Daily Archives: August 7, 2008

America’s crumbling infrastructure (Phoenix too)

This map, from the March issue of The Atlantic Monthly, shows an estimate of road congestion in 2010. Click on the map to see a larger version.

In the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic Monthly an opinion piece by Bruce Katz and Robert Puentes analyzes America’s crumbling infrastructure and assesses the money lost due to congestion around major metropolitan areas.  Katz and Puentes point to why infrastructure is such a valuable commodity in a global economy:

The most highly skilled financial professionals…do not choose between New York and Phoenix.  They choose between New York and London — or Shanghai.  While many factors affect that choice, over time, the accretion of delays and travel hassles can sap cities of their vigor and appeal.  Arriving at Shanghai’s modern Pudong airport, you can hop aboard a maglev train that gets you downtown in eight minutes, at speeds approaching 300 miles an hour.  When you land at JFK, on the other hand, you’ll have to take a train to Queens, walk over an indoor bridge, and then transfer to the antiquated Long Island Rail Road; from there, downtown Manhattan is another 35 minutes away.

Nation, Phoenix see sharp rise in shopping center vacancies

[Source: Stacy Mitchell, Hometown Advantage News] — The number of shuttered box stores and empty strip malls has expanded dramatically over the last six months, according to data compiled by commercial real estate brokers and investment advisors.  And the situation is likely to get much worse.  Chain retailers have announced plans to close more than 6,500 outlets by year’s end, even as shopping center construction continues at a furious pace.  Developers are on track to bring an estimated 137 million square feet of new retail space online this year.  That’s more than the average annual growth during the first half of the decade.

“Alarming” is how one commercial brokerage described the unabated pace of shopping center construction.  It is an indication of the degree to which the forces driving retail expansion have become untethered from actual consumer demand.  Communities that have not taken steps to limit retail sprawl through their land use policies are at risk of seeing growing numbers of buildings become derelict.  Already, vacancy rates at strip malls have reached a twelve-year high, according to the research firm Reis.  For the first time since the firm started gathering data in 1980, the total amount of occupied retail space has begun to decline in absolute terms…

In regions that have experienced a major housing boom and bust, such as Phoenix and Florida, the amount of ghost retail has risen sharply and includes stores that were built in advance of new outer-ring subdivisions but never occupied.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix chomping at the bit for grocery stores

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — For nearly three decades, downtown Phoenix has been hungry for a grocery store.  Now, it could be on the verge of snaring two.  As early as December 2009, a 9,000-square-foot AJ’s Fine Foods is slated to open near Central Avenue and Jefferson Street, part of the sprawling $900 million CityScape project.  Meanwhile, the non-profit that runs the downtown farmers market is looking for seed money so that it can open a six-day-a-week store south of Central and Roosevelt.

If shopping carts return downtown, it would be a pivotal milestone for Phoenix, but the effort behind the two projects underscores the hurdles that such ventures can face, experts say.  “Downtown is changing,” said David Basha, director of real-estate development for the Bashas’ Family of Stores, which includes the AJ’s brand.  Yet, he later added, “We are taking a calculated risk downtown.”

Almost 40,000 office workers downtown serve as a lure.  In a few years, the store may serve as many as 2,000 nearby condo dwellers, too, when CityScape’s planned residential towers are built, said Mike Ebert, managing partner of RED Development LLC, CityScape’s developer.

From Tempe to Syracuse, N.Y., downtown grocery stores are highly coveted by local leaders, an expert says.  “A lot of cities want an urban renaissance downtown, and a downtown grocery store is key to that,” said Christine McFarland, a research manager for the Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cities.  When a supermarket opens, it’s a sign to developers that people live there, said McFarland, who specializes in economic development.  Cities like Goodman, MS, and Syracuse, NY, have used such grocery projects to entice other developers to build shops and apartments in the areas, she added.  And when a grocery store leaves a neighborhood, residents miss it badly.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Idea of the Day: Freecycling

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea is called “Freecycling,” and here’s what it’s all about:

[Source: Bruce Stirling, Freecycle Phoenix Moderator]Freecycle Phoenix is one of the top six Freecycle Network groups in the world (with over 14,200 participants).  Freecycle Phoenix was created to help save landfills.  Help others by giving away your things.  All offers must be free.  Enjoy giving away things you no longer need.  Your gifts really make a difference in others’s lives, and they help our landfills, too.  Old cars, appliances, chairs, boats, furniture, beds, computers, TVs, and more… give them away at Freecycle.

The rules are simple: you give away your stuff:

  • No animals
  • No selling, trading, or advertising
  • Nothing illegal (no software, no copied music)
  • All items must be rated “G”
  • No chatting
  • No services
  • All members must make first post an “offer.” 
  • “Wanted” posts limited to one per month per member, unless accompanied by an “offer.” 
  • Using the Freecycle Phoenix site constitutes your express agreement to be bound by User and Privacy Policy.  
  • Membership is approved only if you tell your neighborhood or zip code.