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City Council strengthens Preservation Ordinance


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This morning, Houston City Council approved amendments that strengthen the Historic Preservation Ordinance. The measure passed with nearly unanimous approval. At-Large Position 5 Council Member Michael Berry cast the only opposing vote.

One of the amendments makes it easier for property owners to have their neighborhoods designated as City historic districts. Historic district designation will now require the consent of a simple majority (51%) of the property owners in the proposed district. Designation previously required the support of a super majority (67%) of property owners.

The amendments also include a two-year no-build penalty for the illegal demolition of designated City of Houston historic landmarks as well as contributing and potentially contributing buildings in designated historic districts. If designated historic buildings are demolished without the required City approvals, City officials are prohibited from issuing any permits that would allow for development on the site for two years.

The two-year penalty was a compromise reached after District E City Council Member Addie Wiseman tagged the ordinance last week to prevent the measure from coming to a vote. In its original form, the amendment included a five-year no-build penalty.

The original version of the amendments had been approved by the City of Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, Planning Commission and the City Council

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One of the amendments makes it easier for property owners to have their neighborhoods designated as City historic districts. Historic district designation will now require the consent of a simple majority (51%) of the property owners in the proposed district. Designation previously required the support of a super majority (67%) of property owners.

The amendments also include a two-year no-build penalty for the illegal demolition of designated City of Houston historic landmarks as well as contributing and potentially contributing buildings in designated historic districts. If designated historic buildings are demolished without the required City approvals, City officials are prohibited from issuing any permits that would allow for development on the site for two years.

it should help but won't solve the problem.

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it will be interesting to see what happens to properties that get the two year building permit penalty.

will the property owner (who illegally tore down the structure) be penalized if he/she does not keep up the vacant land for the two years?

Edited by sevfiv
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Great! Lets further legislate the protection of decrepit eyesores in the name of preservation. The 3 ring circus is still in full swing with the head clown at the helm-mayor White. :wacko::wacko:

Do you have any examples of decrepit eyesores in Houston that have been protected by historical-preservation legislation? Just interested in hearing more...

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Do you have any examples of decrepit eyesores in Houston that have been protected by historical-preservation legislation? Just interested in hearing more...

Better question, do you have examples of ones that will not be protected by this stupid legislation? :wacko::wacko:

If people want to preserve that crap, get out and buy it. Stop trying to dictate to private owners what they should do with thier property. If dictation of property is the goal, encourage deed restrictions and not some dumb ass government legislation that will do nothing other than create more useless red tape.

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Better question, do you have examples of ones that will not be protected by this stupid legislation? :wacko::wacko:

If people want to preserve that crap, get out and buy it. Stop trying to dictate to private owners what they should do with thier property. If dictation of property is the goal, encourage deed restrictions and not some dumb ass government legislation that will do nothing other than create more useless red tape.

Deed restrictions are useless in a city that won't help neighborhoods enforce them.

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Better question, do you have examples of ones that will not be protected by this stupid legislation?

I asked the question I did because I wasn't aware of that many structures in Houston that had been saved from demolition by the existing city historical preservation ordinance, or any state or federal legislation aimed at historical preservation. There are some sites/structures in Houston that have received historical designations, and there may be a subset of those where the designation arguably saved the structure from demolition, but none that I could think of that I'd call eyesores. I was just curious which ones you had in mind.

On your question: I'm no expert on the city's historical preservation ordinance, but my understanding is that the recent amendment did not change the fact that the city council determines what is "protected", and requires that the site/structure: (1) be identified with a person or group that contributed significantly to the city

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Yeah, The River Oaks Theater, River Oaks Shopping Center, Alabama Theater, and the host of other things this legislation is trying to protect are nothing but run-down eyesores. :(

The real problem in Houston is that far too many developers remove totally viable places to build new instead of actually tearing down things that are worthless or building on vacant lots.

Did we really need to implode the Shamrock Hotel for a surface parking lot?

Did we really need to rip down the old Ben Milam Hotel for another asphalted space?

Do we really need to remove the art-deco shopping center on West Gray just to get another Barnes and Noble?

Do we really need to see the removal of great old houses in Riverside/Washington Terraces for more tin-can condos? Why not replace to gutted shotgun houses closer to 45 instead?

Now, I am not against all tear-downs. It just seems that we should only be tearing down things if what we are replacing them with are "better." Removing the old Allen Parkway Apartments but replacing them with mixed-use retail, hotel, office space, and apartments with underground parking is a good thing.

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It just seems that we should only be tearing down things if what we are replacing them with are "better."

Ah, but this is exactly what is happening! Otherwise, what would be the motivation to spend the money tearing them down and removing them?

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I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the property-rights and free-market perspectives, and I do try to make a distinction between those structures that I'm sad to see go for purely sentimental reasons and those I think are worthy of preservation (and possibly even governmental protection) because of their historical value.

The market does sometimes work to protect an historic structure - the property owner may get direct or added value from the structure's historical significance, the owner may get value from the goodwill generated through preservation, and/or the owner may be kept from demolishing the structure by threatened boycotts, etc. Which I understand can lead to the argument that, if the structure is not preserved, it's because the structure did not have sufficient historical significance to bring about any of these circumstances, and was thus an inefficient use of the property. But markets are inefficient in a number of ways - especially when there is imperfect information (such as an under-informed public) - and are also not very good at properly valuing shared resources such as cultural heritage.

