Thursday, April 19, 2012

So Much Win. So Much Loss.

Welcome to the wild west of city building.

The win is all in the long form column by D editor Tim Rogers about the solar radiation, reflection, and heat gain spilling off the shimmering glass Museum Tower (who knew glass towers would be a bad idea in a hot sunny climate?!) and into the Nasher Sculpture center. I want to quote so much of it, but go and read it yourself. It's the must read of the week.

A few of the key points:
  • 16 of the 100+ units have been sold. Though I'm sure the sales people will somehow work this into being 85% under contract. Every building ever is 85% full according to leasing, real estate people. A mathematical anomaly.
  • On a cloudy, 78-degree day in March the solar gain via reflective glass from the tower on the Museum raised ambient temperatures in the lawn to 103 degrees. Yikes. Can't wait until another month long 110-degree August rolls around.
  • The Museum Tower report either wittingly or unwittingly (neither is flattering) plugged the wrong type of glass into their model.
  • Tim suggested architects Scott Johnson and Renzo Piano settle the dispute via walk-off. (Ok, I'm suggesting that).
  • The Dallas police and fire pension has only spent $100,000 on the project yet is on the hook if it goes belly up. Somebody piece together those dots for me. This is a weird deal in every aspect.
  • Oh, and there is still a cloverleaf highway exit ramp circumnavigating the property. Cul-de-sac in the sky. And you wonder why there are only 16 buyers.
About two years ago I wrote about what a crazy investment Museum Tower was for the Police and Fire Pension Fund. If I were a cop or fire fighter, I'd be thinking about protest and overthrow of the board (which apparently includes 4 city council members(!)).

I hate being right about these things, kind of like when I predicted that the Hunt Hill Bridge would be a safety hazard/speed trap before it even opened due to the road being designed for highway speeds yet signed for 35 mph (! x 2 = !!). Hey, maybe DPD can recoup their losses by ticketing everybody on the Hunt Hill Bridge.

Last summer, I also tried pitching the column idea to D Magazine about why reflective glass towers were in fact a terrible idea for Dallas, wrecking the public realm. Except, we couldn't find the right/specific angle without good data. Tim's column has that data via the on-going fight between the Tower and the actual Museum, as quoted above.

This fight is so going to court. And I expect it will go to very high levels of court since there are undefined issues of property rights going at hand, combined with deep, entrenched pockets on both sides. In a way, this is sort of like the mostest Dallas thing ever. Like Belo building a park in front of a condo building then throwing up a 12-foot wall between them. We get the urbanism all wrong and everybody throws middle fingers up on all sides. Maybe we can just build another wall around all of the above? That seems to solve all of these problems, right? Right?

Perhaps someday, just maybe, we'll stop acting like little children and realize that urbanism is about actual value rather than some superficial novelty item to wrap bad financial investments up in.

Integration begets accommodation. Drive demand, get supply. This is the number 1 rule of city building. And it is inalienable, despite our best efforts.