Category Archives: architecture

Gaming the Economic Development System

Once again, it appears that “build it and celebrate it” no matter the past sins (or future consequences) reigns supreme among economic developers. While hyping an announcement of more jobs and new construction in Greater Lansing, the fact that the insurance company in question challenged its property taxes using the “functionally obsolete building” scheme in 2010 was conveniently overlooked (see article in City Pulse).

Source: freep.com

If you are not familiar with the “functionally obsolete” tax game that is being employed most often by big box retailers, the claim that is made is their building is “functionally obsolete”  because it was specifically designed and built for their purpose and no other entity could possible adapt it. Needless to say, the whole argument is rather sketchy, but unfortunately, state tax tribunals have been swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. This argument might be plausible or reasonable if the structure was 20+ years old, but it is also being made for newly/recently constructed buildings. The story in the May 8, 2013 edition of City Pulse is an example of the same scheme being used for an office building. Exactly how hard is it to move cubicles, desks, and partitions?

The professional planning community needs to address this issue and fast. If a building is to become so dysfunctional (or functionally obsolete) so quickly, should it be approving for construction in the first place? And if it means the local property taxes are going to soon take a backhanded hit in the process, even more reason to deny the project unless the applicant certifies the building will be erected In an manner that is not dysfunctional (a.k.a. functionally obsolete).

Most special use (or conditional use) permit approvals require a community to determine whether the use “will not be detrimental to the economic welfare of neighboring properties or the surrounding community.” If the proposed building is to become “functionally obsolete” within ten years, no realistic or reasonable decision maker should approve its construction. Otherwise, all they are doing is losing badly at a zero sum game.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Editorial, Featured, Headline, Politics, Real Estate, The Media, Urban Planning

The Epicenter of Craft Beer Brewing

Source: experiencegr.com

In 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina tied in a nationwide vote as Beer City, USA. The Grand Rapids consolidated metropolitan area has no less than 19 craft breweries dotting its scenic West Michigan landscape and at least one more set to open soon.  According to experiencegr.com these include:

·         B.O.B.’s Brewery

·         Brewery Vivant

·         Founders Brewing Co.

·         Harmony Brewing Co.

·         The Hideout Brewing Co.

·         HopCat

·         Grand  Rapids Brewing Co.

·         Jaden James Brewery

·         Michigan Beer Cellar (Sparta)

·         The Mitten Brewing Co.

·         New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland)

·         Old Boys’ Brewhouse (Spring Lake)

·         Perrin Brewing Co.

·         Pike 51 Brewing Co. (Hudsonville)

·         Rockford Brewing Co. (Rockford)

·         Saugatuck Brewing Co. (Douglas)

·         Schmohz Brewing, Co.

·         Waldorf Brew Pub (Hastings)

·         White Flame Brewing Co.  (Hudsonville)

As a result. Grand Rapids has been catapulted into the forefront of craft beer brewing on a worldwide scale and received the following additional accolades in 2012:

·         World’s 2nd best brewer (Founders) – per RateBeer.com

·         World’s 3rd best beer bar (Hop Cat) – per Beer Advocate

·         Top 10 vacation city for beer lovers (with Kalamazoo) – per The Street

·         Top 25 world beer city – per DrinkingMadeEasy.com

·         The National Homebrewers Conference will be held in Grand Rapids in June, 2014.

You only need visit Grand Rapids one time to feel the cultural and economic vibrancy that is taking place around its craft breweries and how that same vibe is literally foaming over into the community at large. This past Saturday, both Founders Brewing’s Tap Room and Harmony Brewing Company were absolutely packed. The region’s brewpubs, beer bars, and breweries are hopping (bad pun) every day of the week with or without  live entertainment, as they have become a significant economic engine in the community.

Founders Brewing - Source: experiencgr.com

It is quite a sight to behold as historic structures are lovingly restored and inner city neighborhoods teem with street life, commerce, traffic, and residents. Combined with the immense success of ArtPrize, private-sector philanthropic and foundation investments, cooperative regional planning efforts, and Michigan’s economic revival, the 1.3 million resident Grand Rapids region has become the place to be in Michigan and certainly the epicenter of the craft beer industry in the Rust Belt and the entire nation. There is a perceptible “can-do spirit” in Grand Rapids that you do not feel in all cities. The region doesn’t wait around for handouts or bailouts. Instead, it has picked itself up by its own bootstraps and charted a successful course towards economic prosperity. Is everything perfect? Of course not, but there is definitely visible and identifiable progress taking place.

New Holland Brewing - Source: michigan.org

Indianapolis, Columbus, and Minneapolis-St. Paul may get most national attention as vibrant Rust Belt cities, but Grand Rapids deserves to be included in this illustrious list.   Kudos to the city, the region, local leaders, and especially its citizens for showing us all how to get “hopping.”

Rick Brown

Source: experiencegr.com

 

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Travel Guides, Urban Planning

Western Michigan University installs solar-powered charging stations

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo recently installed a bank of 15 solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in one of its parking lots at Miller Auditorium. What a great idea for making green driving greener.