Houston has undoubtedly benefited in many ways from promoting a general pro-business and pro-property-rights reputation - but I can't believe that it is in the overall interest of the city to do so to such a degree that there is virtually zero protection for truly significant historical structures. No more than it would be in the overall interest of the city to eliminate all environmental regulations (if it could).

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Houston has undoubtedly benefited in many ways from promoting a general pro-business and pro-property-rights reputation - but I can't believe that it is in the overall interest of the city to do so to such a degree that there is virtually zero protection for truly significant historical structures. No more than it would be in the overall interest of the city to eliminate all environmental regulations (if it could).

To me, nothing is so sacred that it absolutely cannot be torn down, but I recognize some value in some of your arguments. That is why I favor systems of incentives rather than simple yes/no regulatory solutions.

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To me, nothing is so sacred that it absolutely cannot be torn down, but I recognize some value in some of your arguments. That is why I favor systems of incentives rather than simple yes/no regulatory solutions.

I know we have some tax incentives in place for improvements to designated historic structures, but don't know much more than that. I should learn more. I'm pretty pro-preservation, I'll admit, but am generally not that pro-regulation. My last was as much as anything else an attempt to rationalize to myself why I'm ok with some regulation in this area - I'd never really thought it through.

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Ah, but this is exactly what is happening! Otherwise, what would be the motivation to spend the money tearing them down and removing them?

I disagree.

I'd prefer to still see the Ben Milam waiting to be rehabbed rather than another surface parking lot across from Minute Maid Park.

I'd prefer to still be able to see the Shamrock Hotel rather than the surface lot that remains decades after it was torn down.

I'd rather still have the Medical Arts Building downtown than the empty lot that is there.

The Ashland Tea House was on the national registry but was torn down for a restaurant that flopped and never made it out of the ground.

The Robinson Warehouse was a beautiful art deco structure. I am not so certain that an Islamic Cultural Center is a better replacement.

The East End just lost the 1910 Blessed Sacrament School House. Will be replaced by a non-descript school.

The Southwest Savings Association Building in Bellaire was recently torn down and replaced with a drive-thru bank with four lanes. Hooray!

As for things that are endangered...

The River Oaks Shopping Center for a parking garage and Barnes and Noble?

The Settegast Building on West Gray for a potential parking lot for the new HSPVA. Yippee. That will do wonders for what has the potential to be a really great stretch of road.

The West Mansion might be sold of to multiple developers so we can have more apartments and condos on Clear Lake.

The Prudential Building, Houston's first hi-rise outside of downtown has already seen it's beautiful setting taken up by parking garages and now it might come down for another medical building.

Plus, nearly every day some really great homes come down in River Oaks, Old 6th Ward, Riverside Terrace, Washington Terrace, Tanglewood, Memorial Villages, Southampton, Boulevard Oaks, West U, and a host of other places to make way for speculative crap that is mass produced.

I hardly call these better replacements.

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I disagree.

I'd prefer to still see the Ben Milam waiting to be rehabbed rather than another surface parking lot across from Minute Maid Park.

Evidently parking was a higher and better use of economic resources. Sucks for you, but it is good for me and all others who drive and park downtown.

I'd prefer to still be able to see the Shamrock Hotel rather than the surface lot that remains decades after it was torn down.

Land is so expensive in that area that if the hotel had been saved back then, it'd probably have been knocked down by now. Just be grateful that the Warwick (Zaza) isn't in such a prime location.

I'd rather still have the Medical Arts Building downtown than the empty lot that is there.

Parking.

The Ashland Tea House was on the national registry but was torn down for a restaurant that flopped and never made it out of the ground.

Yeah, wasn't that thing structurally unsound anyway?

The Robinson Warehouse was a beautiful art deco structure. I am not so certain that an Islamic Cultural Center is a better replacement.

A building that is used is better than a derelict warehouse in a flood plain that is not being used.

The East End just lost the 1910 Blessed Sacrament School House. Will be replaced by a non-descript school.

Didn't hear about this one. No comment.

The Southwest Savings Association Building in Bellaire was recently torn down and replaced with a drive-thru bank with four lanes. Hooray!

Banks like Bellaire. Bellaire has wealthy people. Banks, themselves, provide a service and create jobs for people. People like services and jobs. And consumers especially like a highly-competitive market. Bellaire will prevail.

As for things that are endangered...

The River Oaks Shopping Center for a parking garage and Barnes and Noble?

I like the new design, and I'd especially like to see that residential tower be built. The more people that can utilize such prime land, the better. For the time being, the existing improvements are insufficient to satisfy demand.

The Settegast Building on West Gray for a potential parking lot for the new HSPVA. Yippee. That will do wonders for what has the potential to be a really great stretch of road.

Not familiar with that building. No comment.

The West Mansion might be sold of to multiple developers so we can have more apartments and condos on Clear Lake.

People gotta live somewhere, and evidently the West Mansion's usefulness is in question as a utility-producing improvement.

The Prudential Building, Houston's first hi-rise outside of downtown has already seen it's beautiful setting taken up by parking garages and now it might come down for another medical building.

Gotta provide healthcare. You like healthcare, right? You like it affordable, right?

Plus, nearly every day some really great homes come down in River Oaks, Old 6th Ward, Riverside Terrace, Washington Terrace, Tanglewood, Memorial Villages, Southampton, Boulevard Oaks, West U, and a host of other places to make way for speculative crap that is mass produced.

