Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Row Over Brick Row

Developers of Brick Row want to convert 300 unsold condos into apartments. You can imagine how that's going over with the crowd that never even wanted condos there, to say nothing of apartments (or any place else in Richardson, for that matter).

Me? I'm inclined to support the request. After the jump, why.

My support for the request must be for one of three reasons:

  • Maybe I'm just naive. Maybe the developers planned this all along. Maybe the biggest profit margins come from building substandard apartment units and renting them to low-income tenants. Maybe I'm just not suspicious enough. Maybe I'm just too willing to go along.

  • Or maybe I'm becoming libertarian. Why Yale Park neighborhood (or Canyon Creek or Highland Terrace) should be able to dictate to a property owner on Spring Valley Rd whether he can build apartments or condos on his land is a concept I have a hard time explaining. Or how tall a tower a landowner can erect. Or whether a restaurant owner can put an orange roof on his new restaurant. Maybe I'm beginning to think we've allowed property rights to be eroded too much with overly-restrictive zoning laws.

  • Or maybe the housing bust and economic recession are real. Maybe Brick Row was an investment risk that didn't pay off in part because of that recession. Maybe we ought to admit as much and lower our expectations.

In any case, I just can't get myself worked up on this issue. If the developers say the condo market has dried up and the apartment market is still viable, I'm inclined to go along, not because I think developers are always honest, not because I think apartments are just as attractive as condos, but because I think it's their property and their investment. It benefits no one to force builders to sit on vacant buildings because they were wrong in guessing what the market would be. Sometimes, you have to salvage what you can from a bad investment. And that goes for the city as well as private developers. Besides, apartments do not inevitably lead to blighted neighborhoods. Lax code enforcement does.

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