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Community-Threatening Construction

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"I'm going to wreck your house, and drive you Greens outta town...once and for all!"note 
"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 big mall, a golf course, a big hotel, etc. Compare Railroad Plot if the project in question is a railroad, which is especially common in older works.

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, Green Aesop, Saving the Orphanage, Railroad Plot and Childhood Memory Demolition Team for similar conflicts, but different victims. See also Villainous Gentrification.


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    Comic Books 
  • Black Dynamite: The Illuminati wants to kill the members of a Tibetan monastery so they can turn the mountain they're on into a silicon mine.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: The realtors who appear in the Top Cat issue. They're not doing anything illegal but they're jerkasses who don't care about the people whose lives they're ruining with their plans.

    Films — 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, Emperor 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! The Movie which has the residents of Arnold's neighborhood banding together (although some later than others) to prevent the neighborhood from being razed and turned into a mall by a Corrupt Corporate Executive named Scheck. This includes Arnold and Gerald going into a quest to find documents that show that the neighborhood has historical significance.

    Films — 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.
  • 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 accidentally 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.
  • 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 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."
  • In Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter, Dennis finds a dinosaur bone in his front yard which brings so much publicity that an amusement park is planned for their neighborhood. Unfortunately, said amusement park, Dino Land, means the Mitchells and their neighbors would have their whole neighborhood torn down.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the ultimate plan of the Big Bad, Judge Doom, is tear down Toontown to make way for his freeway in which he will earn the money from the establishments made to compliment the product due to being the sole stockholder of the company in charge of the freeway product. In a darker variant of this situation, rather than forcing them out first, Judge Doom is intent on deliberately and literally wiping the residents while they're still occupying the space using his concoction known as the Dip. An act made more monstrous due to being revealed to be a Toon as well.
  • In Heatwave, Houseman and the other Eden Project developers plan to bulldoze a block of terraced houses in Sydney and kick out the tenants and squatters living there in order to build high-end apartments in their place.

  • 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.
  • In Racso 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. The real twist of the knife? The highway extension was completely unnecessary, the city just needed to build a certain amount of road every year to qualify for federal road funding, making the whole book a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
  • 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.
  • The Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft: Averted, the people of Arkham are more than happy when the new reservoir (based on the Quabbin Reservoir project mentioned in the Real Life section) floods an area known only as the "blasted heath", a formerly verdant farming area turned into a horrible wasteland by a strange meteor crashing there years earlier.
  • Magic Shop: In The Skull of Truth, Harley Evans wants to drain Tucker's Swamp and build an "industrial park", really a collection of factories. Initially, much of the town is all for it (and some still are even after the truth about it comes out). In truth, it could mess up the town's water tables, cause several wells to go dry and two species to go extinct, and the project is in violation of several federal wetlands laws. On finding this out, many people turn against the project, ending the threat it poses.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family: In "Progress and the Addams Family", Henson routes the new freeway so that the Addams house will need to be torn down to accommodate it.
  • 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.
  • Better Call Saul: A major plot point of season 5 is Mesa Verde Bank buying out a neighborhood in Lubbock, Texas to build a call center. One old resident, Everett Acker, strongly objects and refuses to move out in defiance of a court order. Kim, whose main client is Mesa Verde, tries to politely coax him into moving, and gets Jimmy to scam with her when that doesn't work.
  • The case of episodes 7 and 8 of the Korean legal dramedy Extraordinary Attorney Woo pertains to the construction of a highway that cuts right through the middle of Sodeok-dong.
  • Home and Away had a story arc involving a project dubbed "Project 56" which would have constructed a highway straight through Summer Bay.
  • 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.
  • Our Miss Brooks: At the beginning of the 1955-1956 season of the television series, and ''only'' in the television series, Madison High School is abruptly closed and ordered demolished by Los Angeles City Council. The episode, "Transition Show", sets up Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin's move to working at Mrs. Nestor's Private Elementary School. This not only changed the location of the school, but without explanation dropped the Everytown, America setting of the small city of Madison. This development was unique to the television series. The radio series continued to produce new episodes set at Madison High School. The concluding 1956 theatrical film pointedly had Miss Brooks at Madison High School.
  • 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 MADtv (1995)'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.

  • Referenced twice in the song "Goin' Goin' Gone" by Thrasher Shiver, which is about the narrator leaving his small rural hometown in Mississippi because of how much it's changed. The first verse contains the line "They just broke ground outside of town for a home improvement store / I guess Mr. Johnson won't be sellin' many hammers at his hardware anymore", while the second verse is "They're gonna build a four lane that comes real close to mom and daddy's backyard / It'll wind around and hеad southbound through the heart of my best friеnd's farm".

    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.

  • Two episodes of The Men from the Ministry cover this (a village in Sussex making way for an airport in "Customs of the Country" and a Scottish village making way for a hydroelectric dam in "A sense of power"). On both occasions, the villagers vehemently resist...until they discover the compensation payments they'd receive.

