City building is a future‐oriented process that rests on the assumption that urban growth and transformation through capital investment and market competition is both expected and natural. Yet the fulfilment of this promise goes hand‐in‐hand with underachievement and failure. While much is known about the dynamics of urban growth and regeneration, very little is understood about the dynamics of urban decline and ruin. Decline is not simply the absence of growth. Theorizing the production of decline requires that we focus attention on how abandonment and neglect introduce ample opportunities for profit‐making whereby predatory entrepreneurs find ways to extract value from the dead and dying remains of the built environment. Just as city building is the result of profit‐yielding investment choices under the rule of real estate capital, city unbuilding is the outcome of extractive economies of plunder and pillage.