Reading the title would make you think my goal in this piece is to explain how I quantify or put a price to a downtown. I’m sorry to say that is exactly what I do not plan to do here. The title “Quantifying Downtowns” is written like that because I feel like people who do not understand redevelopment are always trying to get me to quantify what we do.
I understand to some degree, appraisers, bankers, investors etc. need to understand the market in order to make a decision whether their capital is at an appropriate risk/interest level before they decide what the value is and whether they are interested in lending or investing or in most cases not lending or investing.
I’m not saying there are not pieces to a downtown that cannot be quantified like the buildings, land etc. My point in this piece is to say that they are looking at value the wrong way.
I see value in the experience and the tools to help me create that value or experience are what I try to sell or build or redevelop. The bricks and mortar of what we do however is only a small part of our product.
If I were to ask you what was the value of your first family vacation to Disney world ? There are two ways to face this question. One thought would break the cost of the vacation down in component parts and then add it up. Travel expenses were X, Hotels were Y and Tickets were Z. Add these up and you get the value of the trip. The second way to assess value would be to figure out how much your child’s facial expression meant to you when he or she saw Mickey Mouse in person add in the adventure of traveling together as a family on an adventure plus the bear hug you received at end of the trip for being part of this experience with them.
Do you see a Christmas morning as the value of the tree, plus costs of gifts, plus extra electricity from all the lit up ornaments or do you see Christmas as an experience that doesn’t need to be quantified to be truly understood.
The values of downtowns to me are not what the value of a buildings is plus the infrastructure, plus the open space. These things are very important and cannot be overlooked in order to have a sustainable system, but what truly drives sustainability of any downtown is the experience. For me, its’ the WALK to work I make every morning. The casual unexpected (sometimes welcome and sometimes not welcome) encounters I have with people throughout the day. It’s the gift I have living near my family and the time spent with them. Value is the unquantifiable feeling I get and the quality of life I glean from being part of this place.
Priceless is an understatement when it comes to valuing a downtown. How is that you might ask when buildings can be rebuilt or replaced. My answer is the downtowns cannot be replaced because they are more than just buildings…most downtowns were built over time with many experiences. They are not shopping centers with cookie cutter spaces. They have characters centuries old with stories spanning multiple generations.
Values to me are based around more free time by not having to drive all over the place, artistic/authentic and creative spaces, good local food, being able to walk to get somewhere, knowing those in my neighborhood including shop owners and living close to family. What are these things worth to me you might ask? The World
Improve quality of life downtown, reduce our carbon footprint.