Monday, August 06, 2007

We are just too darn visionary!

I knew I was going to enjoy the article as soon as I read the headline:

"The Round is ahead of the curve."
Yeah, that's right. The only reason the Beaverton new-urbanist development has been bankrupt three times now isn't because the whole concept is utterly flawed, it's because the urban planners who dreamed it up are just so far ahead of the rest of us, able to peek around the corner and know that this is just the kind of development that everyone will be wanting to live and work in someday, so we should all just shut up, flood it with however much public money they need to complete it, and marvel at their wisdom.
What a bunch of bull.
To the Oregonian's credit, the article did quote some skeptics of the Round. But when you read the comments from the planner-elites, you realize how annointed they truly believe they are.
The belly laughs start right from the first few paragraphs. After pointing out that the Round has been bankrupt thrice, and is the "hanging out there in the wind," it says: "Proponents say that's a reason that Metro and Beaverton should persevere and do more to support the Round. "
They want to throw good money after bad, and build more of the same thing a few blocks away at the Westgate Theatre site, that the city just purchased.
Backers argue for patience. They say that if developers and public agencies don't try something new, a timid market will never change. They point to Belmont Dairy in Southeast Portland and Kruse Way in Lake Oswego as projects ahead of their time that defied skeptics and ended up succeeding.
Excuse me? They actually point to the success of Kruse Way as an argument for being patient with The Round? Unbelievable! Kruse Way is basically the antithesis of The Round. It rejects every premise upon which The Round was ill-conceived. It is totally car oriented, and they built nice big parking lots and wide streets to handle the traffic. And it was successful right off the bat, with no public subsidy.
This from Ethan Seltzer, the new urbanist guru at PSU, explaining why there just doesn't seem to be any demand for the office and condo real estate at The Round: "The market has a lot of work to do in that area."
What the hell does that mean? They built a multi million dollar failure, and it's bankrupt because the market isn't working hard enough? People who speak like this simply should not be given a seat at the adult table.
Imagine a CEO who invests millions of the company's money developing some product, only to find out that nobody wants it. He tells his board of directors: "Nothing wrong with the product - the market just has a lot of work to do before people realize they want it."
He'd be fired.
Carl Hosticka, Metro Councillor, blames the fiasco on the developer. Nothing wrong with the concept, right Carl? This is, after all, the THIRD time the development has gone into bankrupcty.
But for the likes of Hosticka, it isn't about building a successful real estate development, it is about changing how we live, work and play:
"And Hosticka is unapologetic that the market wouldn't have built the Round without government incentives. "We're not necessarily trying to respond to a market," he said. "We're trying to lead a market."
Exactly. And as is the case virtually every time the government wants to "lead" the way into the future, it is an unmitigated disaster.


Anonymous said...

You know Rob, you're so dead-on with this post, there's nothing really more to add. As a Beaverton resident, I am just sick of the Round and the hubris that built it.

And I guarantee Carl Hosticka's comment is New Urbanist code-speak for: "We won't increase road capacity nor maintain them, so event eventually you'll be forced to use mass transit. Then, you will all realize how great TODs are..."

Anonymous said...

These people really piss me off. When their social engineering experiments fail because people don't live like their fantasies, they shove it down our throats anyway.