Yep, and evidently, people value it at a higher price. Otherwise, they wouldn't pay it. I know that you think that you know better than them, but they might humbly beg to differ.

I hardly call these better replacements.

Exactly, you wouldn't. But the world doesn't revolve around you. Compromises must be made, and they are made by way of creative destruction: greed.

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The world does revolve around me. The sooner you come to that realization, the happier you will be.

As for the rest of your answers; typical hogwash. To try and act like consumers benefitted by the addition of another surface parking lot in downtown or the med center is nuts. I failed to notice the large drop in prices that hit town after the William Penn fell.

Also, why do you take the developers word that the Ashland Tea House was structurally unsound? Was it because they proved to be such an honerable bunch of people? It seems to me since it was a functioning business for years before it was sold, that things couldn't have been all that bad.

And, for someone who is in the real estate biz, how can you be unaware of the Settegast Building on West Gray? It was taken by eminent domain for the planned HSPVA and will be used as a construction site while they build the new school and then ripped down to provide a parking lot for said school. This despite the fact that the owners had just rehabbed the building in the 1990s. You of all people should be outraged by that since that is such a clear violation of the free market.

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The world does revolve around me. The sooner you come to that realization, the happier you will be.

It most certainly does not. Humanity is merely an spatial arrangement of particles, each of their own mass, each with their own gravitational pull. You are but a speck, all but irrelevant to my personal fulfillment.

As for the rest of your answers; typical hogwash. To try and act like consumers benefitted by the addition of another surface parking lot in downtown or the med center is nuts. I failed to notice the large drop in prices that hit town after the William Penn fell.

Surface parking has a high value. An abandoned building has effectively none unless you sink a lot of economic resources into it, and then it has to produce enough returns to justify having allocated those resources, which are finite in nature and precious to those that created them. Evidently the building just wasn't worth any more of our resources than it took to level and pave it.

Observed prices are not a perfect indicator in the real world, where the ceteris paribum assumption is nullified.

Also, why do you take the developers word that the Ashland Tea House was structurally unsound? Was it because they proved to be such an honerable bunch of people? It seems to me since it was a functioning business for years before it was sold, that things couldn't have been all that bad.

I had a ceiling, truss sysem, and roof over the addition to my Eastwood house that was structurally unsound on the very day that it was built because the carpenter basically didn't know what he was doing...the job was completely amateur. Then they put four layers of roll roofing on it at various points, didn't spray for termites...ever...even though it was built of pine rather than the hardwood that the main house was, and ultimately they allowed for lots of water intrusion, which caused extensive rot and the sprouting of gobs of black mold (the really really bad stuff) within the insulation and on the back side of almost every strip of beadboard.

None of that kept the original owner from using it as a nursery for flowers, or subsequent owners from using it as a day care center. When it finally came time to remove the main structural beams, the contractor just used a hammer to break away the rotted members at key points, and it didn't take much more effort than that to cause a controlled collapse.

I'd never have suspected that it would be so bad, and I'd had the advantage of crawling around with a flashlight up in the attic...a customer of the former day care center, like a customer at Ashland Tea House, would never have suspected a thing, so long as the 20-year-old tupperware in the attic catching the leaks that were active at that time didn't start to overflow. Perhaps I'll post some photos of the debris soon. Give you an idea of how bad it can get.

But the point of all this is that with old buildings, there are always surprises. Sometimes recoverable, sometimes not. How you can go about passing judgement and casting blame upon people with so little in the way of facts is beyond me.

And, for someone who is in the real estate biz, how can you be unaware of the Settegast Building on West Gray? It was taken by eminent domain for the planned HSPVA and will be used as a construction site while they build the new school and then ripped down to provide a parking lot for said school. This despite the fact that the owners had just rehabbed the building in the 1990s. You of all people should be outraged by that since that is such a clear violation of the free market.

Now that you mention it, it does ring a bell. But I wasn't here in the 90's, nor was I in real estate. Sounds like incompetence on the part of HISD is to blame. Not particularly surprising, but it does lend an example to my argument that perhaps government shouldn't take up a cause without allowing for at least some flexibility from those who typically know better--private owners.

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Perhaps I'll post some photos of the debris soon. Give you an idea of how bad it can get.

Here you go. I'd never realized the extent of the structural damage until the job was about 2/3 of the way done. Fortunately, it'd been raining off and on for the whole week that the contractor was working, so that suppressed and washed away much of the black mold, but when it was still intact, it was quite voluminous, which is something that you can't see in these photos.

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Edited by TheNiche
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It most certainly does not. Humanity is merely an spatial arrangement of particles, each of their own mass, each with their own gravitational pull. You are but a speck, all but irrelevant to my personal fulfillment.

Of course you discount the value of humanity. That's a no-brainer.

Observed prices are not a perfect indicator in the real world, where the ceteris paribum assumption is nullified.

I had a ceiling, truss sysem, and roof over the addition to my Eastwood house that was structurally unsound on the very day that it was built because the carpenter basically didn't know what he was doing...the job was completely amateur. Then they put four layers of roll roofing on it at various points, didn't spray for termites...ever...even though it was built of pine rather than the hardwood that the main house was, and ultimately they allowed for lots of water intrusion, which caused extensive rot and the sprouting of gobs of black mold (the really really bad stuff) within the insulation and on the back side of almost every strip of beadboard.

