Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hotel Milwaukee

The Journal reports the Mayor is urging the Preservation Commission to approve the Marriott hotel downtown. I've seen no impact analysis or even mention of the ancillary costs, expected income stream, a need for additional hotel beds, additional service needs, really nothing of substance as to why this is a can't-miss investment.

And, if we're making a leap of faith and saying we need this, is it really too much to ask that the structure keep its historic facade?

Preservation is a sense of past, of our history. It is what makes a place special. It is why New Orleans is New Orleans, Savannah is Savannah, Charleston is Charleston, etc. Simply building something, growth for growth's sake, mimicking ever dime-a-dozen development scheme sprouting up across America does not a niche make. Nor does it provide a locality with a sustainable attraction.

The Preservation Commission wants the developers to keep the facades of the historic buildings. A seemingly minuscule request in the greater scheme of things. But, of course, in our 'bend-over-for-business, markets know best, regulation is the boogey-man' world anything that is asked of business is portrayed as an affront to life itself.

Yes, by building a hotel jobs will be created. But, are hotel jobs an economic catalyst? I'd rather have the manufacturing jobs and spin-offs from the likes of a Talgo. Better paying, full-time, full-benefit jobs.

Yes, the increased value of the property will provide more property taxes. But, again, is this the jobs or development we need at this location? At this time? Are we so uninterested in our built environment that we will allow anything to be built anywhere without any boundaries? A third of the property in the city is exempt from taxes. Simply removing some exemptions could add millions in collections.

Yes, there is a fine line between guiding development and stifling it. Such as killing a link amongst a national train network, which benefits businesses and citizens, is stifling of development. Establishing parameters for a business that will take up a half-block, intrude into the downtown skyline, and be part of the downtown for decades to come, doesn't seem burdensome, but necessary.

Rules and restrictions are necessary in life as in development. If a low-tax, low-regulation structure were the end-all, be-all answer to our life, we'd all live in Mississippi. Nothing against Mississippi, but low taxes and nonexistent rules do not assure a glorious existence.

No comments: