More on Developing Downtown

I love walkable communities. I’m all for making downtown work. But baseball stadiums and arenas and museums aren’t going to do it.

The crux of the problem, as I see it, is that rents are too high. I remember when Austin’s 6th Street was used clothing stores and empty storefronts. The problem with top-down development is that it front-loads the rents. You’re supposed to fertilize and plant seeds, not dig a whole and hope somebody sticks a tree in it.

Another reason that rents are so high is because the property is already valuable for retailers. Downtown El Paso is unlike any other downtown in the country. We have a vibrant downtown, on some level, but the downtown real estate speculators don’t like the flavor of it. The Plaza used to be busy. Every storefront along the plaza held a viable commercial enterprise. But the downtown real estate speculators couldn’t realize their upscale vision with a bunch of poor people standing around waiting for the bus, so we moved the bus station to the edge of downtown, so the poor people weren’t populating the rest of the urban core. And now there’s no foot traffic past Overland, and empty storefronts are epidemic.

You’re not going to reduce rents by turning potential retail and residential properties into the doldrums of the museum zone, or turning it into an arena.

God have mercy on us all.

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