None of that kept the original owner from using it as a nursery for flowers, or subsequent owners from using it as a day care center. When it finally came time to remove the main structural beams, the contractor just used a hammer to break away the rotted members at key points, and it didn't take much more effort than that to cause a controlled collapse.

I'd never have suspected that it would be so bad, and I'd had the advantage of crawling around with a flashlight up in the attic...a customer of the former day care center, like a customer at Ashland Tea House, would never have suspected a thing, so long as the 20-year-old tupperware in the attic catching the leaks that were active at that time didn't start to overflow. Perhaps I'll post some photos of the debris soon. Give you an idea of how bad it can get.

But the point of all this is that with old buildings, there are always surprises. Sometimes recoverable, sometimes not. How you can go about passing judgement and casting blame upon people with so little in the way of facts is beyond me.

The Tea House was not structurally unsound. It was old. It had been deformed over the years but was no less retrivable than any number of properties that I and others have resurrected over the years into viable, money-making enterprises. Ryan Hildebrand and Matthew Pridgen lied, refused to work with a willing Mark Sterling and the HHA and had the place torn down in the middle of the night. Classy. It sounds like Kinkaid had the essence of the situation correct if not all the particulars which I wouldn't expect from one living in Boston. But you purport to live in Houston and can't even get your facts straight.

BTW, you chose to (or were suckered into) buying that piece of crap in the East End without performing due dilligence and doing your homework when we and many others turned and ran from a bad deal. So carry on, Mr. Real Estate. Perhaps you have a partner (do you still?) that you could unload your half on. That should be no problem for a guy who puts the $ above all else. Just don't come whinning when you get screwed by one more callous than yourself-if that were possible.

Edited by nmainguy
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Of course you discount the value of humanity. That's a no-brainer.

You don't get it. No surprise there, from the person that can't help but shoot himself in the foot when he tries to come up with analogies/metaphors, himself.

The Tea House was not structurally unsound. It was old. It had been deformed over the years but was no less retrivable than any number of properties that I and others have resurrected over the years into viable, money-making enterprises. Ryan Hildebrand and Matthew Pridgen lied, refused to work with a willing Mark Sterling and the HHA and had the place torn down in the middle of the night. Classy. It sounds like Kinkaid had the essence of the situation correct if not all the particulars which I wouldn't expect from one living in Boston. But you purport to live in Houston and can't even get your facts straight.

I'm just citing what I'd read about it in the Chronicle. They questioned Hildebrand extensively, and he had reasonable answers to all questions. There is no apparent reason to doubt the truthfulness of his claims. Even folks from the GHPA and HHA were somewhat forgiving and were trying to be very reasonable...and in contrast to what you'd said, that "refused to work with a willing Mark Sterling and the HHA," Sheila Sorvari, VP of Communications for the HHA stated, "I don't know what (Heights Association) or any organization would or could have done..." Hildebrand stated that he'd never spoke with HHA, which if accurate, means that he couldn't have either 1) been influenced by them or 2) intentionally misled them.

I suppose that there is an off-chance that he just got himself a really bad structural engineer that had absolutely no background in renovation of older buildings -- I came across one roofer that wanted to bundle together a package not only to replace the roof (and he didn't even spot the structural problems in the addition) but also to rip off all the bricks and replace them with stucco(!) -- but I'd suspect that qualified structural engineers are more competent than El Salvadorian immigrants that work the Bellaire neighborhoods.

BTW, you chose to (or were suckered into) buying that piece of crap in the East End without performing due dilligence and doing your homework when we and many others turned and ran from a bad deal. So carry on, Mr. Real Estate. Perhaps you have a partner (do you still?) that you could unload your half on. That should be no problem for a guy who puts the $ above all else. Just don't come whinning when you get screwed by one more callous than yourself-if that were possible.

I bought it for only a bit more than what lot value would likely have been (although most other bidders wouldn't have known that on account of that the listing used crappy HCAD data that understated the lot size and home size), and I knew going in that there was a risk that major termite damage, which was apparent in some places but not at all in others, might be a surprise down the road. But when you've got a property under contract, all you can do is call out a qualified inspector, and hope that what is outwardly visible is enough to draw conclusions from...you certainly can't perform an invasive exploratory procedure at that point. I used Fox Inspectors, which was recommended many multiple times by various HAIFers including jscarbor, groovehouse, Scharpe St Guy, and ldogg. They did a good job for the most part, and pointed out the water damage, but didn't comment on anything but water damage as far as the addition was concerned.

In addition to Fox, I had gotten a bid from a roofer during that time for budgeting purposes, but they did not mention anything about structural issues (and roofer usually wouldn't, because they aren't carpenters or structural engineers). When it came time to make the investment in the roof, I bid out the job from NINE different roofers before I settled on one, and then that was only because up until about the 5th one, every single one that came out gave me a slightly different story. The sixth one matched up with the third one pretty closely, in that they were wanting to install glue laminate beams to shore up the roof structure in the addition, so I decided just to go with an inexpensive roofer on the main house, which was apparently structurally sound, and decided to let the addition sit until it came time to weigh the options for a garage. For whatever reason, none of the roofers was giving me a discount for doing the main house and addition together as opposed to as seperate jobs, so it really didn't matter to me from a financial standpoint.

The folks that did the main house took their sweet time to start on the job, so by coincidence, I'd already had time to call out a couple carpenters to assess garage viability, and the addition was deemed to be the best place for it. The importance of that investment became more high-priority after kids started breaking windows and my tenant/co-owner started feeling unsafe and threatening to move out (that was an unanticipated risk!). Each carpenter gave me about the same story, but even they had no way of knowing the full extent of the termite damage on every beam or the level of moldiness of the insulation until they started work.

