Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 3 of 3 FirstFirst ... 2 3
Results 51 to 74 of 74

Thread: Why suburbia?

  1. #51
    maudit anglais
    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Odd-a-wah
    Posts
    6,586
    My experience is that regs are usually written up not just because a bunch of planners feel develop should look a certain way, but because of previous experience and citizen desires - for example, Officialplanner's questioning of amenity space requirements. Codes requiring amenity space more than likely developed because residents of buildings built prior to this regulation complained that their development didn't have enough community space. Community residents may have complained that all the new condo dwellers were taking up space in their community centres. All sorts of reasons, good and bad, conspire to result in these unwieldy codes. Never once in my job experience have a bunch of planners sat down to decide what a community should or shouldn't have and then gone out and imposed their will on a community.

  2. #52

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Not to pick at details, but we don't "mandate a pool" at all. I'd be amazed if any ordinance requires such a thing-especially when pools are being built in upper end apartment complexes across the region (surely you don't believe that all jurisdictions in a metropolitan area with 110 municipalities?). Our ordinances provide a menu of options-and we are more than willing to work with a developer who thinks that he has an idea of how better to meet the community amenities mandate. Pools are s.o.p for "luxury" complexes.

    I also think Transplanner has a point.

  3. #53

    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    1,371
    Amen, Brother Tranplanner. What the planners do is, in 99% plus of cases, a mirror of what the community (or at least that part of the community that actively participates local government) wants combined with the detritus of a lot of past history of ordinance amendments that respond to specific issues. Skillful planners can and do influence the community's vision, but they don't invent it.

    Also, and to repeat something I have often said in these forae, the assumption that the market is any better at giving people what they want than politics simply is not supported by empirical evidence. Right now, here, what people want and need is a home that they can afford to buy based on their incomes. But it barely exists, and soon will cease to exist at all - about 6-7 more months appreciation at the current rate will end all hope of the family with the median income getting into a home even at 35% of the median income. So how is the market giving these people what they want? Due to the fact that there cannot, by definition, be such a thing as free market in land, due to the extreme social stratification that is emerging in the U.S., and due to the limits the costs of entry into homebuilding impose on competition in a small market (home-building can never be the unlimited global market Adam Smith envisioned when he was babbling about making pins) the market is serving a small number of landowners and a small number of elite homebuyers very well. It is serving the rest of us not at all. Will it correct itself? Perhaps, but not by serving the demand it doesn't serve now (except possibly during a brief transition). It will simply collapse.

    Its all well and good to say that planners should not impose their will on people's preferences. But it is simply stupid to say that the market is magically reflecting and satisfying those preferences. It isn't true. The market is every bit as much a political animal as planning, and is LESS (yes, I said that, LESS) objective than a well-run planning process. When planning works, power does not go away, but it is unveiled. The invisible hand of the market is subject to no accountability at all, yet is very clearly not a mythic force - it is the hands of specific individuals, all of whom escape accountability for the consequences of their actions when the naive buy the makret myth.

  4. #54
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,625
    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Its all well and good to say that planners should not impose their will on people's preferences. But it is simply stupid to say that the market is magically reflecting and satisfying those preferences. It isn't true.
    But one cannot ingore the sizable impact that politically created development codes (zoning, etc.) have on the supply.

    Developers try to meet demand and supply, but are often restricted to building for a small segment of the demand because of dwelling unit density; instead of doing 3,000 sqft lots with smaller houses that could be priced to be available to more purchasers, they have to build 9,000 sqft lots and build large houses that are available to few - as an example.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #55

    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    1,371
    The developers, of course, have no political influence on what the codes say.

    Seriously, while codes are part of the picture in certain communities, no builder in his/her right mind will allocate resources to a $185,000 dollar house if those same resources can be used to build a $360,000 house. If there were competition in the building industry, people might try to serve the lower end of the market, but in a market as active as ours, the price of land would make that almost impossible.

    It may be true that very large developers interact with supply-and-demand in some global sense, but small businesses do not attempt to maximize profits (been there as small business person, though not a builder, tried that, it is not possible). They attempt to minimze costs (and other risks) while earning a living. If the market is at all active, builders will serve the upper end - whether or not there are rules. It is the course of least resistance.

