Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From The Atlantic Cities
The Simple Math That Can
Save Cities From Bankruptcy

In the 1950s, the five-story brick Asheville Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, started to fall into decline, presaging what would happen to most of the city’s downtown over the next couple of decades. A department store moved into the ground floor while everything above it sat empty. Then the building got one of those ugly metal facades that’s designed to distract from the fact that all the windows are boarded up. Here’s what it looked like in the 1970s, by which time it was completely vacant:

Twenty years later, the local real-estate developer Public Interest Projects set its sights on the building for a mixed-use retail and residential property. Local bankers and businessmen said they were foolish. No one wants to live downtown, they said. And so no one was interested in financing the project. Public Interest Projects went ahead with its own money and turned the building into this:

“Usually people like to see these before-and-after pictures of buildings,” says Joe Minicozzi, the new projects director at the firm who has now made something of a traveling road show with these photos. “And then we have the chaser of castor oil called economics.”
Minicozzi at this point starts pulling out bar graphs and land-use maps and property-tax calculations, because he’s not necessarily trying to make a point about the Asheville Hotel as much as he is about the fundamental math problem posed by modern cities in America.
In its vacant state in the 1970s, the Asheville Hotel didn’t contribute much to the public coffers. Today, though, that same parcel of land is responsible for exponentially more property tax revenue that helps pay for police, parks and city streets.
Read more: The Simple Math That Can Save Cities From Bankruptcy - Jobs & Economy - The Atlantic Cities

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