So, one highly-recommended inspector, nine roofers, and two carpenters later (which would've been more, but the roofer accidentally started removing the roof from the addition when he commenced work on the main house, prompting me to move up my schedule for the addition), I suppose that I am still not diligent enough for you? I do what is reasonable (and often then some). I've been very up-front with the coowner, and how dare you suggest that I'd be dishonest!

In spite of my high number of posts on this forum, you clearly don't know me. You don't know my house. You didn't know Ashland Tea House. Please stop making accusations for which you cannot provide relevant factual evidence. :angry2:

Edited by TheNiche
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Niche, you seem to think that every decision to tear down a historic structure is based on a careful, rational consideration of the best use/utility for the property. That's very ignorant. Most teardowns of landmarks result from owners being either too lazy or shortsighted to see the value of what's being torndown.

Case in point - the Medical Arts Tower.

MEDICAL%20ARTS%20BLDG%201926.jpg

This was a magnificent building torn down for a surface parking lot. Within several blocks' radius are probably a dozen other surface parking lots. Now if the public needed parking so desperately, couldn't just one of those have been made into a garage?

I think clearly it would have been better for the public if Houston had kept one of its greatest early skyscrapers than to have had one additional surface parking lot in a downtown that is covered with them. And if it is better for the public to keep buildings like that, why shouldn't the public make laws to protect them?

I also think it would have been better for the owner to have kept the building. If he had just waited a couple of decades for the whole modernist frenzy to blow over, he could have turned it into the most magnificent boutique hotel downtown, much finer than the other ones that have been done. It would also be a prime candidate for lofts, or even offices. Either would generate more dollars than a surface parking lot.

In short, this view that everybody is making a carefully-considered, rational decision about how best to use their property is an Enlightenment myth. Much of the history of development in Houston over the last fifty years has been the history of out-of-town owners making decisions that had noxious effects on the city. Sometimes the public does know best.

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Ditto!

That building was stunningly beautiful. I remember falling in love with it in the 1970s when we'd go to church. It fell victim to the boom years in which every lot downtown was going to be filled with 800 footers.

The possibilities for it today would be pretty amazing. Adjacent to Houston Center. Just a few short blocks away from the new park, Toyota Center, Houston Pavilions, Minute Maid, and the GRB. This would have made an excellent Ritz Carlton Hotel with residential units up top!

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Niche, you seem to think that every decision to tear down a historic structure is based on a careful, rational consideration of the best use/utility for the property. That's very ignorant. Most teardowns of landmarks result from owners being either too lazy or shortsighted to see the value of what's being torndown.

Case in point - the Medical Arts Tower.

This was a magnificent building torn down for a surface parking lot. Within several blocks' radius are probably a dozen other surface parking lots. Now if the public needed parking so desperately, couldn't just one of those have been made into a garage?

I think clearly it would have been better for the public if Houston had kept one of its greatest early skyscrapers than to have had one additional surface parking lot in a downtown that is covered with them. And if it is better for the public to keep buildings like that, why shouldn't the public make laws to protect them?

I also think it would have been better for the owner to have kept the building. If he had just waited a couple of decades for the whole modernist frenzy to blow over, he could have turned it into the most magnificent boutique hotel downtown, much finer than the other ones that have been done. It would also be a prime candidate for lofts, or even offices. Either would generate more dollars than a surface parking lot.

In short, this view that everybody is making a carefully-considered, rational decision about how best to use their property is an Enlightenment myth. Much of the history of development in Houston over the last fifty years has been the history of out-of-town owners making decisions that had noxious effects on the city. Sometimes the public does know best.

unforunately many of the old buildings are money pits to the owners and that is the bottom line for many. many of the more vocal eastwood residents are for preservation in their hood but everything else nearby (which also has historical value) is fair game for the dozers.

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unforunately many of the old buildings are money pits to the owners and that is the bottom line for many. many of the more vocal eastwood residents are for preservation in their hood but everything else nearby (which also has historical value) is fair game for the dozers.

We're not trying to preserve every old building. Just the landmarks.

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Niche, you seem to think that every decision to tear down a historic structure is based on a careful, rational consideration of the best use/utility for the property. That's very ignorant. Most teardowns of landmarks result from owners being either too lazy or shortsighted to see the value of what's being torndown.

Case in point - the Medical Arts Tower.

MEDICAL%20ARTS%20BLDG%201926.jpg

This was a magnificent building torn down for a surface parking lot. Within several blocks' radius are probably a dozen other surface parking lots. Now if the public needed parking so desperately, couldn't just one of those have been made into a garage?

I think clearly it would have been better for the public if Houston had kept one of its greatest early skyscrapers than to have had one additional surface parking lot in a downtown that is covered with them. And if it is better for the public to keep buildings like that, why shouldn't the public make laws to protect them?

I also think it would have been better for the owner to have kept the building. If he had just waited a couple of decades for the whole modernist frenzy to blow over, he could have turned it into the most magnificent boutique hotel downtown, much finer than the other ones that have been done. It would also be a prime candidate for lofts, or even offices. Either would generate more dollars than a surface parking lot.

In short, this view that everybody is making a carefully-considered, rational decision about how best to use their property is an Enlightenment myth. Much of the history of development in Houston over the last fifty years has been the history of out-of-town owners making decisions that had noxious effects on the city. Sometimes the public does know best.

