Front Loading Value is a Mistake

8 thoughts on “Front Loading Value is a Mistake”

  1. Have you ever been to Lake Havasu City, a little bit south? Lots of their waterfront is not privatized. Much to find fault with. But because it’s a new town 3 hours from the nearest city, they had to include a cluster of denser housing and all the LULUs and couldn’t ask older commnities to pick up the burden of these.

    1. LULU. I had to look that one up. “Locally Unwanted Land Use” I like it. I think I’ll use that one in the future.

      I got on to Google Earth and checked out Lake Havasu City. You’re right. Much of the waterfront is public rather than private. And you’re also right that the city is dotted with some three story doughnut shaped apartment complexes that probably irritate the mobile home park residents, self storage facility people, and motel occupants across the street and around the corner. Let’s just say if there were an ugly contest it would be neck and neck all around.

  2. Reblogged this on Walkable West Palm Beach and commented:
    Reblogging this excellent piece from fellow Strong Towns member and blogger Johnny Sanphillippo of the blog “Granola Shotgun”. This piece holds excellent insights into waterfront cities and lessons we can carry into waterfront development here in West Palm Beach. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The difference is that even the most remote house in Island Heights still has access to the water. Not everyone can see it, but it’s there. People pay extra for that kind of thing. Kids can ride their bikes to the river. The elderly can walk along the promenade. Families can enjoy picnics at the gazebo. People can fish or dip their toes in the water. That thin sliver of open space adds huge value to every single house in the entire town.”

  3. My parents own a vacation home in Bullhead, but it’s a new subdivision up off of Bullhead Parkway in the hills near Laughlin Ranch. I enjoy visiting the town because it’s quiet and dry and the pool is awesome when the air is 104 degrees. The casinos across the river depress me. One of my brothers is going to buy a retirement home in Bullhead. I have done what I can to discourage him, but it falls on deaf ears. I have tried to explore the original downtown core, but it is depressing. However, the only gay bar in western AZ is in Bullhead. The Lariat. Yee haw!

    Bullhead is one of those towns that makes me think, “how on earth will this place endure in the long run?” Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’ll surprise me, but so many of the people there are from somewhere else. They come for jobs in the casinos and the cheap retirement. They have very little binding them together.

    You make a very interesting point about the waterfront. My parents tell me the city is going to build a river walk sort of thing north of the area you called out. There is already a small park there and a boat launching area where they host the annual River Regatta, which is a booze fest on inflatable rafts.

    1. In my experience towns like this are rarely able to add meaningful public space after the fact. It’s not simply a physical problem, but a profound lack of understanding about what works and what doesn’t.

      Back in Toms River the town spent decades inducing new shopping malls out in the corn fields. The charming 1700’s British colonial downtown died. So the authorities decided downtown needed a riverboat dinner theater booze cruise thing to draw in tourists. But tourists need a place to park before they get on the boat. So they torn down an entire block of the historic town along the riverfront in order to build a parking deck…

      I looked up the Lariat. According to the internet it closed… So much for local color in Bullhead City.

  4. While I think your analysis is accurate and important (how development patterns constrain and shape community resources and, hence, intensely affect overall economic value), it looks to me like Bullhead City is pretty much doomed even if it had been developed in a more egalitarian fashion.

    When I look at whether a town is likely to survive the next fifteen years, I think about the following:
    1) Did it exist a hundred years ago? (Towns that existed a hundred years ago likely have some historic economic function that might continue.)
    2) Is it on a rail line that is in use or possible to put into use (passenger or freight) ?
    3) Can its citizens get through the summer without air conditioning?
    4) Can its citizens grow 30% of their calories in the town’s limits? (Think Havana-style.)
    5) Has the town invested in renewable energy sources that can provide electricity if the grid goes down?
    6) Does the town not require winter heating, or if it does, does the town have access to a renewable source of heat easily at hand (for example, passive solar or wood) or sufficient renewable energy?
    7) Does the town have access to sufficient water for 30 gallons/person/day?
    8) Does the town have a definable center that offers goods and services and community spaces? (Bonus points if people already walk or bike there.)
    9) Are the people in the town already engaged in community activities, especially ones that strengthen social cohesion?

    Not every answer has to be yes. If a town’s lucky, it might be able to get by with just 4 yes answers at this point if it can come up with a couple more yeses within the next few years. But I would guess Bullhead City can say yes to only two, possibly three questions: # 6 (doesn’t need winter heating), # 7 (can pull water from the river), and maybe, possibly # 9 (I have no idea, although I do see they have a coop electricity company which is something.)

    What will truly doom Bullhead City is heat. Last summer 45 days out of 95 were over 110 degrees in that town. The houses of Bullhead are not well-positioned Earthships with thick walls and clever ventilation. There is almost no greenery; in fact the entire town looks to be one giant heat island where life is largely possible due to lots of air conditioning powered by lots of electricity. (In my estimation, Phoenix has similar long term sustainability problems for the exact same reason.)

    I don’t see solar on their rooftops. They are thirty miles from a rail line. The houses are packed so closely together and surrounded by so much concrete, there is little space to grow food. I don’t see a downtown. Since it’s pretty far from anywhere else, I doubt it has any reason for it to exist except as a retirement community, and my guess is over the next fifteen years people are going to start retiring in place to keep continuity with their families and communities. As far as gambling goes, every little town across America is opening up their own casino to try to attract gambling dollars (or at least keep local gambling dollars at home.) (You should see the casinos in Iowa!) My guess is twenty years from now Island Heights, New Jersey will still be full of people and Bullhead City will be a newly-minted western ghost town.

    1. I agree with what you write, but I also think we might be surprised at what the future brings. Or how long it takes for things to change one way or another. One of the most important elements of success vs. failure in any given location will be culture. A desert town with all the liabilities and limitations you mentioned might pull through if the residents are industrious and like-minded. Mormons, for example, could pull together and make a town in a desert wasteland work. The current hodgepodge of folks in Bullhead City? Not so much. Then again there are locations that have every advantage that will probably fail because the citizenry just isn’t interested in adapting. Or the unified and action-oriented locals will take the wrong measures and make things worse. I can see entire towns deciding that heathens or immigrants or gays are the problem and exhaust themselves in witch hunts while things just get worse. So… prepare to be surprised.

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