  6. #56
    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    My experience is that regs are usually written up not just because a bunch of planners feel develop should look a certain way, but because of previous experience and citizen desires - for example, Officialplanner's questioning of amenity space requirements. Codes requiring amenity space more than likely developed because residents of buildings built prior to this regulation complained that their development didn't have enough community space. Community residents may have complained that all the new condo dwellers were taking up space in their community centres. All sorts of reasons, good and bad, conspire to result in these unwieldy codes. Never once in my job experience have a bunch of planners sat down to decide what a community should or shouldn't have and then gone out and imposed their will on a community.
    Not at all but they do discuss on how much "amenity space" a building should or should not have based on the codes. This amenity space should be optional as their is a significant cost to the builder associated with building and maintaining it. Citizens should have a choice if they want to pay a premium for this amenity space or not.

    Seriously, while codes are part of the picture in certain communities, no builder in his/her right mind will allocate resources to a $185,000 dollar house if those same resources can be used to build a $360,000 house. If there were competition in the building industry, people might try to serve the lower end of the market, but in a market as active as ours, the price of land would make that almost impossible.
    As land prices rise, the size of lots will decrease to keep them affordable. No developer in his/her right mind will build a large $360,000 house, when three $185,000 smaller homes could be built on the same parcel of land.
    Last edited by Tranplanner; 08 Feb 2005 at 10:49 AM.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Posts
    484
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    As land prices rise, the size of lots will decrease to keep them affordable. No developer in his/her right mind will build a large $360,000 house, when three $185,000 smaller homes could be built on the same parcel of land.
    Unless there is zoning and a neighborhood full of NIMBYs preventing this from happening.

  8. #58
    Quote Originally posted by iamme
    Unless there is zoning and a neighborhood full of NIMBYs preventing this from happening.
    Exactly. Regulations play a major role in restricting the market. People's choices become limited as a result.

  9. #59

    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    1,371
    Hmm. And yet, almost right outside my door, presumably rational developers are building that one expensive home when and where they could build two or three. And I have a pile of applications to do 20+ more the same way sitting right here. Some assumptions that are being made about the way the market and firms work need to be examined. It is just way easier to build that one pre-sold, custom home than to build the three. Maybe the theoretical profit is greater with three, but maybe the risk cancels that out, and as long as there is a market for it, the rational small developer will always take the lower risk option. This has been going on wherever there is a hot, but not too large, real estate market throughout my entire career, which is to say for the past 31 years, in places all over the U.S. I don't think its a fluke. I do think that a lot of people who say they like to let the market work have no idea how it actually does.

  10. #60
    maudit anglais
    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Odd-a-wah
    Posts
    6,586
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Not at all but they do discuss on how much "amenity space" a building should or should not have based on the codes.
    .

    Yes, that's right - they are doing their job based on the codes and regulations adopted by elected officials.

    This amenity space should be optional as their is a significant cost to the builder associated with building and maintaining it. Citizens should have a choice if they want to pay a premium for this amenity space or not.
    Sure, but one role of a planner is to balance the needs of the "now" with the needs of the "future". In the case of a condominium, the builder would recoup their costs through higher unit prices. The condominium corporation (the residents of the building) would be responsible for maintaining the amenity space, not the builder. Amenity requirements for rental properties (at least in my jurisdiction) are lower/no existent.

    What about parking spaces, or landscaping, or even good design? There are considerable costs involved in all those features. Developers build their product and move on - planners (and the community) are left with the results. I'm not saying developers are bad - some are fantastic, but municipal staff have to deal with everyone on a level playing field and put everyone through the same process to be seen as fair and diligent in the eyes of the public.

  11. #61

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468

    An interesting digression

    One of the earlier points of this thread is "Why suburbia"? with the implication that it is "bad" somehow.

    I think Chris Czabla over at urbanphoto had an interesting response to the issue of "suburbanizing big cities" that I thought might add further interest to the debate:

    "It's almost conventional wisdom in the mythology of New York's foundation that diversity, both economical and cultural, is its primary strength. Economical, because the city has always been conducive to numerous small businesses competing vigourously at street level, the victors emerging from this Darwinian struggle with strengths unmatched by capitalists elsewhere (note the number of prominent Gilded Age figures who began their lives in otherwise marginal Manhattan jobs). At the same time, the neverending commercial turmoil presented a challenge to even the mightest of corporations from its tumultuous, competition-driven capacity for innovation. In that sense, Manhattan has proved fertile ground for corporations capable of dominating the continental hinterland whilst remaining free of pestilential colonisation of its beating heart by those same firms. Of course, it has also been spared the take-off of national and international chain retailing due to its precarious position prior to the mid-1990s or so, following which a flood of such stores have opened in the city. They come in ravenous waves, the speculative likes of which are comparatively unknown in other cities; banks dominate entire blocks in their bids to take market share from competitors, fast food and pharmacy chains are a regular and repetitive feature. Manhattan has become Wall Street and Madison Avenue's backyard showpiece rather than its crucial supplier of new talent and ideas, marking a dangerous departure for the city's capability to reproduce the economic success it is typically credited with.

