Route 34 Triumphant!



Did you know Route 34 is exactly, exactly the same width, building face to building face, as the Champs-Élysées in Paris? The Champs-Élysées, arguably the grandest avenue on the entire planet, was created out of nothing in the 19th century to bring more celebrity to the City of Paris, to connect the city with the just being formed grandest park in Europe, the Bois de Boulogne, and to organize/raise the value of everything in between. Significantly, the boulevard was very very intentional. Intentional is the key word missing from all urban enterprise in the US today.



satellite view of Route 34 with the esplanade re-imagined in its place.

satellite view of Route 34 with the esplanade re-imagined in its place.


If one were to put on a Haussmann brain, the unrealized potential of disreputable Route 34 could do exactly the same thing, becoming the greatest avenue in the US, raising the importance of West River Park, healing, joining and organizing the separated forlorn parts of “staggering” (I prefer over both struggling and striving) New Haven, and it would look like this (with a couple of Arc de Triomph thrown in; see image above).

Job Oriented Development

Recently, I have been trying to inaugurate a slightly different (from TOD : Transit Oriented Development) concept with my graduate students at the University of Hartford couple years now, which is Jobs Oriented Development (JOD). Unlike TOD, which is a people exporter, JOD is a people importer. People seeking jobs also seek to live near where they work. People stay in their communities. They just need sturdy facilities, sturdy enough to house manufacturing job opportunities from which to grow new neighborhoods. 
Right now, my students are investigating complete form-based neighborhoods surrounding the Colt Manufacturing buildings, and other abandoned industrial facilities along the Connecticut River just south of the Capitol in Hartford. Other job opportunities of this site can be found on now-fallow agricultural lands, capitalizing on the frequently flooding Connecticut River's rich organic soil deposits.
Significant to CNU-NE is the fact that New England has a rare untapped (and now long abandoned) resource, which are all the water powered (i.e. free non-fossil fuel energy) mills that used to (right up through WWII) run the entire country from the 6 New England states, mostly Connecticut, which had 4,700 of the damn things, like this:



Not too shabby sturdy manufacturing facility (no CMU in evidence).

JOD could be the theme of a new CNU - CNU/NE - FCNU Council, perhaps in New Hampshire. The Fellows (FCNU) could be involved bringing gravitas, out of the box thinking and motivation. And CNU has NEVER looked at the jobs side of walkable neighborhood creation. This could be a whole new chapter in the CNU saga, possibly moving into a future Congress.

Recently, I discovered another JOD compatriot in arms, on the West Coast in Seattle, with whom I’ve been conversing for a while. Rod Stevens is a Stanford/Dartmouth-Tuck graduate, who has been following what started as “beer and bread” artisan maker-spaces (Artisan Asylum in Somerville, and a million other places nation wide) as they turned into high tech software design maker-space (Greentown Labs in Somerville, and a number of places nationwide, usually near higher-ed tech, such as MIT, IIT, Cal Tech, etc.), and Rod sees a new trend underway called Advanced Manufacturing, which is basically building on the former two trends to bring higher paying jobs and more productive industries. But they’re happy to share space, just like the previous maker-spaces.
Advanced Manufacturing does not need to be near higher-ed tech, and New Hampshire seems to be showing the most hunger for this new kind of industry, as identified by Rod. Rod is reaching out to his Tuck contacts to locate people and places that might make the best location for a Council, perhaps next spring (Rod says, "30 years ago, there were Tuck people dominating a prominent manufacturing firm in Nashua that owned Wheelabrator Frye and others. They gave a talk to my finance class on how to raid the pension fund for financing buy-outs!”). These kind of ideas, higher pay, and the still strong desire to live near where you work could make Advanced Manufacturing the most dynamic challenge to land-hungry-car-dominated seemingly irreversibly-failing cities all across the country.
I wasn’t able to go, but Manchester hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Conference this past Saturday. But here’s a link to a recent article on what’s going on in New Hampshire, leading the charge:
‘Time is now’ for action on manufacturing - New Hampshire Business Review - October 16 2015

Our Great Loss By Parking Lots

Quite simply, parking equals tax loss. 

On a recent charrette in Bethel, CT, a small town of 18,000, residents we performed a tax analysis of property tax paid by property owners in the town’s retail center, a charming New England street with many shops packed tightly together in typical 2-story buildings. 

We analyzed one of the tightly-packed 2-story buildings with no parking (the building basically covers its entire .16 acre lot), which pays what we calculated to be $133,000/acre, while an adjacent grocer with off street parking on 4 acres in the same tightly-packed location pays what we calculated to be $37,000/acre. 

In other words, in a location which could easily accommodate a continuation of building types it already has, building types that generate significantly higher tax yield/acre, the town’s taxpayers are forced to make up the difference in their own taxes to the amount of approximately $384,000 per year just to the advantage of the one grocer for the privilege of the grocer’s customers to have free and convenient parking in an otherwise high tax-yield/acre location. 

A CVS at the other end of the shopping street with off street parking pays what we calculated to be $20,000/acre, meaning the town’s taxpayers make up the difference (pay higher taxes) even more to the advantage of that single property owner for the parking convenience of its customers in an otherwise high tax-yield location.

In this small town, as with any town or city, where residential property owners pay a fraction of what downtown property owners pay, one can easily see how maximizing reasonable productivity of the economic engine of downtown tax-yield is to the direct advantage of all. Squandering tax-yield is to the direct disadvantage of all.

Meanwhile, in downtown New Haven, CT, where a tightly-packed building sitting on .13 acres (our own building) pays what we calculate to be $290,400/acre, the accounting detailed above more than doubles, meaning parking and empty lots in New Haven, as well as anything not tightly-packed, are EXTREMELY expensive for other taxpayers who have to make up the difference for each one of the low to no tax-yield properties in the city’s highest tax-yield areas. 




People may be angry about losing their downtown parking, especially their free parking, but with ±2/3 of otherwise high tax-yield/acre land in downtown New Haven taken off the tax rolls in the interest of low or no tax-yield parking in the most fertile tax-yield areas, along with the fact that city services, city government, and construction/maintenance of infrastructure are the SAME whether properties have buildings or not, explains why taxes are so extraordinarily high for remaining properties with buildings downtown, AND in the residential neighborhoods.

In other words, in most every case in the US, property tax does NOT rise in response to rising values. Property tax rises in response to lowering values.

Quite simply, parking acreage equals tax loss, made up for by extraordinary tax increases for everyone else. It’s actually extraordinary that all these decades no one has ever considered the possibility their significantly increased taxes (adding up to billions) on account of parking for for-profit private concerns could amount to a taking, something not blamed on bad luck in the economy, but something directly resulting from imposed policies of a municipality without any public vetting. Even eminent domain requires a vetting process, a process never initiated by the institution of parking standards, let lone ALL the other DOT standards, which INVARIABLY lower property values.