Frank Lloyd Wright Demolished

January 11, 2018 Economics Comments (1) 997

Last summer I was visiting my daughter in Kalispell, Montana, a lovely historic town.  One day we toured nearby Whitefish, which has a small history museum but was quite the contrast, as I mentioned in a blog HERE.  The one highlight was our discovery of a late Frank Lloyd Wright building, even labeled as such – completed as a medical office in 1961.

I am on the Board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and at the time I remembered the controversy and concern for the building.  Modest, it still echoed the Marin County complex in its rolling sculpted eave and horizontal emphasis.

But this week it looks like this

Why?  The pat answer is greed, but the real answer is hidden behind a seeming expression of greed: $1.7 million.  The blatantly unreasonable request almost sounds like “$1.7 million or I kill the building!”  And he followed through, which may have been the intention all along.  The piles of rubble remind me of the 1972 piles of the old Chicago Stock Exchange, which was similarly flipped up until it had a price it could not sustain, because real estate is the only asset class whose value is fully externalized.

It is usually a con.  Those silly preservationists think it is valuable, so I will ask them for too much money and then blame them when I demolish it.  Which is exactly, in every aspect, how a kidnapping for ransom works.

This was the trade Chicago made in 1972 after the Adler & Sullivan Chicago Stock Exchange was flipped by promoters to an unsustainable value.  To be replaced by a physical absence, a building that you can’t even look at for more than a second if you try.

So, that is the greed angle and the ransom angle, but what about The Vacant Lot Myth: that a cleared site is worth more for an owner?  I covered this a couple years back HERE.  It is like The Beige – what realtors tell you to paint your walls to appeal to the widest possible audience.  Not the best audience, not the best price, but the largest potential market.  Which leads to absences.

Here is your tradeoff!

Sadly, the absence in Whitefish builds on a local legacy of absence.  There is a plaque where they tore down their oldest building about five years ago.   Tourists may still come through on their way to Glacier Park but they will have less reason to linger, less to see, and less to remember.

 

 

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Buildings For The Future

October 4, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Technology Comments (0) 1139

My favorite quote from Donovan Rypkema during our Living Heritage Symposium last month was a marvelously simple recitation about why saving old buildings is economically brilliant.  He said simply:  “You can’t build new and rent cheap.”

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Passive Aggressive

April 5, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Vision and Style Comments (1) 1667

Passive Aggressive behavior is a terrible character failing.  It is a sign of immaturity or stunted development.  I know something of this and work to avoid it.

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The Value of Heritage

February 4, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Texas Comments (0) 1273

When a lover of history, architecture, or neighborhoods sees an historic building or district, they value it.  They want to save it, to preserve that value. Continue Reading

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Real Estate 2017

January 27, 2017 Blog, Economics, Historic Districts, Technology Comments (1) 1240

I attended a recent ULI event here in San Antonio that outlined emerging trends in  real estate.  I was struck by how much the factors they identified tracked with my own prognostications in November during my Partners speech in Houston at the National Trust conference.

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Concrete Culture and the One-Trick Pony

May 15, 2016 Blog, Chicago Buildings, Economics Comments (0) 735

Everyone in every borough goes to the Met, right?

I was going to write a blog about the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, now that I have been on hand to witness its demise on two waterfronts, one saltwater, one freshwater.  I spoke to fierce advocates, including a friend who was on the committee that selected the Chicago site south of Soldier Field.  I wondered why advocates had not developed a clear vision of what the museum was supposed to be, and I wondered whether lakefront museums designed for international tourists ever really serve the local population. Continue Reading

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The Vacant Stare

April 26, 2016 Blog, Chicago Buildings, Economics Comments (0) 789

Nothing to see here, move along, please.

In my last blog, I took the new leaders of historic Oak Park to task for forgetting why the Village is an attractive place and proposing the demolition of three nice old buildings (one of which definitely rates as a landmark) on Madison Street.  The proposed demolition is part of a road-bending plan that completely redeveloped several blocks. Continue Reading

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Oak Park Amnesia

April 20, 2016 Blog, Chicago Buildings, Economics Comments (4) 1196

Oak Park Avenue in the 1970s

Well I have been back in Oak Park for over half a year now, and it just got listed as the coolest suburb in the Chicago area, in large part for its incredible historic architecture (over two dozen buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright – more than ANYWHERE, and tons more by other Prairie architects) and a rising restaurant and nightlife scene.

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Panama Papers and Preservation

April 5, 2016 Blog, Economics Comments (1) 977

A home last summer in my former hometown of Los Gatos.  $3 million.  That is normal in Silicon Valley.  In fact, in Palo Alto, the median home price is well over $2 million.

I am going to jump on current events, namely the release of terabytes of data from Panama implicating an international host of politicians and businesspeople and celebrities in whacking great amounts of money laundering.  These range from the obvious beneficiaries of oligarchy like the Russian and Pakistani leadership to the unexpected (Iceland?) and I am sure the contortionist rhetoricians of our endless political winter will try to tie in some of our own candidates and their corporate backers.  I of course will focus on preservation. Continue Reading

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Main Street and Community Preservation

February 13, 2016 Economics, Historic Districts, Sustainability Comments (0) 710

This coming week I will be lecturing about Main Street, a National Trust for Historic Preservation initiative that began in the 1970s as a way to help preserve historic downtowns throughout America in communities of every size.  This was in the era when suburban shopping malls had become the centerpiece of American life, drawing attention and dollars away from the smaller shops and services of the old downtowns. Continue Reading

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