    The rebranding of New York through the same sort of consolidated, corporatised control which marks the suburbs, of which "privatisation" is practically a mantra and "private" an ideology is a fundamental shift in economic relationships which had hitherto been shaped primarily by independent actors. If we can conceive of suburban culture in this sense- homogenised, conformist, consumerist- and apply it to other spheres which make New York famous and important- the theatre arts, for example, rapidly becoming the product of Disney and ClearChannel big media productions; the used bookshop getting snuffed out by a Borders or Banes and Noble every second block; its very neighbourhoods itself taking on a characteristic appearance, a trip across town representing merely a systematic reorientation of familiarities- "where's your Starbucks/Citibank/Duane Reade" etc., much of the urban brio and foment which have made New York a centre for art, industry, and industry is lost to the whims of the same boardrooms deciding the compositions of Peoria and Des Moines, rendering those places so much the same as Gramercy or Soho. Come a mass acceptance New Urbanism the victory of the urban built form will be no less apparent than suburbia's cultural conquest of North American urbanism's heart."

  12. #62

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    .

    Yes, that's right - they are doing their job based on the codes and regulations adopted by elected officials.



    Sure, but one role of a planner is to balance the needs of the "now" with the needs of the "future". In the case of a condominium, the builder would recoup their costs through higher unit prices. The condominium corporation (the residents of the building) would be responsible for maintaining the amenity space, not the builder. Amenity requirements for rental properties (at least in my jurisdiction) are lower/no existent.

    What about parking spaces, or landscaping, or even good design? There are considerable costs involved in all those features. Developers build their product and move on - planners (and the community) are left with the results. I'm not saying developers are bad - some are fantastic, but municipal staff have to deal with everyone on a level playing field and put everyone through the same process to be seen as fair and diligent in the eyes of the public.

    My initial reaction is to agree with you wholeheartedly. But then, I step back and ask myself (I'm sounding like ablarc here) most of the neighborhoods that I find the most appealing predate many of our oh-so-rational codes. I mean, there are rational reasons for 35 feet of pavement on residential side streets (marked with 25 mph speed limits no less). There are rational reasons for no through-streets. There are rational reasons for requiring two covered garage spaces per dwelling unit. But, give me an irrational neighborhood like the North End of Boston, or San Francisco's Telegraph Hill (too steep, it should be protected open space, darn it!) any day.

    At the same time, believing this misses your core point as well: even absent planning rules, the modern market will dictate awful cities and metropolitan areas, because the modern market requires design that totally caters to the private automobile. Large corporations are lowest common denominator-there is no quirk, no character.

    The neighborhoods I like are inconvenient for modern Patio Man and Realtor Mom, and their 2.5 SUVs. So, I'm not falling off the libertarian cliff entirely. (Plus, there is no such thing as a "free market", as Less Nellis makes so eloquently clear.)

  13. #63
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Someplace between yesterday and tomorrow.
    Posts
    13,109
    I have been asking my self “Why Suburbia” for a little while now. Looking at the limited areas that I have lived in. (The UP of Michigan, SW Michigan, and SW Pennsylvania) I think that they exist because they can. The last city I worked for was over 250 years old, and we could trace development based on transpiration corridors with streetcar access. Sprawl is not a “new” idea, but new transpiration methods now permit people to move outside of the city. I personally don’t like sprawl, but I know that some people do, and who am I to tell them that they are wrong. I do think that as planners, we are called to provided the best possible community and living environment, regardless of the choices. Maybe if we can look at the specifics of what people like about sprawl we might come up with things such as open space, good schools, newer housing stock, and the idea of a clean safe community. I think that since World War II, the perception of cities in many people’s eyes has become negative, because most people don’t think that those things can exist in an urban area. I think that if we as planners can encourage development and regulations that would create opportunities to change the perception and sometimes quality of urban areas, then many people might look seriously at moving back into the cities.

    I also think that if Gas prices get high enough, people might start thinking about it too.

