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, June 29, 2006

(Why aren't people) Learning from Jane Jacobs revisited

PH2006022101798.jpgPreston Keres, Washington Post. Unveiling of a model for National Harbor in Prince George's County Maryland.

Last July, I wrote this entry, "(Why Aren't People) Learning From Jane Jacobs" in response to something that Michele Dyson wrote in the Post about National Harbor and making it more like Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
Yahoo! Mail - <a href=Here is the Mercat de la Boqueria a large and colourful market on the Ramblas. If you were to visit this market, particularly during the summer months, you'll be dazzled by the brilliance of colour from the fruits and vegetables in its stalls. Photos from Barcelona Tourist Guide.

Yahoo! Mail - <a href=Las Ramblas.
Sidewalk, Adams-Morgan (by Tryst)Sidewalk in Adams-Morgan.

Well, everything in that piece is relevant to the ongoing discussion about revitalization vs. redevelopment and authenticity vs. a focus on the attraction of retail chains. Silver Spring Singular linked to a story in the Gazette about this verysame issue in Silver Spring, which we discussed earlier in the week. See "Owners of niche shops downtown getting priced out: Being a part of the redevelopment in Silver Spring has its cost, many now say."
characters061406a.jpgNaomi Brookner⁄The Gazette. Elena Aiken (left), owner of Elena Design Studio on Fenwick Lane in downtown Silver Spring, helps customer Doris McGhee of Washington, D.C., decide on a necklace June 10, during an open house at her shop. ‘‘I like revitalization but I’m not benefiting from it,” said Aiken, who fears her rent will soon increase.

ALL I CAN SAY IS read Jane Jacobs, read the writings about the "economic restructuring" point of the Main Street approach. The problem is that the improvement in the real estate market for property owners is somewhat disconnected from improvements in the market for retail and service store proprietors. Rents go up in advance of business increases. And property tax increases lead to rent increases even though business could in fact be declining.

Rents have to be a function of market reality, of what businesses generate in revenue. Unfortunately, as our commercial districts become a part of the national and even international real estate market, local businesses get priced out.

As regular readers know, I have testified about the issues of property tax valuation methods in traditional commercial districts. Those new to the issue might want to check back to this analysis, which I figured out through some pretty careful analysis of what's happening in various commercial districts around the city. See:

-- Testimony -- Historic Neighborhood Retail Business Property Tax Relief Act.

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