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"Walkable Urbanism" comes to Detroit, the Motor City

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"Walkable Urbanism" comes to Detroit, the Motor City
Suburbs & Drive-to Malls are becoming unfinance-able
====================================

Why all the Young people (who could) left Detroit...

051812_seaside1_1475224a.jpg..53446923_930ea63055_o.jpg.
(Young People overwhelmingly choose this living arrangement) ............................................................. : (Over this one) - And who wouldn't !

"You haven't held onto your young people because you've not offered them the walkable urban way of living, and they've left. ...

"The implication for Michigan, especially Southeast Michigan, is that rail transit is the most essential infrastructure. The most important decision you will make, the most important investment you will make, is in rail transit in the early 21st century." / summit notes

Chris Leinberger on Walkable Urbanism

Videos: Clean infrastructure transport #1:

The building of the built environment (real estate and the infrastructure that supports real estate) is in the middle of a structural change, only comparable to the change that took place 50-60 years ago. That mid-20th century structural change converted real estate development into a modular, formula-driven industry, based upon access and parking of automobiles and trucks; I refer to it as “drivable sub-urbanism”. It responded to market demand and yielded many benefits. Yet we now know that it actually narrowed consumer options, consumed land at 6-8 times population growth and produced “could be anywhere” places, based upon the “19 standard product types”. These drivable sub-urban formulas are re-enforced by the financing of much of commercial real estate which has turned what for thousands of years was a 40-year asset class into a product with a 7-10 year life.

There are many unintended social, economic, health and environmental consequences resulting from how America has been developing its built environment over the past two generations. These consequences include, among others:
• dependency on a car/truck-only transportation system
• social segregation and secession of elites,
• dependency of about 1/3rd of the population who do not drive; they are therefore not full participants in our society,
• subsidized public and private infrastructure for drivable sub-urban development that is increasingly expensive to build and maintain,
• lack of unintentional daily exercise which has partially contributed to the obesity epidemic,
• indirect impact on American foreign policy which is skewed toward securing sources of foreign oil from countries increasingly hostile to the US,
• economic exposure to increasing oil prices as the potential of “peak oil” approaches and
• over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, the major contributor toward climate change.

Over the past 15 years, many consumers have been demanding different options to the “one-size-fits-all” drivable sub-urbanism. While single-family homes on large lots and strip commercial will be a significant part of the market for decades to come, there are many segments of the population that want something different; what can be broadly called “walkable urbanism”.

(see Leinberger's website)

== ==

April 7, 2009
Real estate expert talks walkabilty, transit and implications for Southeast Michigan

Source: Capital Gains
Our sister publication Capital Gains in Lansing sits down and talks with Christopher Leinberger, keynote speaker at the upcoming Michigan Land and Prosperity Summit at the Lansing Center on April 15. (Click here to learn more and to register.)

Leinberger, who also directs the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan, was in Lansing recently for an event hosted by the Michigan Association of Planning and talked with Brad Garmon of Capital Gains about Michigan's prospects in a rapidly changing real estate climate and he had a lot to say about walkability and our favorite, transit.

Excerpt:

"If you don't offer the market the breadth of choice it wants, you're not competitive. If you're a Millennial, or if you're an urban dwelling Baby Boomer, and the only option [Michigan offers] as far as how you live is a one-to-the-acre single family house, you're just not competitive.



Read the entire article : http://capitalgainsmedia.com/features/lein0313.aspx

= = = = =
cleinberger@arcadialand.com
LINKS:
=====
Map of Detroit area.......... : http://www.topix.com/yp/detroit/c/travel-mass-transit
Chris Leinberger site........ : http://www.cleinberger.com/
MSU Land Summit............ : http://www.landpolicy.msu.edu/modules.php?...s&sp_id=215
TRU / Transit Riders United : http://www.detroittransit.org/

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picksimg.jpg

 

'Detroiters seem to be in cars, which function, in a sense, as rooms or furniture. Karmo’s sculptures hint at far-out adventure. Their physical assurance makes them seem, like moving vehicles, simultaneously to pass through and remain separate from their surroundings.'

 

/more: http://artforum.com/picks/id=19901&view=print

 

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CARS ARE LAST thinking is going mainstream... at last

 

leinberger02.jpg

 

CG: What is T4 America and how are you involved?