  • 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 
  • Disco Elysium: Defied; Evrart Claire plans to build a community center across the river from Martinaise, and one of his tasks for The Detective is to have you hand out consent forms to the villagers of a nearby fishing village to make sure they know about it beforehand and that it won't be an issue for them. Played straight in that Evrart knows the noise and traffic from constructing the center is likely to make the village unlivable for its inhabitants — in fact, he's counting on it because it means he can buy the whole thing for cheap when the villagers inevitably want to move away. If The Detective catches on to this, he has the option of sabotaging the construction by faking the signatures on the consent forms and giving the villagers a legal out if they try stopping it.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories: The construction of the Callahan Bridge and Porter Tunnel caused several ferry workers to stage a strike at the ferry terminal in Harwood. The Portland Harbor is also closed down by the harbor workers, who showed sympathy with the ferry workers. When the Staunton Island is unlocked, several ferry workers who refused to back down also staged a strike at the entrance of the Shoreside Lift Bridge. They finally back down when Miles O'Donovan is elected and he assures that the ferries will continue to be operational.
  • 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.
  • Love & Pies: In the Rival Season Pass, Edwina destroys Appleton's historic gatehouse, where Mayor Mei Hong's great-grandmother lived 70 years ago, to build Global Megacorp MegaWarehouse under her father's contract, and Amelia has to help the mayor rebuild the gatehouse.
  • Stardew Valley: Joja Corp wants to buy up the abandoned community center and turn it into a company warehouse, which will strengthen their grip on the town. It's up to you whether you want to support their efforts, or side with the spirits hiding in the building to restore it, which will rally the townsfolk to drive Joja away for good.
  • Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: In the final episode, The Bogey Man, after recovering the long lost deed to the Prickly Thicket's golf course, it's discovered that the course grounds run through most of the town, with the 18th hole in particular landing right on Wallace's doorstep. In order to save the town, Wallace challenges McBuiscit to a golf game through the town, with the winner earning the position of golf club chairman, and the right to call off the wrecking balls.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Big City Greens: (Page image example above) The Greens' farmhouse is threatened to be destroyed multiple times by Chip Whistler starting in Season 2, who wants to run them out of Big City after blaming them for ruining his reputation with Wholesome Foods. The first time he almost did this, Keys interfered and he hit part of the roof instead; near the end of said season, he plots to demolish it and turn it into Wholesome Foods property, which could end all legacy that came with it if the family doesn't fight back to save it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades: Cobra in this continuity is a conglomerate with numerous shady operations, so this comes up a few times, including a hydroelectric dam that's actually a lab for the creation of Bio-Vipers and Cobra drilling giant tunnels under the entire country to make their planned invasion easier (which causes seismic disturbances above).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In South Park episode "Red Man's Greed", 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 in "Sideshow Bob Roberts", 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.
  • This trope was used in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, when Plankton builds a new highway through Jellyfish Fields. He also builds an overpass over the Krusty Krab, rendering it inhospitable for cutomers, and nearly forcing Krabs to give him the Krabby Patty Secret Formula.
    • Another episode, "Walking Small", has Plankton trying to build another Chum Bucket on Goo Lagoon Beach, but is too small to be taken seriously. He tricks SpongeBob into driving the beachgoers away under the pretense of "assertiveness training". Eventually, SpongeBob catches on and stops him.
      SpongeBob: You used me... for land development! That wasn't nice.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • The Prefect Georges Haussmann's rebuilding project of Paris under Napoleon III. Basically the whole Medieval Paris was destroyed to make room for new streets and avenues. Compared to other capitals of Europe, Paris has very few buildings which are older than 150 years.
    • Lampshaded by Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin, which effectively would have demolished everything in Paris and replaced it with humongous high-rises. Basically the whole Paris would have been transformed into one large banlieue.
  • Rio de Janeiro mayor Francisco Pereira Passos' rebuilding project, inspired by Haussmann, was also a case of this, with over 1600 houses being demolished to widen streets and avenues. The concurrent demolition of the city's cortiços (high-density housing for low income people) and lack of replacement housing led most of the displaced people to build improvised houses in the city's hills, giving birth to the favelas. Ironically, Pereira Passos' own hometown, São João Marcos, would later be a victim of this, being partially flooded for the building of the Ribeirão das Lages dam.
  • Destruction of the Medieval Bucharest under Nicolae Ceausescu
  • 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.
  • The African-Canadian community of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was wiped out by construction of an access ramp to a new cross-harbour bridge.
  • In Toronto, the (by then) majority-Chinese neighborhood of The Ward was wiped out to make way for the new city hall and public square. Partially averted in the case of the city's proposed expressway network; those that were completed largely avoided going through existing residential neighbourhoods, but other proposed routes were not going to so considerate. Neighbours organized opposition; they were fortunate to count among their number Jane Jacobs, a veteran activist who had already been successful in blocking similar expressway projects in New York.
  • 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.
  • Central Park in New York City sits on what used to be Seneca Village, an African American neighborhood. Racism did play a major role in the choice of location.
  • Detroit's Poletown neighborhood, so named for the large number of Polish people living in it, was obliterated in 1981 by eminent domain in favor of a General Motors plant. Naturally, the displaced members of the community filed a lawsuit.
  • Expansion of a Buick factory and construction of Interstate 475 obliterated Flint, Michigan's St. John Neighborhood, a predominantly black neighborhood built along the Flint River.


Video Example(s):


Ansel's Project

Ansel doesn't mean to sound a little callous, but his next big project is demolishing his old boardwalk in Brooklyn and replacing it with a city expansion.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / CommunityThreateningConstruction

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