In 1954, Congress greatly accelerated that depreciation timetable, so that you could take twice as big a tax break in the early years. But nothing said you actually had to use the money for renovating the building, so it became tax-free income. The acceleration clause was so powerful that on paper it could look like you were losing money on your building for years even though the building’s value was going up. In fact, you could claim losses even in excess of the amount of profit you were making on the building, and you could apply those losses to other kinds of income. You could use them as a “tax shelter.”
So in the mid-50s, commercial real estate became a tax shelter — you built in order to get these paper losses and shelter other kinds of income. Accelerated depreciation produced an unintended boom in ALL types of commercial construction. Especially in suburbia. You could only get the full write-off on new construction, not renovation of an existing structure. And depreciation applied only to buildings and not to land. So you wanted to spend very little for land and a great deal on the building so you could get the biggest tax break. And where was land cheapest and new construction easiest? The math pushed developers towards the edge of town.
The economic logic of the tax law spurred all sorts of new kinds of suburban development. There’s a tremendous boom in suburban apartments that starts in the late 50s. There’s a tremendous boom in suburban office development. America’s first office park pops up in 1955 and within a decade there are office parks all over the place. Same situation with industrial parks. Investors are looking for tax shelters so now they build whole new factory districts on the edge of town.
First, Gruen said, Manhattan had to get rid of its warehouses and its light manufacturing. Then, all the surface traffic in midtown—the taxis, buses, and trucks—had to be directed into underground tunnels. He wanted to put superhighways around the perimeter of the island, buttressed by huge double-decker parking garages. The jumble of tenements and town houses and apartment blocks that make up Manhattan would be replaced by neat rows of hundred-and-fifty-story residential towers, arrayed along a ribbon of gardens, parks, walkways, theatres, and cafés.The dangers of reciting the starchitect of the day's mantra. In this case, Le Corbusier. Showing once again there is more to learn from the motivated and engaged citizen, the amateur and self-taught urbanist and observationalist, like Jane Jacobs or contemporary locals and Better Block empresarios Jason Roberts and Kevin Buchanon. Not incidentally, Roberts and Buchanon are both IT professionals. Their networking background provides better understanding of the intricate fabric of cities far better than any architect and their personal