 

CL: Transportation for America is a coalition of about 240 organizations—Smart Growth groups, most of the environmental groups, social equity, [and] public health is a major player. I'm organizing the various real estate organizations and developers [who are also members].

 

So it's a very strange group of bedfellows. But it's created because the stars have lined up—the market demand that more progressive developers see for walkable urban development is the future. And you can't get there from here if you're only building roads.

 

We need a more balanced transportation system and real estate developers now understand that. . . .

 

Rail transit drives walkable urban places. I've never seen one dollar of real estate investment invested because of a bus stop. But if you have [rail] transit, it's a different story altogether.

 

The implication for Michigan, especially Southeast Michigan, is that rail transit is the most essential infrastructure. The most important decision you will make, the most important investment you will make, is in rail transit in the early 21st century.

 

CG: Is Michigan capable of becoming a talent attractor with those kinds of investments?

 

CL: I guarantee you won't be if you don't. The issue here is this idea that "Michigan cannot focus on the built environment"—that it's got to focus on base industries and that the built environment is a luxury that Michigan can't focus on.

 

That's garbage.

 

If you don't build the built environment that the market wants, it's going to Chicago, it's going to D.C., it's going elsewhere. . . .

 

Ultimately, this is about economic development. I'm not going to tell you that building walkable urban is going to drive Michigan out of its economic ditch.

 

But without it, I don't think it's possible to get out of this ditch. It is a necessary precondition for this state to move forward. You've got to offer choice. You've got plenty of drivable suburban product. Give the market what it wants. That's the future.

 

 

CL: Transportation for America is a coalition of about 240 organizations—Smart Growth groups, most of the environmental groups, social equity, [and] public health is a major player. I'm organizing the various real estate organizations and developers [who are also members].

 

So it's a very strange group of bedfellows. But it's created because the stars have lined up—the market demand that more progressive developers see for walkable urban development is the future. And you can't get there from here if you're only building roads.

 

We need a more balanced transportation system and real estate developers now understand that. . . .

 

Rail transit drives walkable urban places. I've never seen one dollar of real estate investment invested because of a bus stop. But if you have [rail] transit, it's a different story altogether.

 

The implication for Michigan, especially Southeast Michigan, is that rail transit is the most essential infrastructure. The most important decision you will make, the most important investment you will make, is in rail transit in the early 21st century.

 

CG: Is Michigan capable of becoming a talent attractor with those kinds of investments?

 

CL: I guarantee you won't be if you don't. The issue here is this idea that "Michigan cannot focus on the built environment"—that it's got to focus on base industries and that the built environment is a luxury that Michigan can't focus on.

 

That's garbage.

 

If you don't build the built environment that the market wants, it's going to Chicago, it's going to D.C., it's going elsewhere. . . .

 

Ultimately, this is about economic development. I'm not going to tell you that building walkable urban is going to drive Michigan out of its economic ditch.

 

But without it, I don't think it's possible to get out of this ditch. It is a necessary precondition for this state to move forward. You've got to offer choice. You've got plenty of drivable suburban product. Give the market what it wants. That's the future.

 

/more: http://capitalgainsmedia.com/features/lein0313.aspx

 

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America's Love Affair With Malls Ends

 

Four hundred of the 2,000 largest shopping malls have closed; construction is halted on hi-rise construction projects; and no one knows what to do with the increasing number of vacant auto dealership lots.

 

Let's take a look at each of those commercial real estate disasters starting with The Vanishing Shopping Mall.

Enclosed shopping centers, long the cathedrals of American consumerism, are closing their doors by the hundreds as the recession continues to clobber retail sales. Is America抯 love affair with the mall over?

 

The vital signs are not good. Even before the recession hit, consumers had developed mall fatigue, and the classic enclosed shopping mall was in decline. More than 400 of the 2,000 largest malls in the U.S. have closed in the past two years. The last new major mall in the U.S. opened in 2006, and only one big mall is scheduled to open this year梩he troubled Xanadu mega-mall in Rutherford, N.J. With some 150,000 retail stores projected to fail in the U.S. this year, more mall closings are imminent. Mall mainstays such as Mervyn抯 department stores, Linens 抧 Things, and KB Toys have already disappeared into bankruptcy, and mall vacancy rates topped 7 percent last year, the highest level since 2001. 揑t抯 an absolute disaster,? says Howard Davidowitz, an investment banker specializing in retailers. 揥hat a mall represents is discretionary spending, and discretionary spending is in a depression.?

