For some, demolishing a cherished building can trigger feelings of grief and loss, similar to those experienced when losing a loved one.
  • Anger and Frustration: The demolition process can be noisy, disruptive, and visually jarring, leading to anger and frustration among residents, particularly if they feel that their concerns and opinions were not considered in the decision-making process.
  • Anxiety and Uncertainty: Demolitions can also spark anxiety and uncertainty about the future, as residents may worry about how the site redevelopment will impact their community and quality of life.


Section 3: Coping Strategies and Community Resilience

While the emotional aftershock of commercial demolitions can be challenging, there are several strategies that individuals and communities can employ to cope with these feelings and foster a sense of resilience:

  • Acknowledge and Validate Emotions: Recognise that feeling loss, nostalgia, or grief following a demolition is normal. Encourage open and honest conversations about these emotions within the community, and validate the experiences of others.
  • Foster Social Connections: Strong social connections can help buffer the emotional impact of demolitions. Organise community events, support groups, or gatherings where residents can share memories, reminisce, and support one another during the transition.
  • Document and Preserve Memories: Encourage residents to document their memories and experiences associated with the demolished structure, whether through photography, writing, or oral histories. These personal accounts can serve as a valuable historical record and a source of comfort for those experiencing the brick-and-mortar blues.
  • Engage in the Redevelopment Process: Encourage community members to actively participate in the planning and redevelopment process for the demolition site. By giving residents a voice in the decision-making process, they can feel a sense of ownership and control over the future of their community.
  • Celebrate New Beginnings: While acknowledging and honouring the past is essential, embracing the opportunities that arise from change is also important. Celebrate the potential for growth and renewal that comes with redevelopment, and look for ways to incorporate elements of the community’s history and identity into the new spaces.
  • Create Commemorative Spaces: Consider creating a public space or memorial within the redeveloped area that pays tribute to the demolished building and its significance to the community. It can serve as a tangible reminder of the community’s past and a gathering place for residents to share memories and honour the building’s legacy.
  • Support Local Businesses and Workers: Demolitions can economically impact local businesses and workers, exacerbating feelings of loss and uncertainty. Support these individuals by promoting local businesses, advocating for job training and placement programs, and providing resources to help displaced workers find new opportunities.
  • Prioritise Mental Health and Well-Being: Recognise that the emotional aftershock of demolitions can take a toll on mental health and well-being. Encourage community members to seek support from mental health professionals or support groups if they struggle to cope with their emotions.

The emotional aftershock of commercial demolitions, or the “brick and mortar blues,” is a complex and often overlooked aspect of urban development. By acknowledging the emotional significance of buildings and supporting residents during the demolition process, communities can foster a sense of resilience and ultimately emerge stronger and more connected.


While avoiding the emotional impact of commercial demolitions is impossible, understanding the feelings associated with these events can help individuals and communities navigate the transition more effectively. By implementing the coping strategies and community resilience measures discussed in this article, residents can not only manage the emotional aftershock of demolitions but also embrace the opportunities for growth, renewal, and connection that come with change.

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