Source: openpr.com

Utilizing the sun for recharging eliminates the need for electric infrastructure upgrades, uses Mother Nature as the power source instead of fossil fuels, and in theory eliminates the need for the property owner and/or the vehicle owner would have to pay a utility for the electric charge since it is derived from sunlight.

Here is a brief video about the facility at Western Michigan University.

Certainly, there will

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be some places that will still charge a fee for use of a solar-powered EV charger in order to recover their installation and maintenance costs, plus earn a profit – a privately owned parking garage comes to mind. The applications for solar-powered EV charging stations is only limited by access to sunlight and one’s imagination. Top floors of multi-deck parking garages, public parks, schools, vast wastelands of asphalt in commercial districts and around stadiums, hotels, and even single-family and multi-family residences.

Kudos to the Western Michigan Bronco’s for bucking the trend by employing this application of solar-power and for being an innovative trend-setter right here in Rust Belt.
Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

2012 Economic Study has Good News for Rust Belt Metros

According to the report “100 Leading Locations for 2012” by Area Development Online, 34 metropolitan areas of the Rust Belt made the Top 100, including the pre-eminent architectural showplace of Columbus, Indiana which was ranked number one.

Below is a list of those Rust Belt metropolitan areas that made the Top 100 in 2012. Congratulations to each of them, especially Columbus, Indiana.

Source: columbusartfest.com

1. Columbus, Indiana

9. Morgantown, West Virginia

12. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

16. Dubuque, Iowa

17. State College, Pennsylvania

20. Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey

24. Holland-Grand Haven, Michigan

29. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa

30. Ames, Iowa

33. Baltimore, Maryland

34. Williamsport, Pennsylvania

37. Sandusky, Ohio

38. Ann Arbor, Michigan

48. Columbus, Ohio

49. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York

51. Fort Wayne, Indiana

53. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York

57. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan

59. Oshkosh-Neenah, Wisconsin

61. Eau Claire, Wisconsin

63. Des Moines, Iowa

66. Rochester, Minnesota

70. Toledo, Ohio

77. Duluth-Superior, Minnesota-Wisconsin

78. Peoria, Illinois

83. Cumberland, Maryland-West Virginia

84. Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pennsylvania-New Jersey

85. Twin Cities, Minnesota-Wisconsin

88. Appleton, Wisconsin

90. Iowa City, Iowa

91. Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana

95. La Crosse, Wisconsin-Minnesota

96. Greater Lansing, Michigan

98. Bay City, Michigan

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Featured

Grand Rapids' Art-Economic Development Coup

I had my first opportunity to attend ArtPrize in Grand Rapids last Saturday. My oh my, have they ever hit upon a huge economic development success. Touted as the world’s largest open art competition, covering more than three square miles in the city’s central business district, ArtPrize is simply mind-boggling, inspiring, amazing, and entertaining all at the same time.

Source: mlive.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

All told, in 2102, you could see 1,517 entries (from 45 states and 56 countries) on display at 161 venues by walking the entire nine mile trail. It is quite amazing. ArtPrize offers a grand prize of $200,000

and total prizes of $560,000.

Source: flickr.com

 

 

 

 

Last Saturday was a beautiful autumn day in Grand Rapids and as a result, a huge crowd showed up for ArtPrize. Thousands upon thousands came from all over the State of Michigan and literally all over viagra natural the world. Any downtown business that was not open was very short-sighted, because most were packed well into the evening.

Source: weirdreview.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to a report entitled, The Economic Impact of ArtPrize 2011, by Anderson Economic Group, more than 322,000 people attended the free 19 day event in 2011 (its third year of existence) and spent more than $10 million (or approx. $30.50 per spectator). Another nearly $2 million was spent by organizers and the artists themselves. This does not even begin https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly to figure in the intangible benefits such as positive press, word of mouth, prestige for the city/region, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I had viagra free trial a tremendous time and saw some awe-inspiring pieces of art of every artistic genre imaginable. Thankfully, my date had a number of key locations and exhibits scouted ahead of time. My favorite was entitled “Birds” which is depicted earlier in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, did I note how cialis super active impressed I was with both downtown and frankly the entire city of Grand Rapids. There is a whole lot of economic and cultural vibe going on here. Watch out Indianapolis, Columbus, Twin Cities, and Madison, for Grand Rapids is rising fast and nipping at your heels. Very, very impressive! My kudos to the entire city and its citizens.

Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Urban Planning

Hospitals: To Sprawl Or Not To Sprawl

The last few times I have visited my home state of Indiana, I have noticed a number of new hospitals recently opened or being constructed along the I-69 corridor in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne regions.  Along I-69 north of I-465 in Indianapolis, it seems like new hospitals are rising from the cornfields at each interchange. IU Saxony Hospital, Community Hospital, and St. Vincent Hospital have all recently migrated to this corridor between Indianapolis and Anderson. The map below does not even include the pre-existing Riverview Hospital in Noblesville (just above the top of the map) or the two existing hospitals in Anderson (Community and Saint John’s) located about 10 miles to the east.

