Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Downtown Redevelopment: “Cha ching, thank you, very much!”

June 21, 2009

I’m tired of all the bitter comments written about landlords of downtown buildings containing vacant space. One such landlord in particular, appears to be the “whipping boy” of many of these Internet and printed media commentators as well as those speaking at the recent public and Steering Committee workshops. I have heard such comments as, “tax him into submission,” or “use eminent domain and take his property from him for the benefit of its economic potential if it were rented out,” and other such comments. That sounds pretty Socialistic to me!

If I’m not mistaken, we are suppose to be a Democracy operating in a capitalistic society which rewards those who worked hard and achieved financial success so they could own things and enjoy the profits of their endeavors. Such a person can own a home, or two, or three or a dozen and we don’t make him live in them all or we say they must lease/rent them out because “we feel” it is in the best interest of “the masses.” Car collectors may own 20, 50, 75 or more cars and we don’t make them drive them or else we say they must lease/rent them out for “the good of the masses.”

But, now so many want such “visionaries” who had the hard earned capital sufficient enough to buy land with buildings on them that when bought by those visionaries nobody else was making a bid for them. Back then many wondered what in the heck this visionary was thinking to make such questionable purchases?

Well, along came flood relief money and a new awareness to beautify the riverfront property while fixing the previous flooding problems. Then developers, seeing such migrating and costly infrastructure improvements while also being locked out from doing such projects up valley because of Ag Preservation and townships unwilling to grow and adapt, settled on available land in the boundaries of the City of Napa and found their dreams actually welcomed.

This was followed by the California State mandated Downtown Specific Plan and its associated public workshops and appointment of a community based “Steering Committee,” the latter two of which are suppose to be major inputs to the Specific Plan.

In view of the above future planning efforts, the “blight of empty store front building space” has now suddenly caught the eye of a number of vehemently protesting citizens of our community appearing to place all the blame for the trials, tribulations, pain and suffering of the downtown area on the visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords who I described previously and their investments in downtown land and buildings when nobody else wanted them.

I suspect these “visionaries” knew that that land and its associated buildings were not economically viable to totally remodel to today’s building code requirements which would have resulted in the requirement to charge a square foot rent price they could not get in the economy of the times.

Their plan was to wait out time until the economy improved and demand for their stale, unattractive and rundown buildings and thus the land they stood upon, would suddenly become valuable to a stimulated economy and developers who saw opportunity to redevelop downtown Napa. That time is upon us now. To wit, the tear down of the old and the building of the bigger, taller and modern new office, lodging, residential and retail mixed use buildings - The Avia, The Riverfront, Zeller, Napa Square, and more!

Why do you think these so called “slum landlords” have not routinely responded to all those who, in their anger, so malign these property owners? The reason is simply: why stop those who are now routinely proving that the “slum landlord’s” earlier decisions to buy these rundown buildings means that these visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords are about to reap the benefits of making the city and thus the people and/or the new developers pay them much more money than it originally cost these landlords to buy the property. In other words, in order to get the land for the new planned developments and thus “get rid of those darn slum landlords” it’s going to cost the new owners.

My hat is tipped to the visionary, capitalistic and entrepreneurial landlords! They saw the future and where monitory reward would come to them if they had patience and let the damning fools do their marketing for them to increase the value of their holdings. Ever time the complaining commentators belittle, run down or complain about the “Slum Landlord,” the latter silently grins and says to him/herself, “Cha ching, thank you, very much!”

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