Originally Posted by wburg
I'm not opposed to high-rises or skyscrapers--they have their place and their role. There certainly are things they can do that smaller historic buildings can't. But there are also things that skyscrapers can't do, that historic buildings can--which is why we need both. New skyscrapers don't carry on the architectural and social legacy of a city, although they can continue it. New buildings, skyscrapers or not, carry a bigger environmental impact whereas constructed buildings provide a big environmental savings (and a cost savings) in that the energy of their construction has already been spent. Rehabbing old buildings is better for the local economy because the bulk of the expense is in labor, which is money spent locally, rather than in materials. Old buildings are also better places for low-income housing than new buildings, because they are inherently cheaper than new construction. This means that the government doesn't have to subsidize low-income housing construction in order for it to occur.
One of the major driving forces of urban renewal was tax-increment financing--government borrows money to pay to knock down neighborhoods, then subsidizes industry with the borrowed money, and paid off the loans with the increased property taxes. This resulted in bigger government, higher taxes, government-enforced theft of private property, destruction of small businesses and reduced rates of home ownership--all things that should make any good libertarian's head spin with fury.
This may surprise you, but I consider myself a libertarian and a capitalist too, though perhaps not to the same extent. History is a resource--a limited, highly valuable and irreplaceable resource. Correct husbanding and management of that resource can (and SHOULD) result in profits, both financial and social.
You bring up some interesting points. I could not agree more with your summary of tax-increment financing and government subsidies. I did not support the City's commitment of public funds to Saca's poorly-planned dream, and I remain dead against public assistance for any development. Also, as I said in my previous post, I do not support tearing down every old structure. Believe me, each time I drive past the Safeway on Alhambra my heart sinks - We are really missing out. I agree a balance is in order. Now, here comes the "big but". BUT.......................
1) You mentioned the need for both older structures and modern skyscrapers/high rises/mid rises/low rises. Basically, you are talking balance. Great. The problem: "Balance" means different things to different people. I have a rather negative view of preservationists. The following is only my OPIONION: I think preservationists like to say they want balance, but their idea of balance does not match what is reasonable. Someone can say they don't mind skyscrapers and then find an excuse to go out and sue every developer who tries to build one. I have preservationist friend; I call him Wacko McGee (he does not appreciate that nickname). Mr. McGee does not mind skyscrapers and high rises as long as the fit within certain “view corridors”. However, when you look at his view corridors, you find that skyscrapers must be significantly smaller than expected (150 to 350 feet) and only a select few areas are designated for them. Mr. McGee also has no problem with new structures as long as they do not destroy or disturb certain preservation-worthy buildings. Wonderful. However, his definition of "preservation-worthy” is so loose that a significantly reduced number of new buildings are allowable. When you combine his view corridor rules with his preservation-worthy rules, you find that it’s very difficult to get anything built. Basically, he wants down town Sacramento to be a larger version of down town Auburn – Main Street, USA. Unacceptable. Is it really balance when preservationists say they are for skyscrapers and modern buildings as long as they fit into extremely (almost impossibly) narrow criteria? I don’t think so.
Just so you don’t accuse me of being Mr. Strawman:
I am not saying you are like Wacko McGee, but I have my suspicions – I’d kind of like to know what situations you think skyscrapers and modern buildings are acceptable/allowable.
2) "New skyscrapers don't carry on the architectural and social legacy of a city, although they can continue it." Wait. What? Isn't carrying on the architectural and social legacy of a city the SAME as continuing the architectural and social legacy of a city? Also, I would submit to you that while a modern building may or may not continue or carry on a city’s architectural and social legacy, it certainly can introduce a new architectural and social legacy - One which wackos (
) 100 years from now may fight to keep.
3) I do not care a whole lot about the environment or low-income housing (I am a heartless conservative/libertarian). So,
. However, let me just say that many of the old building rehabs I've seen don't exactly result in cheap places to live. Gutting an old building, installing modern features and making it ready for residents does cost pretty good money. Next, factor in the space problem: Older buildings (especially those in Sacramento) don't have the square footage of modern mid/high rises. Less square footage often means a lower volume of residents; and lower volume can mean higher prices. Yes, the cost of a rehab is less, but you also have fewer residents to spread the cost.
4) I'm not sure I agree with you when it comes to the local economic benefits. When you really look at the benefits of a $3.5 million rehab and a $350 million skyscraper, it would seem the skyscraper rapes the rehab every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Yes, a new skyscraper is going to use a lot of money on materials, but I have a feeling a rehab will need a good load of materials as well - tightening loose bolts and hammering in protruding nails is not enough. Sure, a higher percentage of a new skyscraper's cost may go to materials, but a skyscraper also costs more than a rehab and requires more workers (workers who may live in the area and will certainly spend money in the area) to construct it. Therefore, I would think you might see a greater economic benefit just from the building of a new skyscraper than you would from rehabbing an old brick pillbox. In addition, don't forget that once the rehab or skyscraper is done, the building will continue to throw off economic benefit throughout its life. I think the building capable of housing more workers, businesses and residents will also be capable of producing a bigger economic benefit. I'm not certain, but I think that building is..................................................................the skyscraper.
5) Let's exit the skyscraper realm here, for a moment, and compare a rehab to the construction of a similar-sized new building. While the rehab has the benefit of already existing, it also has numerous hurdles to overcome. Modernization is very expensive - try retrofitting an air conditioning system into a building that was not designed for it - $$$$. Older buildings tend to deteriorate, so they have to be gutted and stabilize - $$$$$$$. Heaven forbid you need to change configuration. You can't just knock out a load-bearing wall; new engineering and new framing must incorporated - $$$$$$$$$. With a new building, you get to start with a clean slate; it will conform to you (as well as modern standards), you don't have to conform to it.
Thanks for contributing to this board. You bring a different view. I am glad you decided to join.