Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Here's something you don't see every day: Seattle mall owners to give United Way $10+ million from sale of the property

Image of Pacific Place, a shopping mall created inside a former historic office building in Seattle, from Seattleite.

See "Pacific Place sale will bring millions to United Way: Local investors in the downtown mall will donate $10 million or more from its planned sale to the United Way of King County, says Pine Street Development’s Matt Griffin" in the Seattle Times. From the article:

United Way officials say it’s the first time they’ve received a donation directly linked to a sale of commercial real estate.

Pine Street Development put Pacific Place up for sale earlier this year. Griffin said he expect to sell Pacific Place within 60 days to a buyer whom he wouldn’t identify.

Some 15 local individuals or families own about half of Pacific Place, Griffin said. The investors include Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and John McCaw, who made a fortune in cellular telecommunications.
A key element was having local ownership, people who are involved in civic affairs and at least willing to consider such a suggestion.

Another way to do this would be to have a transaction tax on commercial real estate sales, say 1%, that could go into a fund for civic, social, and cultural infrastructure projects.

I can't remember where it is, but one new urbanist planned development does this, although that particular transaction fee supports the programs of one particular organization, an institute set up in the community. But it's an interesting example.

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At 7:02 PM, Blogger Mari said...

Wouldn't it be better to let the seller's choose the charity instead? The beauty of this is the donation was a gift freely given, not a tax forced upon the seller. What the state can do is encourage gifts to charities with offices or operations in the community with a deduction. We can't assume every commercial sale has a significant profit, or even a profit at all.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

nah. Howzit working so far? How many donations are generated "voluntarily"?

So few that this particular example really sticks out

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Mari said...

This act is novel. Tax deductible contributions on general income or profits is run of the mill. They could have taken the the contribution out of general profits, but they instead tied it to this one transaction. Your suggestion of a government imposed 1% tax on all commercial real estate sales is coercive, lacking the beauty of a gift freely given. It's not even like the optional "Would you like to contribute 1% of this transaction to the Fund to save cute cuddly baby pandas in the Chesapeake?" The suggestion also devalues free choice of choosing the charity that works for the parties directly involved in the sale.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


1. there are all kinds of transaction taxes on real estate. That's what DC does to support affordable housing e.g.

2. "coercive"? Much of the value in commercial property results from public investments in infrastructure etc. And financial engineering assists many corporate owners in postponing tax-based recognition of profits, which would otherwise be taxed.

I don't see why a civic-social infrastructure fund transaction tax on real estate sales wouldn't be reasonable.


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