    I am also going to ask, why don’t people like urban areas? Michigan’s Urban areas lost people as they moved to the suburbs during the 90’s. But there are still more people in urban areas than non-urban.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  14. #64
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,895
    The past 200 years of city living for the middle, lower-mid and lower class people has not been a pretty one. I think that stigma still persists. The rich had there country estates, and much like the American publics obsession with fame, fortune, and emulating that fame and fortune we want the estate home, we want our yard and detached house because this has always been a symbol of making it. It doesn't matter that the quality is shoddy or the commute is 1 hr. The individual who has bought his detached home with a yard is being like the wealthy and living out of the city.

    There are fewer excuses now not to locate in urban areas. Quality of build and neighborhood amenities often rival and exceed what is provided in new built areas. Once the middle class realizes (through energy costs, income adjustments, etc) this, they will reluctantly, at first, and then willingly move back.

    Again, it's about convenient,cheap, and private transportation. As long as that is available, the need to live in dense areas is not strong and we can all live like the wealthy.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  15. #65
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    106

    Thanks hilld & Cardinal

    Hilld's initial post and Cardinal's follow-up are the two best posts ever written on this website.

    So many planners really do think they know what the people want better than the people do. Meanwhile, what the people want is so obvious. Their feet and pocketbooks tell us: suburbs, cars, and shopping malls instead of cities, buses, and street retail.

    Planners' attitudes, like the comments all over this website, drove me out of the planning business. ow, I respect developers, lenders, and consumers - they're the folks driving the built environment anyway, not planners.

    Lee Nellis asked for some evidence. I bought a condo recently. The lending terms for a condo and single family detatched home are identical. Actually, condo loan terms are better - mortgage insurance is cheaper. This example disproves the blabber about lenders favoring this or that.

    If planners are really so smart, why don't they put their money where their mouths are and become developers?

  16. #66
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,862
    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    Meanwhile, what the people want is so obvious.
    I disagree. Boston, San Franciso, Los Angeles, Detroit, Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Madison, Chaumburg, Buffalo, and Camden are all different places. Your statement assumes a homogeniety in the marketplace of placemaking. If anything, what the people want is not obvious. However, what is obvious to me, is that many, and thankfully not all, of the developers and lenders appear to want the same thing.

  17. #67
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    I disagree. Boston, San Franciso, Los Angeles, Detroit, Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Madison, Chaumburg, Buffalo, and Camden are all different places. Your statement assumes a homogeniety in the marketplace of placemaking. If anything, what the people want is not obvious. However, what is obvious to me, is that many, and thankfully not all, of the developers and lenders appear to want the same thing.
    What American people want is obvious. It is cars, houses, and retailers like Wal-Mart, Nike, and Gap. If Americans didn't want these things, highways would have no traffic, houses would have boards on the windows, and shopping malls would be out of business.

    I don't know what your list of cities is supposed to mean. Anyway, I looked at the populations of the first 4 in 1950 and 2003. The cities featuring public transport and apartment living are losing population: Boston (801,000 to 582,000), San Francisco (775,000 to 752,000), and Detroit (1,850,000 to 911,000). Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the sprawl city, the population has surged to 3,820,000 from 1,970,000. This empirical, bulletproof evidence demostrates what people want.

    Finally, what same thing do developers and lenders want?

  18. #68

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    What American people want is obvious. It is cars, houses, and retailers like Wal-Mart, Nike, and Gap. If Americans didn't want these things, highways would have no traffic, houses would have boards on the windows, and shopping malls would be out of business.

    I don't know what your list of cities is supposed to mean. Anyway, I looked at the populations of the first 4 in 1950 and 2003. The cities featuring public transport and apartment living are losing population: Boston (801,000 to 582,000), San Francisco (775,000 to 752,000), and Detroit (1,850,000 to 911,000). Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the sprawl city, the population has surged to 3,820,000 from 1,970,000. This empirical, bulletproof evidence demostrates what people want.

    Finally, what same thing do developers and lenders want?
    Well: San Francisco is in the middle of a post-boom crash (rental vacancies at one point were 0.5%). Since the severe adjustment in the technology/dot com boom, one would expect some decrease in population, especially as the housing market was over-bid up (I guess by people somehow not wanting cul-de-sac suburbia).

    Los Angeles is hardly typical sprawl any more. It is a quite dense city subject to significant immigration from Asia and Latin America. There is little vacant land.

  19. #69
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,862
    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    What American people want is obvious. It is cars, houses, and retailers like Wal-Mart, Nike, and Gap. If Americans didn't want these things, highways would have no traffic, houses would have boards on the windows, and shopping malls would be out of business.
    My 70 year old mother doesn't want all that. And there are many more out there like her.

    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    Finally, what same thing do developers and lenders want?
    Low risk, predictability, and $$$. They don't care about the quality of place.

