Friday, March 30, 2007

Slow on the uptake

Sam at AntiRust has been questioning, for quite some time, exactly where all the people who are going to turn Downtown into a residential neighborhood are moving from. This is relevant given that some developers are receiving subsidies or tax breaks of one form or another to build high-end condos. If these buildings are not drawing new residents into the region, then all we are doing is spending tax dollars to shift people around from one neighborhood to another, with no net gain for the city.

Drawing from local media accounts, Sam concluded recently that this may in fact be the case (I discussed this some time ago), and today I find further evidence in the Pittsburgh Business Times (subscription required), and it comes from none other than Eve Picker, one of the best-known local condo developers:

Eve Picker, head of no wall productions and a developer of several loft projects Downtown, said that while sales of some properties may be sluggish, especially in unproved residential markets like Downtown, she expects them to pick up soon.

"Pittsburghers are not known for being quick on the uptake," Picker said. "There will be a small number of people who are pioneers ... and the others will be less brave. You have to reach the tipping point."

Note that she said "Pittsburghers are not known for being quick on the uptake", not "People from Texas" or even "People from Cranberry." Perhaps she meant Pittsburgh in the broadest sense. Perhaps she meant the entire 10-county metropolitan region. Maybe people from Fayette and Greene counties are going to flock to buy $300,000 condos in the Golden Triangle.

Of course, there may be state funds involved in some of these projects as well. So if I'm an elected official in Fayette or Greene counties, I wouldn't be too happy that my residents' state tax dollars are being used to reduce my local tax base. Not to mention that people in Fayette and Greene counties might think there are better uses of state funds than underwriting condos with granite countertops.

That's assuming that Picker meant to include the entire metropolitan region, that she was using Pittsburgh in the universal sense. Which I doubt. But I will say this: I'm one Pittsburgher who isn't very quick on the uptake, because I just can't understand why any of this is a good idea.

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