Wednesday, March 29, 2006

All eggs in the condo basket?

With low-rise buildings dating back to the 1800's, the city has the potential to be a New Urbanist paradise. But as in many other cities that began sprawling outward in the 1970's, the downtown was long neglected until high hopes for condo development along the riverfront spurred city planners to undertake a major redevelopment effort.

Now, the historical buildings are no longer deteriorating; many have been rehabilitated using preservation tax credits and other tax abatement measures. And yet much of downtown is still vacant, leaving some people in Fort Myers to wonder, What if you rebuild it and they still don't come?

"The city leaders have put all their eggs in the condo basket," said Warren J. Wright, the councilman for downtown Fort Myers...

"The city has approved all these condo units on the river and didn't pay any attention to the other pieces of the puzzle," said Marsa Detscher, an urban planning consultant ... (source: New York Times)

And how about us? Are we putting it all in the condo basket? Fort Myers shows how a single-solution approach to downtown renewal may not work at all. You can say, Florida's different. It's a different market, and so on.

But isn't it telling that Wellington, the townhome development on Kimball & Douglas, sits largely empty months after completion? As far as I can tell, the only unit occupied is the one purchased before construction by former Elgin Police Chief Gruber's daughter (the chief apparently had some kind of relationship with the developer) at a price of $255K, well below the current $450K asking price for each unit.

Could we be, like Fort Myers, building condos that will go unsold?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The chief IS the developer...

4:22 PM  

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