Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Can One Development Catalyze a District?

And is it right to be developing once vital industrial land? It's a question that often comes up that I don't quite know the answer to. Here in Oakland many properties in West Oakland have been deemed off limits to commercial or residential development. Many council members want to preserve the industries that provide much needed jobs and an economic boost.

In Denver, there are developers who are looking to revitalize the South Broadway area around the Evans station that is primarily industrial. Much of the project is a mixed use redevelopment on six acres that was once a superfund site. The developer is a single developer which also begs the question of how a market gets started. Once he proves that the area is changed and continues to build more and more projects, other folks will follow suit. But ultimately the developer is the one who will boom or go bust.

I find this interesting because everyone is always looking for the next big neighborhood or district. In the past improvements have been predicated on good bones. The gridded street network already exists and a light rail station is already near by. But at the moment the market isn't there. Could it be a single developer who creates a market? Or are markets organic and ultimately unpredictable. I guess we'll find out.


Anonymous said...

Well, it sounds a LOT like the early 1900's. Speculators built trolley lines into the unbuilt countryside, where they just happened to own a lot of land.

Alon Levy said...

We've already seen this happen before. In the 1960s, American cities razed neighborhoods to build cultural centers and other megaprojects, on the belief that they'd catalyze development. Fifty years later, those cultural centers are as sterile as ever.