  20. #70
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,350

    Good Point

    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Hmm. And yet, almost right outside my door, presumably rational developers are building that one expensive home when and where they could build two or three. And I have a pile of applications to do 20+ more the same way sitting right here. Some assumptions that are being made about the way the market and firms work need to be examined. It is just way easier to build that one pre-sold, custom home than to build the three. Maybe the theoretical profit is greater with three, but maybe the risk cancels that out, and as long as there is a market for it, the rational small developer will always take the lower risk option. This has been going on wherever there is a hot, but not too large, real estate market throughout my entire career, which is to say for the past 31 years, in places all over the U.S. I don't think its a fluke. I do think that a lot of people who say they like to let the market work have no idea how it actually does.
    I'm a little late on this thread ....but:
    Lee makes a good point here about the path of least resistance. As Lee points out, this applies more to the "boy developer" who only builds a few homes at a time and has neither the money or time to waste on risk. The big developer on the other hand looks for profit and has a built in cushion to absorb a great deal more risk than the boy developer (just a matter of scale). The bottom line is, that the big builders had a much more profound effect on our urban/suburban environment.

    The path of least resistance for the big developer in the past was to keep moving away from the City center when developing residential, for various reasons (cost of land, urban decay, congestion, new highways/roads, ....). People followed because that's where the homes were being built and family's had incenctives to seek the suburban lifestyle (income, children, perceived safety, education, less congestion.....). These limitations outweighed the potential positives for living close to a city's center (lower transportation cost, job location...others?)

    Much of the risk associated with big developments can be traced to the fact that land brokers have gotten much more sophisticated in the last 20 years or so. Today's land broker knows darn near exactly how much a property is worth and what can be expected to be built there within reason. Margins are being pushed to the limits when compared to decades past. Its the expectation by the developer to build more units and less amenities that often makes the risk worth taking.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  21. #71
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Someplace between yesterday and tomorrow.
    Posts
    13,109
    I agree with wanigas on this one. Most of the people I know want safe neighborhoods with good schools. Beyond that, everyone seems to want something different. Some don’t want to go into Wal-Mart, and some do. I know in Michigan, more people still live in an “Urban” area than suburban. I am not sure, but I think it is about the same in the rest of the country. People are not moving out of cities to shop and Nike or in a mall. I think that part of it is the misperception of inner cities and urban areas as being bad places to live. In some cases, they are right, but that is what we as planners need to change.

    On one of the network news channels they have an ongoing report on how more and more retired people are moving back in to the city instead of elderly housing or retirement communities. They say that urban areas and down town have great apartments that are small enough to take care of, cheep enough that it does not break their accounts, unlimited cultural and social events, parks, restaurants, and no yards to take care of.

    I work for a bed room city of 45,000 just out side of a city of 85,000. We have no downtown, several big box stores, one big mall, and several strip malls. But we still have issues, and even though we are gaining in population, other communities that are doing the exact same thing as we are, are loosing population and having financial issues.

    I worry about some of the cities because of economic issues. Grand Rapids Michigan has been making a great come back, but is now going into a financial crisis.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  22. #72
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2005
    Location
    minneapolis, minnesota
    Posts
    8
    I grew up and still live in the suburbs. I work and have many friends in the city, and I can tell you it is refreshing to get out of the density and bustle in the city. I think the problem with suburbs these days is they've overdeveloped them in an inefficient manner. It makes me sick to see the last few private wooded lots torn down for more 5 bedroom-3 car garage-budget mansions, mega churches, applebees, target, wal-mart, whatever. What really pisses me off, is they completely flatten a lot, tear out all the vegetation, build on less than half of the lot, then fill in the leftover space with way too many parking spots or simply lay down plain old sod. The end product is this depressing, manufactured environment. I think the reason for living in the suburbs is exactly the opposite: being closer to nature and enjoying unspoiled scenery. Instead they are becoming a sea of corporate retail, pedicured lawns, and uninspiring housing developments.

  23. #73
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,862
    Quote Originally posted by talktobrent
    The end product is this depressing, manufactured environment. I think the reason for living in the suburbs is exactly the opposite: being closer to nature and enjoying unspoiled scenery. Instead they are becoming a sea of corporate retail, pedicured lawns, and uninspiring housing developments.
    Is this what your are talking about?