Musicman is right. Old abandoned highrises are moneypits. You don't realize what the expenses are when you just stand on the street looking at it. If you want to maintain it as-is without having tenants, the cost was and remains astronomical. And then you've got liability for anyone that wanders in there and gets hurt or killed. If there's a fire, you're responsible for cleaning it up and repairing it, or demolishing it at that point...and to prevent or suppress a fire, it helps to have security and sprinklers. Each of those cost money. And if the sprinklers burst a pipe on a wet system, you've got flood damage. For that matter, it may very well flood from out of the bayou so that eventually the City will either fine you for having a cesspool in your basement or you'll have to pump it out and clean up at least a little bit. This stuff doesn't sound common, but in an abandoned building, you've either got to pay people to maintain it or it is going to happen. ...and sometimes it happens anyways.

As for converting it to a parking garage, and that takes money too, you've still got to maintain the structure above you. Also, many buildings that were constructed back in that era may not be very suitable for a parking garage conversion. There are a lot of considerations that can sink this idea. The building may not be able to take the conversion, it may be able to convert, but not take the cars, the columns may be spaced akwardly so that your yield of spaces per floor is ridiculously small, it may just cost you too much per space so that it'd be more economical to tear the building down and build a garage from scratch...and on, and on.

In any case, I can assure you that holding onto a money-losing structure for twenty or thirty years is not worth the wait. It would not make financial sense. ...and that's assuming that the owner had a crystal ball and could forsee today's with precision. (After all, this is just a human existing in a modernist realm, not thinking that his style would one day be derided because it was the impetus for the destruction of what he and most others saw as a bunch of s**ty buildings standing in the way of progress.) Factor in risk to the equation, though, and the whole idea is just shot all to hell.

Many of us may not see it this way today, looking through our own sets of myopic perspectives, but that person made the right decision in his day.

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Properties used for surface parking are severely undertaxed. Why reward people for poking holes in the urban fabric?

Permits should be required to convert property to surface parking - and they should be issued sparingly and cost dearly.

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Musicman is right. Old abandoned highrises are moneypits. You don't realize what the expenses are when you just stand on the street looking at it. If you want to maintain it as-is without having tenants, the cost was and remains astronomical. And then you've got liability for anyone that wanders in there and gets hurt or killed. If there's a fire, you're responsible for cleaning it up and repairing it, or demolishing it at that point...and to prevent or suppress a fire, it helps to have security and sprinklers. Each of those cost money. And if the sprinklers burst a pipe on a wet system, you've got flood damage. For that matter, it may very well flood from out of the bayou so that eventually the City will either fine you for having a cesspool in your basement or you'll have to pump it out and clean up at least a little bit. This stuff doesn't sound common, but in an abandoned building, you've either got to pay people to maintain it or it is going to happen. ...and sometimes it happens anyways.

As for converting it to a parking garage, and that takes money too, you've still got to maintain the structure above you. Also, many buildings that were constructed back in that era may not be very suitable for a parking garage conversion. There are a lot of considerations that can sink this idea. The building may not be able to take the conversion, it may be able to convert, but not take the cars, the columns may be spaced akwardly so that your yield of spaces per floor is ridiculously small, it may just cost you too much per space so that it'd be more economical to tear the building down and build a garage from scratch...and on, and on.

In any case, I can assure you that holding onto a money-losing structure for twenty or thirty years is not worth the wait. It would not make financial sense. ...and that's assuming that the owner had a crystal ball and could forsee today's with precision. (After all, this is just a human existing in a modernist realm, not thinking that his style would one day be derided because it was the impetus for the destruction of what he and most others saw as a bunch of s**ty buildings standing in the way of progress.) Factor in risk to the equation, though, and the whole idea is just shot all to hell.

Many of us may not see it this way today, looking through our own sets of myopic perspectives, but that person made the right decision in his day.

Who said anything about converting it to a parking garage? Don't skim people's posts!

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This was a magnificent building torn down for a surface parking lot. Within several blocks' radius are probably a dozen other surface parking lots. Now if the public needed parking so desperately, couldn't just one of those have been made into a garage?
Who said anything about converting it to a parking garage? Don't skim people's posts!

Oops. My fault. That's what happens when you've been running on Red Bull for the past three days without end.

But it doesn't help your argument much. Structured parking is expensive. Why spend gobs of money so as to preserve a building that is costing gobs of money?

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Properties used for surface parking are severely undertaxed. Why reward people for poking holes in the urban fabric?

but that's the point, having an empty building is costing the owner more money than if they just tear it down. i don't see this as rewarding anyone. an empty lot is worth less than and adjacent one with an empty home on it.

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but that's the point, having an empty building is costing the owner more money than if they just tear it down. i don't see this as rewarding anyone. an empty lot is worth less than and adjacent one with an empty home on it.

...unless the empty home is physically obsolete, uninhabitable, or on a site that has a higher and better economic use. In that case, the existence of the home is a liability that gets discounted from the price of the lot because it will have to be removed.

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Oops. My fault. That's what happens when you've been running on Red Bull for the past three days without end.

But it doesn't help your argument much. Structured parking is expensive. Why spend gobs of money so as to preserve a building that is costing gobs of money?

Still missing the point Niche! I didn't say the owners of the building had to build a structured parking garage. I said that having ONE LESS PARKING LOT in east downtown is not going to hurt the public. If the public needs parking so badly, somebody could build a parking garage on one of the other blocks.