 

Is it really that bleak?

 

The data suggests that it is. For decades, American consumers could always be counted on to spend more than they did the year before梩he only question was, by how much. But in the past 12 months, retail sales in the U.S. have dropped an unprecedented 9.8 percent. The economic collapse has landed especially heavily on the old-line department stores, such as Sears and JCPenney, that anchor many malls. As their sales and profits have tanked, they抳e been pulling out of malls, to the distress of the smaller merchants that depend on the larger stores to feed them traffic. The Turfland Mall in Lexington, Ky., recently lost Dillard抯 as an anchor tenant, setting off a cascade of closings. 揥e have no choice but to leave now that Dillard抯 is leaving,? says Bill Parker, who just closed his shoe store.

 

If malls go, could downtowns come back?

 

In this economy, not likely. Some developers have already tried building 搇ifestyle centers? in downtown areas left blighted when stores and shoppers fled to the outskirts. But there is no single 揵ig fix? that will pump life back into downtowns full of boarded-up stores, says development expert Teresa Lynch.

 

The last mega-mall?

 

Talk about bad timing. June is supposed to mark the opening of the Xanadu mall on a stretch of New Jersey swampland just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. But it might not happen. When developer Larry Siegel broke ground on the $2.2 billion, 2.4-million-square-foot mall in 2004, he promised that Xanadu would be the ultimate 搒hoppertainment? experience, with an indoor ski slope, a fishing pond, and even a 30-foot-high chocolate waterfall. But as the recession has deepened, plans have been repeatedly scaled back. Prospective tenants, including Virgin Megastore and Borders, have bailed out, and no anchor tenants have yet been signed. Siegel is vowing to carry on. 揥e抮e not building this for the next 18 months,? he says 揵ut the next 50 years.? The chocolate waterfall, though, has been scaled down to 4 feet.

I predict near immediate bankruptcy if and when this boondoggle is complete. There's lots more details in the article. It's well worth a read. In other commercial real estate news ....

 

/see: http://www.howestreet.com/articles/index.php?article_id=9192

 

== ==

 

More good news- Another bad business "hit with a brick":

 

Honk If You Need Land

 

Vacant car lots are piling up, so Honk If You Need Land

It appears that vacant auto dealerships may soon join obsolete enclosed malls and the growing inventory of empty big-box stores on the list of former robust retail properties in need of an alternative use

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The vanishing shopping mall

Enclosed shopping centers, long the cathedrals of American consumerism, are closing their doors by the hundreds as the recession continues to clobber retail sales. Is America’s love affair with the mall over?

 

What happens when a mall dies?

It can devastate the surrounding community. The mall’s site can rapidly turn into a wasteland of overgrown weeds, cracked concrete, and stray animals, with looters picking sites clean of copper tubing, light fixtures, and anything else that can be sold for scrap. When the Riverside Center in Utica, N.Y., closed around Christmas 2007, its owner didn’t even bother to take down the holiday display. The following July, says Peter Blackbird of Deadmalls.com, the roof sprang a leak that drenched the display’s cotton “snow,” which quickly “turned into mold stew.” The fallout goes beyond aesthetics, of course. When a mall closes, unemployment rolls in the region swell, and the loss of property, sales, and business taxes can leave municipalities with serious shortfalls. The city of North Randall, Ohio, is nearly bankrupt following the closing late last year of the Randall Park Mall, once the largest mall in the Cleveland area. “It could simply cease to exist as a city,” says Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Jones.

 

aaam.jpg

 

Will anything replace the mall?

Some are being razed to make room for “big box” stores such as Home Depot and discount clubs such as BJ’s and Costco. Still others are being turned into open-air “lifestyle centers,” ersatz Main Streets to replace the real Main Streets that were decimated when malls lured away their customers in the first place. The stores in these centers are at ground level and have entrances facing the street, which helps boost store traffic and sales. Like real Main Streets, lifestyle centers include restaurants, movie theaters, and pedestrian plazas, as well as shopping. The amenities “draw the consumer in for reasons other than to just purchase items,” says Erin Hershkowitz of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

 

If malls go, could downtowns come back?