    Many people love this stuff! They get to go outside and tinker around all week-end. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  24. #74
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Clayobyrne, CB
    Posts
    2,581
    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Seriously, while codes are part of the picture in certain communities, no builder in his/her right mind will allocate resources to a $185,000 dollar house if those same resources can be used to build a $360,000 house
    Triple-deckers get a second life: Developer reinvests in community by turning three-family houses into affordable condominiums

    By Gail Ravgiala, Globe Staff | April 24, 2005

    David Scott has a philosophy that seems to go against the grain of a go-go housing market. ''Eat little and live longer," he says.

    For Scott that translates into a simple business plan: establish a reputation for quality, make a reasonable rate of return, and then leverage both by reinvesting in a community.

    In 2004, as a newcomer to the frenzied world of Boston real estate development, Scott was part of a market tidal wave that saw annual statewide sales of two-, three-, and four-families hit 9,726, a number that smashed the 2003 record of 8,086 sales, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported this month.

    But Scott saw the market differently than the investors who were trying to lure young buyers with the promise of a big return on a tiny niche in an up-and-coming ZIP code.

    Scott says he and his business partner Michael Hecker, follow Donald Trump's advice and buy in marginal areas, a term that has a positive spin for his clients.

    ''Many of our buyers," says Scott, ''work for the Boston Public Schools or the MBTA or a nonprofit agency. They have a commitment to the community. Some of them grew up in these neighborhoods and are looking to move back."

    To make that happen, Scott says, ''I know we can't buy houses for more than $600,000, and we need to keep the mortgage payments between $1,600 and $1,900. Then two people making reasonable salaries can afford to live there." He adds: ''It is gratifying to see people move into properties that they never expected they would be able to buy. That's the American Dream."

    One such buyer is Marie Firman, an educational consultant, who with her son and nephew bought all three units in a Roxbury three-family that Scott and his company, Metro Property Partners LLP, are converting to condos.

    ''We were looking to buy a triple-decker," says Firman, who grew up in the neighborhood and now wants to move back. ''We found this and it made sense to buy all three units. We plan to live in two and rent out the third."

    The advantages to buying condos at $250,000 each vs. investing in a three-family were many.

    ''If a family member wants to leave, we can just sell a unit," says Firman. There will be no rehab headaches to contend with, yet they will have input into how the units will be finished.

    At Dorchester Elite Condominiums, a triple-decker that Metro is renovating on Dix Street, Scott says he is giving buyers what they want: quality work, an attractive aesthetic, and an open floor plan. In the first-floor model unit, which sold for $324,000, Scott took out walls so that the kitchen is open to the living and dining areas.

    Because of their location, the middle rooms are not filled with natural light, so interior designer Angela Papa of The Finished Touch in Walpole, who collaborated with Scott on the decorating, painted them in sunny yellows and cheerful teals and furnished them with contemporary furnishings, some of which are negotiable if a buyer is interested. Gas fireplaces are handsomely encased in mantles designed by Scott's brother, Walter Scott, who serves as general contractor on all renovations.

    ''The city can be overwhelming," says Papa. ''There are lots of structures and lots of people. We wanted to create a restful place."

    All of the kitchens have granite countertops and high-end stainless steel appliances. Bathrooms are finished in marble and there is a laundry room in each unit. The floors are all prefinished hardwood. ''David wants to raise the bar in terms of what a condo can be," says Papa

    If there is something a buyer doesn't like, Scott will work with them. ''David changed the colors for me," says Sonia Gilmere, who works for the Transportation Department in the Boston Public Schools and recently bought a condo in Roxbury. She had been looking for a multifamily for four years, when she found her three-bedroom unit for $279,000.

    Metro's most recent project is a three-family at 465 Ashmont St. in Dorchester, where condos will sell for $299,000 to $350,000. All of the company's units -- about 25 are now in various stages of renovation -- are being marketed by Bertha Hoskins of Scott-Haynes Inc. Real Estate in Dorchester.

    And to put the proverbial money where their mouths are, Hecker and Scott have set up a scholarship based on a percentage of Metro's income that will be offered to a local student.

    © Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

+ Reply to thread
Page 3 of 3 FirstFirst ... 2 3

More at Cyburbia

  1. When did suburbia begin?
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 30 Nov 2012, 7:11 PM
  2. The end of suburbia
    Environmental Planning
    Replies: 3
    Last post: 04 Feb 2008, 12:57 PM
  3. The End Of Suburbia -the movie
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 27
    Last post: 01 Nov 2006, 10:04 AM
  4. The New Suburbia
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 6
    Last post: 25 Sep 2005, 3:28 PM
  5. End of Suburbia film
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 10 Nov 2004, 11:34 AM