Solvent Savings

11 thoughts on “Solvent Savings”

  1. Weeeellll, Memphis’ problems are rooted in the history of Memphis, specifically in how post desegregtion spawned immense amounts of white and middle class flight to new suburbs- including I might add a large number of black middle class and professionals.

    Simply calling it a problem of color further closes wallets due to the riots- so what is left runs exactly like you described the recent history of Memphis, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, etc, etc, etc…

    With freedom and the end of redlining, those middle class investors in the upkeep of the city got in their new Buick and drove out to the new promised land- Suburbia!!!

    And their money and investments left with them, and their economic activity that supported the neighborhood left, and etc.

    And what filled the vacuum? Poor and their associated economic activities.
    And then crime goes waaay up- houses become assets to be stripped for the last erg of value, legal or illegal- with blight comes the bulldozer- and once again stripped out areas are not attractive to rich and middle class investors of any color- so new is built further out…

    In short- like J describes.

    Solutions are hard- have to make it attractive to fix up damages houses- so inspections have to become safety related and not builder max deals- complete with crippling paygo fees for building departments.

    But we have no money! Then act like it, dammit. Stop going for pie eyed dreams- start going for lower middle class expansion, stop building any more subsidized housing and start doing to the basic building of services. In short shaft the poor, because they are always going to be there, but if they can fit into those cheap housing units that result from saving existing structures, then they finally can get something affordable!

    In short, one has to turn current urban planning on its head- skip the hollow dreams of the real estate mafia with their flip in Austin cool gentrification, and go for solid development- build subsidized units from 25%-50% of the local area cost of housing- for folks with jobs! Affordable housing will attract owners, and that stabilizes neighborhoods.

    The brutal savaging of the subsidy hustlers and the huge economic development give away teams is the first damn step.

    Stop dreaming, and start selling the humble tax owned building lot. And tax vacant property at a high enough rate that a use will be found!!!

    Land banking devastates downtowns- so force a use, any use, to start economic activity.

    Simple, real economics, and yet everyone continuously fails at this.

    1. What I see all over the country is a standardized response to institutional dynamics. It’s possible to get a boat load of money from the feds, the state, the Department of Transportation, bond traders, and investors to build big silver bullet projects. The bigger, the better. Anything small doesn’t meet the minim clearance. These giant projects are a complete waste on many levels. But we can’t help but build more of them. Eventually the system will crash and we’ll get a reset.

    1. You’re not the first reader to send me this link. My take away is that the people living in the higher value suburban neighborhoods are obsessed with the cosmetic look and feel of things – essentially a landscape of consumption associated with people who can afford to buy nice things.

      Are the lawns well tended and respectable? Are the homes freshly painted? Are the street poles pretty? Are the neighborhood vehicles newer and well maintained? The concept is simple. Good people in the good places earn money somewhere else – silently, invisibly, odorlessly – and then spend it on shiny useless things that need to be kept up. That’s how you know you’re in the good part of town.

      The essence of the Incremental Development approach is that things need to be productive first. Productive places can be beautiful – the way a Norman Rockwell Main Street is attractive or the way Paris or a small rural village is pretty. But first a place has to support itself with productive activity. But all production is illegal and culturally repugnant in fancy suburbs.

      1. It’s another symptom of our fractured society. Too much specialization, I guess (Robert Heinlein said specialization is for bugs, he had a point).

        People in fancy suburbs want to keep the repugnant productive activity away from them, and then lose touch with the issues impacting productive people. People in fancy downtowns keep the repugnant farm animals away from them and then think cow farts are destroying the planet. So few people actually understand the dependencies their lives… um, depend on.

        I’m thankful I grew up in a town that was too small for people to move away from each other.

  2. You ask more question than you provide answers, JS! I’m joking, of course. If the answers were easy……

    For what it’s worth…….Answers are a lot easier if a city is on the upswing, rather than on the shnide. Memphis may not technically be on the shnide, but not much better than treading water. Ferreting through some historical demographics, as I like to do, I found it revealing that as recently as 1960, Memphis was nearly three times as large as its in-state rival, Nashville. The latest estimates are that Nashville has within the past few years eclipsed Memphis in population.

    https://www.biggestuscities.com/tn/1960
    https://www.biggestuscities.com/tn/2016

    (This data looks only at city populations, and not metro, though as late as 1960 most cities comprised the vast majority of their respective metropolitan area populations).

    I can think of another case where two fairly close-by cities went in different directions. Just after WWII (1950), metro Atlanta and metro Birmingham were roughly the same size (672,000 and 559,000, resp.) Today, Atlanta is one of the Top Ten largest metro areas in the nation, and Birmingham is, well, Birmingham. (2012 estimates, recent enough to make the point: Atlanta 5,458,000; Birmingham 1,137,000)

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/003821-metropolitan-dispersion-1950-2012

    Not that it helps, but more dynamic places like Nashville and Atlanta have a lot more options – even if it’s sheer brute force of throwing money at a problem – than does Memphis. I’d even go so far as to suggest than in a lot of ways Memphis more resembles some of the cities in the traditional Great Lakes Rust Belt than it does the New South boomtowns like in Texas, Nashville, Atlanta, and in North Carolina.

    OK…I admit……no answers here either. Just observations. LOL

    1. So…. if the goal is to do big giant things with tons of money than Houston, Atlanta, etc are the obvious choices. But if you want to cultivate something intimate on a small scale with very little cash Memphis “could” be the better option.

      Do you think the huge metros will continue to grow forever? Or do things run in long slow cycles and the growth spurts wind down and the economies of scale choke and contract? Detroit boomed for decades befor it crashed hard. Maybe the smaller towns of the Rust Belt are accidentally better suited to the needs of the future. Who knows? But I won’t live long enough to see that day.

      1. I am with you on the incrementalism concept. Considering the biggest barrier is usually City Hall, that might be more easily accomplished in a smaller place like a Rockford or a Columbus, GA, where they might be a bit more nimble. Years ago (wish I could find it) read something about a guy who was rehabbing an older Craftsman style in Pasadena. The driveway was broken, jagged and cracked after nine decades of use. He wanted to remove it and lay down gravel – which would serve its purpose as a drive and had the added benefit of being permeable, reducing runoff, etc. I’ll leave it to your imagination how well that idea flew.

        I bring up these more faster-growing places in that they might be in a better position to throw around some seed money for some of these ideas.

        1. I can assure you the smaller towns are no more nimble. In fact, they tend to be completely ossified and dominated by a few wealthy families. The new library and high school for the arts in Columbus, GA were a disaster. From the air they’re indistinguishable from shopping malls. It’s all top down, creative financing, and special deals for the usual suspects.

        2. I worked in the planning department of a small town in a state with a reputation for being very low-regulation, but there was nothing nimble about it. It should have been a site for innovative development, incremental growth, and even a lot of local production, but for the most part it was just another tacky American suburb.

          As Johnny has pointed out, the driver of our current status quo is largely the national banking/mortgage/finance system, and those tentacles reach even the most far-flung places.

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