In this economy, not likely. Some developers have already tried building “lifestyle centers” in downtown areas left blighted when stores and shoppers fled to the outskirts. But there is no single “big fix” that will pump life back into downtowns full of boarded-up stores, says development expert Teresa Lynch. That means some communities will soon be without a mall or a thriving shopping district, leaving them with no central gathering place. “One of the biggest consequences of mall closings is the loss of a sense of community,” says David Birnbrey of The Shopping Center Group, “a place where people gather and socialize.” And exercise.

 

/see: http://www.theweek.com/article/index/94691...g_shopping_mall

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"The implication for Michigan, especially Southeast Michigan, is that rail transit is the most essential infrastructure. The most important decision you will make, the most important investment you will make, is in rail transit in the early 21st century."

 

More On DETROIT's MASS TRANSIT project...

 

#1 : MONEY FOR PLANNING

 

Metro Detroit mass transit gets a lift from Omnibus bill

metromode, 3/19/2009

Mass transit systems that have been underfunded or non-existent for year after year got a healthy infusion of federal funds from the Omnibus act.

 

Omnibus means Omnibus Appropriations Act, which is an annual run-of-the-mill Congressional budget bill. These are notorious for earmarks (federal dollars set aside by members of Congress for projects in their districts); while only a fraction of the overall bill, they can add up to big-time controversy.

 

Metro Detroit's mass transit program scored a number of these earmarks to make a lot of small but effective improvements to existing systems and to help get new ones off the ground.

 

"That's definitely money the system has needed for a very long time," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, a local mass transit advocacy group. "The bus system has been run on a very minimal budget."

 

Some of those small-but-important earmarks include:

 

$1.425 million for a new fare collection system for Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) buses

$712,500 to replace DDOT buses

$3.924 million for maintenance and engine replacement of Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit (SMART) buses

 

Money for popular rail projects, such as:

 

$950,000 for the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line

$475,000 for the Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study to put light rail on Woodward Avenue

The Omnibus bill also includes language directing the Federal Transportation Administration (the agency that doles out funds to build mass transit lines) to give "priority consideration" to the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line. That project is expected to come online in the fall of 2010.

 

/see: http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/mass...nibuss0108.aspx

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“Job Sprawl” Undermines

Long-Term Regional, National Prosperity

 

Brookings Ranks Largest Urban Centers for Decentralization of Employment

(Washington, DC) – Since 1998, almost every major American metro area has seen a drop in

the share of employment located downtown as jobs have increasingly moved into farther-out

suburbs, exacerbating “job sprawl” – a phenomenon that threatens to undermine the long-term

prosperity of the nation’s vital economic engines, according to a report released today by the

Brookings Institution.

 

Entitled “Job Sprawl Revisited: The Changing Geography of Metropolitan Employment,” the

report analyzes trends in the spatial distribution of jobs in large metro regions and how these

trends differ across major industries. The report also presents a unique ranking of metro areas

by the amount of “job sprawl” in their regions, charting the continued shift outward of

employment away from their urban cores.

 

“‘People sprawl’ has long been known for its effect on the environment, infrastructure, tax

base, quality of life, and more. Now, we must recognize what ‘job sprawl’ means for the

economic health of the nation,” stated Elizabeth Kneebone, author of the report and senior

research analyst at the Metropolitan Policy Program.

 

“The location of jobs is also important to the larger discussion about growing the number of

jobs,” said Robert Puentes, a Brookings senior fellow. “Allowing jobs to shift away from city

centers hurts economic productivity, creates unsustainable and energy inefficient development,

and limits access to underemployed workers.”

 

/more: http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/me...ess_release.pdf

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MIDWEST RAIL PLAN - Connecting Detroit to Chicago

=============

 

"It's a running joke that Michigan's the place where you starve and die if you have no car," Sutton said. "But it's no joke."

