atonement

October 10, 2008 Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1001

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. World financial markets responded with a belated atonement for a decade of make-believe profits fed by gypsum-and-pressboard McMansions. McMansions with the life expectancy of a McNugget. Now the spoiled spoon-fed MBAs – the real welfare moms – are queueing up for the dole. That’s not really a fair comparison: actual welfare recipients only get their checks monthly while the MBAs show up every week or two. And they get more in one day than Health and Human Services or Social Security get in a year.

But it seems like the atonement isn’t done until the banks are nationalized.

Are U of C economists going to have their Nobel awards revoked?

Tell me again why we are rescuing these people, who never rescued anyone.

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Finances and the End of the Free Market

September 23, 2008 Economics Comments (0) 814

The recent revelation of George W. Bush as the leader of the new United States of Soviet Socialist Republicans has been an historical shocker. Heir to a political legacy based on opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the serial federal bailouts of the last week made Roosevelt look like a libertarian by comparison. It doesn’t seem to disturb those who have trumpeted free markets or put onerous free market deregulation requirements on the Asian bailout a decade ago. It does disturb people like me, who never bought a building with less than 20% down or even tested half the depth of my credit card limit. I was raised on fiscal responsibility and it has been more than a bit sickening to watch the drunken frat party on Wall Street for the entirety of my adult life. Not to mention the pretend conservative blowhards on TV and the radio. They should spend the rest of their lives eating their false words. And getting a real job – how long can you be a carny, after all? Continue Reading

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how does economics work?

April 22, 2008 Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1173

There was a great symposium Saturday at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, one of several in conjunction with their exhibit on the history of Chicago preservation: “Do We Dare Squander Chicago’s Great Architectural Heritage?” that runs through May 9 (See it now!). Prof. Bob Bruegmann opened it up with an excellent history of teardowns and the inquisitive, expectation-overturning perspective he brings to everything. Prof. Richard Dye, an economist, explained the economics of teardowns. Both men suggested that an upside of teardowns was that they shouldered a bigger portion of the tax base, a fact that neighbors of teardowns are perhaps loath to admit. Bob did note that increased values could mean higher taxes for the teardown-adjacent in their little historic houses as well, and he also sagely discussed the new penchant for small houses, which are of course greener and thus more chic and popular with the wealthy. Continue Reading

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Lazy Money

January 30, 2006 Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1225

My student Dorothy Bobco wrote me a marvelous note the other day about “lazy money”. Here is a quote:

“I think I have figured out why people get so upset when they think their property values are going down. They are losing free money, lazy money. You can buy a house and do nothing and the value will probably go up. If anything happens that changes that, they lose money that they did not have to work for. That is what makes them mad, losing money they did not have to work for. It is laziness and greed that drives the real estate market. ” Continue Reading

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When Charities Demolish

October 7, 2005 Blog, Economics Comments Off on When Charities Demolish 962

Directing the Historic Preservation program at SAIC can be awkward – like when the School or the Museum run afoul of the historic preservation community. When Don Kalec started our degree program in 1993 AIC vetoed City landmark designation of the Sharp Building. The building was later landmarked, but only after an exterior cleaning (very good) and window replacement (bad) that our faculty failed to influence. More recently, I have been called to answer for the Museum’s demolition of the Goodman Theatre (Howard van Doren Shaw, 1925) and the School’s interest in Mesa development’s new highrise atop the Kroch’s building on Wabash.

People always are astonished that institutions whose mission is to protect and promote artistic things could propose the destruction of artistic things like landmarks. I am not astonished. This is normal in the post-1980 world. Continue Reading

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Green heaven

October 5, 2005 Sustainability, Technology Comments Off on Green heaven 1024

I was at the National Preservation Conference in Portland, Oregon (Motto: It isn’t easy being green) last week and both the city and event impressed, even beyond the obvious Holy Grail of American microbrew. I went on a green preservation tour last Thursday through the Ecotrust building (The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center), a century-old warehouse that was the first preservation project to gain LEED gold certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is very smart among the architectural set of late. Even though the re-use of an existing building would seem to be naturally environmentally efficient, the fact is LEED, like most things, tends to be geared toward new construction, even though the plurality of landfill waste is construction debris. The Ecotrust building managed to re-use 98.6% (!!) of the existing materials by creating a huge boneyard for every removed piece of building and then finding a use for it – doors became walls, beams became chairs, boiler covers became nameplates, etc., etc. The building handles 95% of its stormwater on site through swales and a permeable parking lot, has a green roof (German 2-3 inch design so the old building could handle the loads) and even the requisite seismic reinforcement. Continue Reading

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Property Rights and Values

September 26, 2005 Chicago Buildings, Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1178

Historic Preservation advocates are always banging heads with “property rights” advocates who shun all landmark regulation as a “taking” or private property. The more principled and ideological of these opponents not only oppose landmarking, they also oppose zoning and almost any form of environmental regulation. Indeed, it is environmental laws that really chafe the drawers of property rights types.

Preservation gets thrown into this stew, even though preservation laws are remarkably more flexible than most other types of land use regulation. But most people don’t know that and think preservation is an arcane design police led by pointy-headed architectural historians who don’t know that plastic windows save you thousands in heating bills. Continue Reading

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