Community-Threatening Construction

"People of Earth, your attention, please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you no doubt will be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition."
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

A type of conflict wherein a new structure threatens a heretofore Close-Knit Community, threatening its way of life or its very existence. Possibly the work, either overt or covert, of a Corrupt Corporate Executive or a Corrupt Bureaucrat.

The structure involved is commonly either a highway, a railroad (especially common in older works), a big mall, a golf course, a big hotel, etc.

Truth in Television, in particular in the three or four decades following the Second World War (1945-1975), when the United States embarked on a massive highway building program. New York City transportation planner Robert Moses is sometimes invoked as the Knight Templar embodiment in conjunction with this trope.

One variation is for the community to be located in a valley that's chosen to be dammed and flooded, either for hydroelectric power generation or as a water reservoir for a nearby city. Another is for a new highway (or other, more convenient mode of travel) to bypass the community entirely, so the lack of traffic reduces the place to a Ghost Town.

In the more optimistic invocations of the trope, the citizens band together to defeat the new highway. In the less optimistic, we learn that progress is unstoppable.

Compare Predatory Business, Real Estate Scam, Green Aesop, Saving the Orphanage, Railroad Plot and Childhood Memory Demolition Team for similar conflicts, but different victims.


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     Film - Animated 
  • The villainous plot in Who Framed Roger Rabbit which threatens the entire community of Toon Town is the construction of a freeway. Since Judge Doom despises his own kind, he decides that the best way to get the Toons out of the way is to kill them all with his sinister concoction, the Dip.
  • This is the backstory of the film Cars. Before the story starts, the once-vibrant town of Radiator Springs was bypassed by a new interstate, leading to its decline and the events of the film. The building of the Interstate Highway caused travelers to no longer take Route 66 and so turned the once bustling village into a ghost town. Unlike most examples, though, the residents did nothing to stop it because they mistakenly thought more interstate travelers would mean more visitors.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, King Kuzco, being a self-absorbed, egoistic teenage jerk, wants to build Kuzcotopia, a giant playground meant for him and him alone, as a present for his own birthday. He intends to build it on top of the hill on which Pacha's village is built, which would mean destruction of the village. When Kuzco is accidentally turned into a llama and brought all the way to the village before he can carry out his plans, this decision becomes the driving conflict between him and Pacha. Kuzco needs his help to find the way back home, but Pacha won't do it unless he'll change his plans.
  • Rango offers a variation of this. The old-fashioned Western town of Dirt is in the midsts of a severe water shortage, and the Mayor is also buying up residents' properties as well. When Rango becomes the new sheriff of Dirt and it falls upon him to investigate the water disappearance, he finds out that the Mayor had been diverting Dirt's water supply to a newer, more modern town he's in the process of building on the spots of the properties he had been buying up.
  • The Hey Arnold! Big Damn Movie, which has the residents of Arnold's neighbourhood banding together (although some later than others) to prevent the neighbourhood from being razed and turned into a mall by a Corrupt Corporate Executive. This includes Arnold and Gerald going into a quest to find documents that show that the neighbourhood has historical significance.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • In the movie Used Cars, the planned freeway ramp doesn't threaten the community but does provide the MacGuffin which the plot revolves around.
  • In Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), a small town in Florida is threatened with disaster when the new freeway is constructed and the town does not get an off-ramp. After various stunts to attract visitors, the townspeople eventually blow up the freeway.
  • The 2014 film Earth To Echo features a Nevada suburb about to be razed to make way for a new extension of the interstate. It's later revealed to be a front for a government agency trying to find the eponymous alien; they're worried that its ship, which is buried underground, will take off and not only destroy the whole neighborhood, but kill everyone there as well.
  • This plays into the Red Herring in Hot Fuzz. Sergeant Angel suspects that supermarket manager Skinner is murdering people in order to secure control of land that will become prime value after a planned bypass is built. In fact, Skinner and his compatriots are killing anyone who stands out, in order to maintain their ideal community.
  • The plot of Blazing Saddles gets started when the corrupt Hedley Lamarr learns that his planned railway course has to be detoured because of some quicksand, and conspires with an easily-bribed governor to hire a gang of baddies to rough up the remote town of Rock Ridge so that they can get the land on the cheap.
  • In the Live-Action film of The Wind in the Willows directed by Terry Jones, the weasels tear up the field where Mole lives in order to build a dog-food factory, and their grand plan is to dynamite the ancestral stately home Toad Hall and replace it with an abattoir. Their plan is foiled by Rat switching the dynamite with a shipment of bones destined for the factory, resulting in the weasels accidently blowing up the factory.
  • The Goonies are inspired to go on their adventure (or at least the one in the film) due to the threat of their houses being foreclosed upon to build a new golf course.
  • Tremors 3: Back to Perfection. Despite its history of monster attacks, the residents of Perfection Valley enjoy its isolation and do not like the idea of it being turned into a larger town, a proposal offed by Melvin, who was a child in Perfection during the original attacks. Eventually the valley is turned into a nature preserve for el Blanco, the sole remaining (sterile) graboid in Perfection.
  • Much of the plot of *batteries not included revolved around a large corporation's efforts to remove the tenants of a small apartment building so they could build a huge skyscraper.
  • In Hannah Montana: The Movie, one of the subplots is a greedy developer attempting to put up a shopping mall in the beloved meadows of Miley's hometown.
  • The main source of conflict in the film version of You Can't Take It with You involves banker and defense contractor Anthony Kirby buying up all the land around a competitor's factory in order to put him out of business. He is all set to dispossess all the renters in the neighborhood, but he needs to buy the house of Cloudcuckoolander Martin Vanderhof, and Martin doesn't want to sell. (This plot element was an addition not found in the source play.)
  • In The Cobbler, the regular people of New York's Lower East Side are forced out of their houses by real estate developers so they can turn the area into luxury housing and retail spaces. Of course, the hero brings these plans to a stop.
  • The basic plot of the 1990 TV movie Return to Green Acres involves a greedy corporate land developer wanting to tear down Hooterville and turn the area into a thriving metropolis. Mr. Haney takes a level in badass by being in on the plot, and talks the residents into moving out, however, when the plot is revealed, the residents of Hooterville try to band together to stop this from happening.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ulysses Everett McGill needs to retrieve a treasure buried in the backyard of his old house. However, the area is scheduled to be flooded by Tennessee Valley Authority's damming activity. In this case, Ulysses doesn't ever try to prevent the construction (in fact, he sees it as the Dawn of an Era)—it just serves as an inexorable deadline for Ulysses and his partners to reach the homestead.
  • Local Hero subverts the trope. The film is set in a small Scottish town set to be bought up and replaced with an oil refinery, but the locals are more than happy to sell their land and retire rich. As one remarks, "you can't eat scenery."

