Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Planner's Blight in the downtown

Vargas signed a two-year lease with the building's owner, John Haight. But talk of the possibility that a developer could try to buy up the block's mixture of old industrial, commercial and retail properties to make way for townhomes or condominiums has her worried she may have to move again soon, she said....

Only a few months ago, Vargas, the diner owner, looked like another example of a new willingness to take a chance on downtown. But these days, she said, she's wondering if she won't wind up a victim of its success.

Vargas said the move cost her $137,000. And she wants to stay. (Courier 3/5/06)
One signal after another. First it was "nightlife not welcome," and now it's "invest at your own risk."

Our councilmen have all been involved in city affairs long enough; I'm sure they know about something called Planner's Blight, also known as Death Threat Syndrome. And I assume the city bureaucracy is familiar with it as well. If you haven't heard of it, Planner's Blight is the phenomenon whereby a city's own urban renewal policies create urban blight. Think of this scenario, for example: you want to open an office in an old or historic building, but just as you're about to invest thousands of dollars in leasehold improvements, the city announces its intent to demolish a nearby block and replace it with condominiums. Would you go ahead with your investment?

How do you know the city won't condemn the building you're in and put you out thousands, tens of thousands of dollars or more? You don't know. Which is why as a businessman you err on the side of caution, and choose not to invest. Who's going to invest in an old building when the authorities are on a demolition binge?


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