These discussions would run a lot smoother if we would all just take a moment to understand what the other person is saying before we write 500 word replies.

but that's the point, having an empty building is costing the owner more money than if they just tear it down. i don't see this as rewarding anyone. an empty lot is worth less than and adjacent one with an empty home on it.

If you don't want to pour money into an old building then don't buy it.

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Why is everyone assuming this building was an empty money pit?

The earlier thread on this building stated that it was still open in 1986 just one year before it was torn down. Over the years, different entities like Baylor College of Medicine, Texaco, and a Hospital were housed in the Medical Arts.

It may have been run down but that is the fault of the owner. It was never emptied out nor was it ever boarded up like the Central Square buildings near the Pierce Elevated.

What I really don't understand is why it would have been torn down in 1986/1987. That was well after the oil bust hit. I would have assumed a greedy owner would have torn it down on a speculative basis, but he'd have to be pretty dumb to do so in 1987!

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Still missing the point Niche! I didn't say the owners of the building had to build a structured parking garage. I said that having ONE LESS PARKING LOT in east downtown is not going to hurt the public. If the public needs parking so badly, somebody could build a parking garage on one of the other blocks.

These discussions would run a lot smoother if we would all just take a moment to understand what the other person is saying before we write 500 word replies.

If you don't want to pour money into an old building then don't buy it.

to quote you "These discussions would run a lot smoother if we would all just take a moment to understand what the other person is saying before we write 500 word replies."

this was an old building that someone/company owned for years. they didn't buy the building and then all of a sudden didn't want to remodel/restore it because it would cost too much money

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to quote you "These discussions would run a lot smoother if we would all just take a moment to understand what the other person is saying before we write 500 word replies."

this was an old building that someone/company owned for years. they didn't buy the building and then all of a sudden didn't want to remodel/restore it because it would cost too much money

In an above post you referred to "many of the old buildings," and then in the post I responded to you referred to "an empty building," speaking in general terms. I did not know you were talking about a specific building.

I do not think it is oppressive or unjust to prevent owners from tearing down landmark skyscrapers, even though doing so might be more cost-feasible for them in the short term. Every other city in this country has such laws, and yet somehow the building owners manage to survive.

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In an above post you referred to "many of the old buildings," and then in the post I responded to you referred to "an empty building," speaking in general terms. I did not know you were talking about a specific building.

I do not think it is oppressive or unjust to prevent owners from tearing down landmark skyscrapers, even though doing so might be more cost-feasible for them in the short term. Every other city in this country has such laws, and yet somehow the building owners manage to survive.

We'll see what happens here. i went to a meeting last night on this subj lead by the Mayor himself. Seems their historical district plan has drawn quite a bit of opposition in the 6th ward. There were at least 3 property owners of who told the Mayor that they had had options on their property but when the developer/buyer found out the lots might be protected, they got out of the deals. one has owned for 2 yrs and another has owned for 65 yrs.

to specify particularly properties like the RO theater, etc seems like it would be harder to appease the owner

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Still missing the point Niche! I didn't say the owners of the building had to build a structured parking garage. I said that having ONE LESS PARKING LOT in east downtown is not going to hurt the public. If the public needs parking so badly, somebody could build a parking garage on one of the other blocks.

You are missing the point. The primary benefit of tearing down an old physically and functionally obsolete building was not to create parking spaces, but to save money and reduce contingent liabilities. The prospect of being able to provide parking represents an additional stream of revenue that increases the value of the demolition option. However, just because there is a high demand for parking does not mean that the construction of a parking garage is justified, whether it be on the site of the old building or on another vacant block. And even if a parking garage were justified and constructed on another vacant block, that does not negate the value created by demolishing the old building and it will only reduce the stream of revenue from parking by some marginal amount, but not completely.

If you don't want to pour money into an old building then don't buy it.

That is a gross misrepresentation of financial reality.

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What I really don't understand is why it would have been torn down in 1986/1987. That was well after the oil bust hit. I would have assumed a greedy owner would have torn it down on a speculative basis, but he'd have to be pretty dumb to do so in 1987!

The building would've been demolished because the cost of operating (much less maintaining or improving) it was too high relative to the rental rates that could be had. High-quality Class A office space was extremely inexpensive at that time, so older buildings tended to empty out with tenants moving toward quality space unless the asking rents in older buildings were set below-cost.

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You are missing the point. The primary benefit of tearing down an old physically and functionally obsolete building was not to create parking spaces, but to save money and reduce contingent liabilities. The prospect of being able to provide parking represents an additional stream of revenue that increases the value of the demolition option. However, just because there is a high demand for parking does not mean that the construction of a parking garage is justified, whether it be on the site of the old building or on another vacant block. And even if a parking garage were justified and constructed on another vacant block, that does not negate the value created by demolishing the old building and it will only reduce the stream of revenue from parking by some marginal amount, but not completely.

That is a gross misrepresentation of financial reality.

You have now changed my point to "the" point, and are saying things that are completely irrelevant to my original post. I am not talking about what decision made more sense for the owner. Clearly, in the short term, it made more sense to tear it down, even though the city has suffered as a consequence.