 

Man sees train as transportation cure — with video

By Kristofer Karol • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • March 22, 2009

 

Justin Eric Sutton says his proposed high-speed elevated train will be able to transport riders from Detroit to Chicago in an hour and cost as little as $3 each way.

 

69640702.jpg

 

Videos;

How it Works.. : http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9...tin+Eric+Sutton

JES Discussion : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z188CF2TKKQ

 

He also says the magnetic levitation train, or "MagLev," will be able to distribute utilities to communities along the route, including hydrogen, which could be tapped for creation of hydrogen stations near expressway interchanges to cater to alternative fuel vehicles.

 

Many people won't argue with the benefits of either claim; however, they might find it unrealistic.

 

Yet Sutton rebuked those assertions.

 

"Instead of looking at it as a wazoo 'Jetsons' thing, this is math, science and chemistry," Sutton said recently in an interview at his Interstate Traveler Co. offices in Whitmore Lake.

 

Plastered on the walls in Sutton's cozy office are countless sketches and renderings dating back to when Sutton first pursued the idea of high-speed mass transit.

 

"In '95, everyone was harping on how to solve the national transit problem: 'Who will fix America's railroad problem?' " Sutton said. "And when I saw a question without an answer, I instinctively said, 'I'll give it a shot, I'll fix that problem.' "

 

In 2002, after speaking to everyone from university professors to Department of Defense technology directors, Sutton published a report detailing his project, understanding it would take five to 10 years to build a team capable of turning his dream into a reality.

 

/more: http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/200...4/-1/NEWSFRONT2

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Leinberger nails it : Infrastructure Malinvestment has undermined the US economy

 

Quote:

"The mortgage crisis was caused by putting trillions of dollars in the wrong infrastructure and wrong product in the wrong location. And the market doesnt want it. And they've marked it down in value. And crashed the market. ... It's probably the 'last gasp' of urban sprawl."

 

"If we get the transportation right the rest will probably follow."

 

"30 areas of walkable urbanism. 20 years ago there were two... Downtown Washington is a great model of an urban turnaround.

70% of them are in the suburbs, and are 'transport served.'

 

"Folks who live in driveable suburbs emit 3x as much carbon emissions as those who live in walkable urban environments."

 

"If I had my way, we would not build another mile of road. We dont need it."

 

Chris Leinberger @ "Clean Infrastructure: Transportation for ... .

 

Chris Leinberger, a visiting fellow for the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, discusses the future of clean transportation at NDN's Capitol Hill event on January 14, 2009.

 

VIDEO: End of Suburban Sprawl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrxJ7asInfY

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(relevant here too, I think):

 

you're not really suggesting that the reason behind the wealth in Hong Kong is a low level of car ownership?! A very small percentage of people own cars in Lahore or Dehli or La Paz, but they're not very wealthy ;) .

 

You are also not factoring in the cost of using public transport - my guess is that the annual cost of buses/trains/taxis/hire cars would be almost as expensive for an ordinary family as running a car, unless they were prepared to live a very restricted life.

 

We can't wish cars away. the key is making alternative transport so attractive that people will use it as much as possible. Most people in Switzerland use public transport most of the time. But most families also have a car for the times when public transport is not practical.

 

Sure. That could be a largely unrecognise part of it. Let me explain.

 

What has HK got to offer?

+ A low tax rate

+ An enterprising and hard-working labor force

+ Rule of law, and a strong financial sector

+ Proximity to China

 

(the above factors are recognised by everyone)

 

They come with:

+ Some of the highest property prices in the world.

 

This is often dismissed as a function of limited space. But if it were as simple as that/

they why doesnt any island have huge land prices? - Sure some have had, like Tokyo or the UK,

but you could say they were driven up by speculation, and aggressive finance.

 

In HK, mortgage debt is something like 30% of Property valuation, versus maybe 60-65%

(or even hogher now) in the US - I think it was 62% at the peak of the market, and since

prices have dropped that could be over 70%, or even over 75%.

 

I am intrigued by the idea - almost never discussed that two things JUSTIFY very high

property values in HK :

+ Its very low tax rate, which means that there is more after tax income to go into property, and

+ The fact that HK has the most efficient transport system in the world, and one of the cheapest.