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy starts with Arthur Dent's house getting demolished to make way for a new bypass, then moves onto the entire Earth being disintegrated for the same reason.
  • In the second Warrior Cats series, a new road is being built through the forest. The loss of territory and starvation after the prey leaves forces the four Clans to leave the forest.
  • Watership Down is about a group of rabbits who leave a warren to found their own. Their old home warren is subsequently destroyed with poison gas to make room for a housing development. Might be a crossover with Green Aesop.
  • In the second volume of the Village Tales series, Evensong, the Duke of Taunton (late major, the Intelligence Corps) has to get naïve, Lib Demnote  local councillor Teddy Gates out of just such a crisis. It's a subverted one: the threat is in Teddy's having agreed a pledge to put up social housing in the district ... despite every square foot's being scheduled at least Grade II*. (Needless to say, a crafty solution ensues. Involving retired Gurkhas.)
  • In Rasco and the Rats of NIMH, the construction of a dam threatens to flood the valley that is home to the rats.
  • The Walking Stones by Mollie Hunter is a children's fantasy novel featuring a conflict between old ways and new in a valley scheduled to be flooded for a hydroelectric dam.
  • In Roadwork, a Stephen King novel published under his Richard Bachman pen name, Barton George Dawes learns that his neighborhood and workplace are scheduled for demolition, to make room for an interstate highway extension. Dawes has a mental breakdown and can't bring himself to leave. At the end, he wires his house with explosives, gets into a gun fight with the police who try to evict him, then blows up the house while he's still inside.
  • In the Village Tales series, any development at all, and especially in the second book, Evensong, when several County councillors trick local Councillor Teddy Gates into agreeing a new social housing estate in the Woolfonts ward: a scheduled "heritage" area in which even the sheds are Grade II* or better. (The Duke of Taunton of course finds a solution which bites the County councillors in the ass -- or arse.)
  • Chinaman's Reef Is Ours by Australian author Ivan Southall. The residents of Chinamen's Reef discover that a mining company has bought up the town to convert it into an open-cut mine.