Granted, this area is growing very rapidly, but are all these satellite hospitals really necessary? Particularly in one narrow corridor? Indianapolis is not alone in this migration in Indiana. Below are multiple examples from Fort Wayne.

View of Parkview when it was under construction (I-69 in the foreground)
Source: fwdailynews.com

In Fort Wayne, both Lutheran-DuPont Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center have opened new facilities at the northern fringes of town at I-69 and DuPont Road (see photos above and below). Parkview’s campus is so large (just opened in March 2012) that a new interchange is being constructed to the north of the complex to accommodate the increased area traffic. On the southwest side of Fort Wayne,  Lutheran Hospital completed a large multi-structure campus several years ago at the corner of the I-69 and U.S. 24 interchange (see campus map below).

Lutheran Hospital campus map
Source: lhnbariatrics.com

 

Each of these new campus facilities have been followed quickly by a myriad of hotels, restaurants, apartments, medical office buildings, and other ancillary facilities, creating economic development boomlets at the interchanges. Being situated adjacent to freeway interchanges can provide speedy emergency access for these wealthy suburban areas (until gridlock develops there too) and the so-called “regional” reach of a hospital, but is promoting sprawl really beneficial to a community’s health? I doubt it.

And what about emergency services for inner city residents and the poor–doesn’t a suburban/exurban campus present the same reverse commuting difficulties that suburban employment centers do?

As a comparison, none of the major hospitals here in Greater Lansing have built suburban campuses in Mid-Michigan. SparrowMcClaren-Lansing, and Sparrow-St. Lawrence are all situated at midtown locations. Personally, I see this as a very positive health and land use planning attribute for Greater Lansing because:

  • The midtown locations help maintain the viability of the adjoining inner city neighborhoods.
  • Staying put at midtown locations lessons the potential for continued suburban sprawl.
  • Midtown locations are easier for the poor and disadvantaged to access by public transit, bicycle, or on foot.
  • Far-flung suburban and exurban locations do nothing to promote active transportation options for employees. Try bicycling to a campus off an interstate exit – usually not easy or safe.
  • The suburban/exurban locations promote greater use of automobiles thus contributing to greater pollution, more congestion, and poor sedentary lifestyles.
  • Remaining at midtown locations helps promote revitalization, redevelopment, social justice, and social equity.
  • A midtown location is more accessible regionally from all compass directions.

Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Headline, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Greater Buffalo Continues to Bulldoze its Nicest Buildings

Lackawanna is on a tear lately in an ill-advised effort to eliminate its historic heritage. The latest news from the former steel city is that it’s compelling the demolition of the old Lackawanna Steel office building (later known as Bethlehem North Office Building). The demolition is set to begin today, Monday, May 21. 

The old Lackawanna Steel headquarters has been empty for probably three decades and neglected for probably four. It may be the most historic building in Lackawanna, after the OLV Basilica. It was feldene cost the heart of the Western New York steel elavil industry for many years as Lackawanna Steel (later sold to Bethlehem Steel). I believe that sildenafil oral jelly this augmentin steel plant was once the third largest in the country, employing tens of thousands of workers. WWI and WWII were fought out of this plant and many Western New Yorkers made their living off of the decisions made in this building.
Lackawanna’s nickname of the “Steel City,” of course, came from the massive plant which operated out of this building. But that is long lost history. Today it is in rough condition after its owners allowed it to rot for so long. The City of Lackawanna has stated that they are sick of trying to save the building (although there is no record I can find of them trying to save it–if anyone knows of efforts put forth by the City to save the building, please let me know). The City also claims that there are zetia dosage collapsed stairs and floors within the building. There is a collapsed staircase, but there appears to be no evidence of collapsed or near-collapsing floors in the building. There is a rich record of recent images showing the interior, and recent reports from inside refute any claim of collapsed floors. We are left with a neglected building that is still very beautiful but which is seen as an impediment to pharmacy7days-online progress by the leaders of Lackawanna today. As I see it, they are calling for progress in the form of elimination of their heritage.
Shea's-Demo-Buffalo-NY-2.jpg
Photo: Steve Siegel
For a good look at the type of progress Lackawanna can expect at the Bethlehem site, take a short journey up Ridge Road to the vacant site for the former, very beautiful, St. Barbara’s Church. Just about a year ago the Catholic Church declared the church unfixable and had it hauled off to the garbage dump. That piece of cultural heritage is gone and in its place we find this crummy real estate sign practically begging for any offer on the property.
Demofvaevfvefvrevrvvrv.jpg
Luckily the preservationists didn’t do any obstruction on this one–we need these shovel ready sites, right? Perhaps they will get levitra cost a better price if we can convince someone to tear down that crappy old building to the left. Or maybe we can convince the county to close that lovely old library across the street and tear that down too. Once we sterilize the old stuff off the land it should be a lot easier to get some Burger Kings or a car wash or something really good in there. An Olive Garden is probably too much to hope for at this point.

 

–David Steel, Buffalo Rising

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