 

HK people probably spend one of the smallest shares of their income on transport, so that

like with the low tax rate, more is left to go into property, and so they have been able to pay

down their mortgages to such low levels, and have "spare cash" for new property purchases.

 

The recent rapid recovery in property prices here is driven by something, and I think it

may be that HK people simply have alot of savings to invest, and it will help maintain

property prices.

 

Some of this is just speculative thinking, but I believe you may hear more people talking

thsi way before long, if the property price gains hold here.

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The vanishing shopping mall

Enclosed shopping centers, long the cathedrals of American consumerism, are closing their doors by the hundreds as the recession continues to clobber retail sales. Is America’s love affair with the mall over?

 

What happens when a mall dies?

It can devastate the surrounding community. The mall’s site can rapidly turn into a wasteland of overgrown weeds, cracked concrete, and stray animals, with looters picking sites clean of copper tubing,...

aaam.jpg

 

/see: http://www.theweek.com/article/index/94691...g_shopping_mall

 

 

General Growth Properties, one of the largest mall operators in the nation, filed for bankruptcy early Thursday morning in one of the biggest commercial real estate collapses in U.S. history.

 

Despite bargaining for months with its creditors, General Growth faced increasing pressure to handle its more than $25 billion in debt, largely in the form of short-term mortgages that will come due by next year. The company has been severely wounded by the recession, which has wreaked havoc upon the retailers who inhabit its more than 200 malls in 44 states. Many stores have shuttered, depriving mall operators like General Growth of revenue.

 

The filing by the Chicago-based company, made in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan, included most of the company’s malls, which will continue to operate. General Growth’s reorganization efforts will likely focus on selling off properties. It has already suspended its stock dividend, cut its workforce by 20 percent and stopped virtually all new development. (Read the filing after the jump.)

[image]

 

“Our core business remains sound and is performing well with stable cash flows,” Adam Metz, General Growth’s chief executive, said in a statement. “While we have worked tirelessly in the past several months to address our maturing debts, the collapse of the credit markets has made it impossible for us to refinance maturing debt outside of Chapter 11.”

 

What began as a crisis in residential real estate has since seeped into the commercial real estate market, as landlords of retail and office space face rising numbers of vacancies. Analysts expect many of these companies to struggle as the recession forces steep cuts in consumer spending and employment rolls.

 

As the second-biggest operator of malls in the nation, behind only the Simon Property Group, General Growth’s troubles have been closely watched by the real estate and retail industry for months. Founded in 1954 and grown through a series of acquisitions — topped by a $12.6 billion deal for the Rouse Company in 2004 — the company’s huge retail presence has served as a barometer for the ails bedeviling the American retail market.

 

As more stores have closed, mall vacancies are at their highest point in almost a decade, according to Reis, a research company, which said the vacancy rate at the end of 2008 was 7.1 percent, compared with 5.8 percent at the end of 2007.

 

That has left many of the roughly 1,500 malls in the United States groping for a solution — any solution — to their woes. Some have converted retail space into office space. Still others have drastically lowered rents for prized tenants, willing to cut deals to simply keep earning revenue. Some have simply gone dark.

 

Shares in General Growth, which closed on Wednesday at $1.05, have fallen 97 percent over the past 12 months.

 

General Growth’s filing also marks a humbling of the Bucksbaum family, which grew the company from a family grocery business in Marshalltown, Iowa into a powerhouse of retail shopping in the Midwest. It still holds about a 25 percent stake in the company, and John Bucksbaum, an avid cyclist, remains its chairman after having served as its chief executive.

 

Few analysts dispute the quality of General Growth’s malls, which include the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Water Tower Place in Chicago and the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian in Las Vegas. But its undoing was the mounting pile of short-term mortgages the operator used to expand. That financing strategy was devised by its longtime chief financial officer, Bernard Freibaum, who was dismissed last October.

 

Since then, the mall owner has pleaded with holders of $2.25 billion in bonds to hold off on demanding payment as it sought to reorganize its debt outside of a bankruptcy filing. But bondholders grew increasingly impatient as bond maturities continued to mount and denied General Growth an abstention from payments for the rest of the year.

 

The company said in its statement that it has secured a commitment for $375 million in bankruptcy financing from Pershing Square Capital Management, the hedge fund that owns more than 25 percent of the company through its holdings of shares and swap contracts. That financing must be approved by a bankruptcy court judge.