     Live Action Television 
  • Home and Away had a story arc involving a project dubbed "Project 56" which would have constructed a highway straight through Summer Bay.
  • In an episode of Little House on the Prairie, the railroad was coming to town and bringing with it drunks and other rowdies that would completely transform the character of Walnut Grove. The town fought against the railroad and the railroad redirected to go to a different small town.
    • The Grand Finale involved a railway baron deciding to do the above-mentioned situation again... and managing to buy the lands where Walnut Grove is located right out from under its inhabitants. The inhabitants of Walnut Grove decide to give the best show of defiance that they can... by blowing up the whole town and leaving the baron with no community to profit from.
  • In the Grand Finale of Newhart, the entire town is bought out by a Japanese company to build a golf course. Dick is the lone holdout, and the course is built around his inn. Smashed windows from errant golf shots are a daily occurrence. Subverted in that in the penultimate scene all the former townsfolk come back for a reunion and they're all much better off.
  • Sesame Street:
    • It had a special in The '90s that starred Joe Pesci as a Donald Trump expy who wants to tear down Sesame Street and build his new Grump Tower in its spot; the residents of the Street get together in protest.
    • This was recycled in one of Mad TV's many Sesame Street parodies, in which Donald Trump himself (actually Frank Caliendo) becomes new best friends with Gordon, and evicts the residents of the Street so he can build "the most lavish, luxurious, opulent, extravagant Starbucks ever known to man."
  • On Sons of Anarchy Clay Marrow likes to invoke this as the reason why he opposes any new land developments in Charming. However, his reasons are much more self-serving. As long as Charming stays a small blue-collar town, Clay and the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club have enormous control over how the town and the local police department is run. If Charming grows and becomes more affluent, the town council might get powerful enough to successfully oppose the Sons and clean up the corrupt police department.
  • Tremors continues from the end-point of Tremors 3, in which the residents of Perfection Valley refused to sell their land to be converted to a town and are backed up by the government declaring the area a nature preserve. Many of the episodes revolves around the residents resisting either the government's efforts to drive them out (for the safety of el Blanco, their resident graboid) or Melvin's attempts to buy them out in order to put up a strip mall he calls "Melville". In Episode 1 "Feeding Frenzy", Melvin secretly erects sound-generating devices the stimulate El Blanco's hunger to the point where the graboid becomes very dangerous, and Burt is nearly forced to shoot it. He does this because if El Blanco is killed the valley will no longer have government protection.
  • In Cranford, the imminent arrival of the railway is a major source of concern and disagreement in the community, with many concerned that it will destroy their way of life.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Voyager, where a lone hold-out "valiantly" refuses to sell his bookstore and allow its bulldozing for a massive new development... even though the offer is very fair, literally everyone else in town wants the development, and (with the benefit of hindsight) we know that its experimental features will lead to technological advances that will allow the colonization of Mars.
  • Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum had a villain named Dr. Abobrinha who always wanted to demolish the castle (the show's main setting) to build a 100-floor building in its place.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • There's a series of Peanuts strips from the 1960s (during the height of the Interstate building boom) involving a proposed freeway that would go right through Snoopy's doghouse (insert your own Fridge Logic here). The sequence ends with the revelation that the freeway isn't being built until 1967.

  • In the Screwball Comedy play You Can't Take It with You (and its film adaptation), Mr Kirby, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, buys 12 blocks of a Close-Knit Community and forces the tenants to vacate the properties within 10 days. The plot gets complicated when it turns out that Kirby's son is in love with a girl living in one of the blocks. It all ends well.
  • The Sesame Street Live show Save Our Street involved the street being in danger of being turned into a parking lot.

