Saturday, November 19, 2011

Here's a new culprit for you

Here's the thing that frustrated me about Bricktown: The amount of taxpayer dollars we have pumped into this tiny little district and the miniscule ROI that we have seen following that.

Basically it follows the exact same narrative of other public economic incentives that never work. Hey developers, we're going to throw an insane amount of cash your way by investing in this district so that your land values rise. Oh, but then we're not going to come in and direct development in ANY meaningful way at all. Corporate welfare + deregulation.

Nevermind that the PUBLIC made Bricktown, and now it has totally lost control over how that district develops. Quality standards have spiraled down hill. The Bricktown Suburban Design committee is a laughing stock. We can't even use the argument of "protecting the public investment (ie: the canal)" any long at this point. Bricktown developers and parking lords are out of control.

So there you have it, the concept of Bricktown as a failed Reaganomic dream. But why would we expect anything else? That's what the people of this city believe in. Furthermore, the woman that we put in charge of the Bricktown Suburban Design Committee is in the Bricktown parking business herself! She's also in the Bricktown land values squatting business herself.

This is the Rock Island Plow Building, at the corner of Reno and Oklahoma Avenue, overlooking the canal as well. This building, owned by Bricktown Suburban Design Committee Chairwoman Avis Scaramucci, is falling down on itself and is one of Bricktown's largest eyesores. Years have passed since Scaramucci bought this building. At the time we all hoped that she would renovate it, but I think we gave Avis too much credit at the time, and in reality she's probably just waiting to get a pay day from another interested buyer.

Does a single successful restaurant make someone the "Queen of Bricktown?" So far Avis has done nothing to prove that she wasn't one and done in terms of Bricktown development, and how did this get to be the person chairing the Bricktown Suburban Design Committee?

The problem with Bricktown is that we (the public, the city, MAPS, etc) probably invested TOO much in the district all at once. Districts don't develop instantly, yet Bricktown's land values skyrocketed as much as 300%--instantly. The development could never have kept up with that kind of a spike in land values. Therefor the people who benefited the most weren't developers that couldn't keep up, but rather property owners who could sit on properties--especially if they had enough in the bank that they could absorb the cost of long-term ownership, which sometimes included doing bare minimum improvements just to keep these buildings standing. Sometimes the bare minimum improvements actually do more harm than good in the long run, structurally and especially aesthetically.

Avis Scaramucci has embodied these problems and more, all the while getting credit as the "Queen of Bricktown" as though her leadership is all that's keeping the district together or something. Another common complaint with the district is that it is too bogged down with restaurants. Score another for Avis. Perhaps the biggest indictment is all this chumminess and lack of accountability. Maybe that's what there should be, after all.

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