 

William A. Ackman, the head of Pershing Square, told Bloomberg Television last month that he foresaw an “imminent” bankruptcy filing by the company.

 

Among the companies listed as General Growth’s 100 largest unsecured creditors are EuroHypo, representing holders of nearly $2 billion worth of loans; Wilmington Trust and the Bank of New York Mellon representing several classes of bonds; casinos including Mandalay Bay and the Venetian; and an assortment of retailers like Sephora, Guess?, Borders and Macys.

 

In its bankruptcy filing, General Growth said that it sought permission to retain a bevy of advisers, including the investment bank Miller Buckfire, the turnaround consulting firm AlixPartners and the law firms Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Kirkland & Ellis. The document was signed by Marcia L. Goldstein, the chair of Weil’s well-known bankruptcy practice.

 

http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/...amp;twt=nytimes

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General Growth Properties, one of the largest mall operators in the nation, filed for bankruptcy early Thursday morning in one of the biggest commercial real estate collapses in U.S. history.

. . .

As the second-biggest operator of malls in the nation, behind only the Simon Property Group, General Growth’s troubles have been closely watched by the real estate and retail industry for months. Founded in 1954 and grown through a series of acquisitions — topped by a $12.6 billion deal for the Rouse Company in 2004 — the company’s huge retail presence has served as a barometer for the ails bedeviling the American retail market.

 

As more stores have closed, mall vacancies are at their highest point in almost a decade, according to Reis, a research company, which said the vacancy rate at the end of 2008 was 7.1 percent, compared with 5.8 percent at the end of 2007.

 

That has left many of the roughly 1,500 malls in the United States groping for a solution — any solution — to their woes. Some have converted retail space into office space. Still others have drastically lowered rents for prized tenants, willing to cut deals to simply keep earning revenue. Some have simply gone dark.

 

This is good news. A horrible part of American life (drive to malls) is dying!... and that should be celebrated... RIP suburban nightmare.

 

There are two choices:

+ Turn the malls into factories, and put Americans back to work. (but the wages will be lower than many will accept)

+ Turn the malls into town centres, and densify around them. The trick is to bring residential living to the area around the

malls, so people can walk-to-shop. Get rid of the cars and the ugly parking lots

 

If they are really bad, perhaps they can be turned into prisons

 

(Here's evidence that Team Obama is starting to "get it"):

 

Obama pushes for high-speed rail

Reuters - ‎2 hours ago‎

By John Crawley and Lisa Lambert WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will seek to develop high-speed rail nationally, President Barack Obama said on Thursday in emphasizing a broader commitment to US infrastructure investment and a transportation ...

http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNew...E53F4DJ20090416

NE rail routes compete for federal dollars for high-speed rail Boston Globe

Florida high-speed rail gets new life

 

"he said reviving rail should not be a "pie-in-the-sky" proposition. "It's happening right now. It's been happening for decades. The problem is it's been happening elsewhere," Obama said in citing France, Spain and Japan.

 

"China, where service began just two years ago, may have more miles of high-speed rail service than any other country just five years from now," Obama said.

 

"There's no reason why we can't do this," he added, noting such a system would be cheaper and cleaner than building new highways or adding to an "overburdened" aviation system."

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City Walk: American Dreams: The Suburbs

. . .

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger on the power of walkable development

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IQC Placemaking Conference: Walkable City
Published on 23 May 2013

Jeff Speck describes the safe, comfortable, interesting, useful walk. Why is it important to invest in walkable communities? What are the characteristics of walkability, and how can we get started?

Jeff Speck is a leading expert on walkability and urban planning. He recently published the book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time, and was the coauthor of influential texts including the Smart Growth Manual and Suburban Nation.

Enjoy this lecture from the 2013 Placemaking Conference in Norman, Oklahoma, hosted by The University of Oklahoma Institute for Quality Communities on April 3, 2013.

This presentation is also available on iTunes U: https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/...


The conference website is http://iqc.ou.edu/conference.

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Rail projects like this $800mn project in Florida can help revive downtown areas:

Proposed Tri-Rail project would go thru downtowns

 

What's critical? : "Quiet zones"

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