     Video Games 
  • Harvest Moon has a couple of very similar examples:
    • In Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland, the plot revolves around your character trying to find one of several paths to stopping the town from becoming an amusement park. These include things like discovering protected animals or finding treasure.
    • In Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, the valley is also under threat of being turned into an amusement park and offers the option of buying the valley outright if you save up enough money. The other methods of saving the valley are all about making either a tourist destination or a nature preserve. Instead of offering multiple paths leading to multiple endings, the idea here is to do three or more storylines under one of those paths to succeed in saving the valley.
  • Most of the violent events in the backstory of Higurashi: When They Cry ostensibly stem from a project to build a dam that would have flooded the basin in which the village of Hinamizawa sits.

     Western Animation 
  • This trope was used in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, when Plankton builds a new highway through Jellyfish Fields.
  • South Park. Evil Native Americans want to plow the town under in order to make a freeway bypass that goes directly to their casino.
  • The Simpsons. When Sideshow Bob becomes mayor, one of the first things he does is reroute a new freeway to go directly through the Simpson property, seizing their house via eminent domain and forcing them to live under a bridge.
  • Regular Show introduced Thomas as the Park's newest intern in an episode where the Park was being turned into a new interstate as a revenge plot by Garrett Bobby Ferguson Jr. because Mordecai and Rigby were responsible for his father's death.
  • Bugs Bunny:
    • The cartoon "No Parking Hare", Bugs has to battle a construction foreman building a freeway where his burrow is. In the end, the freeway is built around Bugs' home.
    • "Homeless Hare" has a similar plot, this one involving a skyscraper.
  • On the Donald Duck short "Dragon Around", Chip 'n Dale defend their home from a "dragon" that turns out to be Donald in a steam shovel, who has to uproot their tree to clear the way for a highway.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Sweaters": Carlton threatens to have his rich dad bulldoze Elmore Junior High to make a golf course if Gumball and Darwin don't have a tennis match with them. Gumball describes this as "like the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard", but he eventually agrees when he thinks it will impress Penny.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Occupy Bears", the bears' home is being demolished in order to put up a cell phone tower, and they have to find proof that they have been living there for over five years to stop the construction.
  • Clarence: In "Rough Riders Elementary", the company that makes rough riders chicken intends to just come for a short while, but then they decide to hypnotize the students and faculty, take over the school, and turn it into another restaurant. In the end it turns out that Clarence had just made up that story as an explanation for why he doesn't like a new sauce.
  • Wheel Squad: In "Stay on Track", Enzo intends to build a tunnel that'll grant people easier access to World Mart. Unfortunately, the construction work is causing earthquakes at the community where the heroes live.
  • King of the Hill: In one episode, Ted Wasongasong funds the construction of a "McMansion on Rainey Street. While the regular characters merely think it's an eyesore, the "community threatening" part comes into play during a severe rainstorm, where the building is so shoddily constructed that it could destroy several neighboring houses if it collapses. Hank and company's solution: grab hammers, axes, and whatever tools they can find to pull the building down safely.

     Real Life 
  • The construction of highways through cities can result in several concerns including noise and eminent domain of houses or land. A specific example was the short section of Highway 24 in Arizona, which involved the eminent domain of roughly 10 houses.
  • The City of St. Paul had several neighborhoods razed by freeway construction in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Most notably, Interstate 94 was deliberately (or so it was claimed by protestors) through the African-American Rondo community. There is an annual Rondo Days commemoration of the event.
  • Older Than They Think: In 64 CE, a devastating fire destroyed large parts of Rome. Emperor Nero subsequently built his Domus Aurea (Golden House) in part of the burned-out area, and some people at the time suspected he ordered the fire to make way for his vast new palace. The outcry was such that a scapegoat had to be found, and Nero settled on members of the then-minority sect Christianity.
  • The Cofiwch Dryweryn graffito has commemorated for fifty years the flooding of the Tryweryn Valley for a reservoir.
  • The Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts was made in the 1930s by flooding four towns—Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott—which were all disincorporated. The residents went all the way to the state Supreme Court to try and block the project but ultimately lost.