What I am attacking is this point you always make that the supposed rational decisions of individual property owners ultimately satisfy a public needed. You would have us think that by serving its own interests in tearing down a building and putting a parking lot in its place, the building owner simultaneously served the public's interest, since office space in that building was not in demand, but parking spaces were. For a free-market purist like you, the market is the best server of public interest, and the market in this case determined that the skyscraper should give way to a parking lot.

But, as I have argued, the public could have gotten by without those parking spaces much more easily than by losing one of its half dozen best early skyscrapers. The public interest was NOT served when that skyscraper was torn down, and almost any Houstonian who compares pictures before and after would agree with this. Hence it would behoove the public, in the future, to make sure that such demolitions do not happen again.

Uh, no! Can you say "Bankruptcy"?

Name a few management companies that have been bankrupted by not being able to tear down historic landmarks.

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But, as I have argued, the public could have gotten by without those parking spaces much more easily than by losing one of its half dozen best early skyscrapers. The public interest was NOT served when that skyscraper was torn down, and almost any Houstonian who compares pictures before and after would agree with this. Hence it would behoove the public, in the future, to make sure that such demolitions do not happen again.
In theory i understand what you're attempting to say, however it isn't what is best for the public here, it is what is best for the buildnig owner. Yes the building was beautiful and full of history is how the public sees it. But from the owner's perspective, the bottom line is it is costing him/her money to maintain, to keep tenants happy, etc. if maintenance was relatively easy, then most likely he/she wouldn't haven't resorted to tearing the building down. If you owned the building and it was costing you money just to maintain, i'm sure tearing the structure down would come to mind first if you were strapped for money. Yes demolition would cost too, but it would be a one time cost.

if you own a house how, if someone prevented you from doing something on your property (house expanision for instance) i'm sure you wouldn't be a happy person. a preservation ordinance that prevents certain activities will definitely be bad for you if it prevents something that you want to do.

there will definitely be those who feel historical preservation is good (esp those who don't have to do a thing) and those who don't (will now have to modify to confirm to a standard/can't sell to a developer because developer wants to do something that preservation standards won't permit}

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You have now changed my point to "the" point, and are saying things that are completely irrelevant to my original post. I am not talking about what decision made more sense for the owner. Clearly, in the short term, it made more sense to tear it down, even though the city has suffered as a consequence.

What I am attacking is this point you always make that the supposed rational decisions of individual property owners ultimately satisfy a public needed. You would have us think that by serving its own interests in tearing down a building and putting a parking lot in its place, the building owner simultaneously served the public's interest, since office space in that building was not in demand, but parking spaces were. For a free-market purist like you, the market is the best server of public interest, and the market in this case determined that the skyscraper should give way to a parking lot.

But, as I have argued, the public could have gotten by without those parking spaces much more easily than by losing one of its half dozen best early skyscrapers. The public interest was NOT served when that skyscraper was torn down, and almost any Houstonian who compares pictures before and after would agree with this. Hence it would behoove the public, in the future, to make sure that such demolitions do not happen again.

Go back and reread my last post. Everything that matters is there. ...and bear in mind that the building owner is a member of the public. It isn't one group vs. the other. It is all.

Name a few management companies that have been bankrupted by not being able to tear down historic landmarks.

Btw, you just exposed your ignorance of the subject. Management companies don't own buildings and don't tear them down.

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In theory i understand what you're attempting to say, however it isn't what is best for the public here, it is what is best for the buildnig owner. Yes the building was beautiful and full of history is how the public sees it. But from the owner's perspective, the bottom line is it is costing him/her money to maintain, to keep tenants happy, etc. if maintenance was relatively easy, then most likely he/she wouldn't haven't resorted to tearing the building down. If you owned the building and it was costing you money just to maintain, i'm sure tearing the structure down would come to mind first if you were strapped for money. Yes demolition would cost too, but it would be a one time cost.

if you own a house how, if someone prevented you from doing something on your property (house expanision for instance) i'm sure you wouldn't be a happy person. a preservation ordinance that prevents certain activities will definitely be bad for you if it prevents something that you want to do.

there will definitely be those who feel historical preservation is good (esp those who don't have to do a thing) and those who don't (will now have to modify to confirm to a standard/can't sell to a developer because developer wants to do something that preservation standards won't permit}

Well, of course the owner knows what's better for him. But the fact is that historic buildings are a public good, and the public has the right to make laws to preserve them.

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Go back and reread my last post. Everything that matters is there. ...and bear in mind that the building owner is a member of the public. It isn't one group vs. the other. It is all.

Your "last post" (I assume you meant third to last post) only talks about what was good for the owner. I'm talking about what is good for the public. Why should the public care whether one owner makes more money for himself if he is destroying an irreplaceable landmark? The argument that "the owner is a member of the public" is weak, and no one is going to be swayed by it.

Btw, you just exposed your ignorance of the subject. Management companies don't own buildings and don't tear them down.

Alright, forgive me. And tell me some building owners that have gone out of business because of historic preservation laws.

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Your "last post" (I assume you meant third to last post) only talks about what was good for the owner. I'm talking about what is good for the public. Why should the public care whether one owner makes more money for himself if he is destroying an irreplaceable landmark? The argument that "the owner is a member of the public" is weak, and no one is going to be swayed by it.

My argument, to lay it out in the most simple way possible, is that for any matter subject to public input, the public is comprised of the entire universe of persons. As a subset within that universe, there are stakeholders. The rest of the public doesn't matter because they do not stand to be impacted (for instance, a random person from Burma was not a stakeholder in the Medical Arts Building). The value of a historical building is the summation of the value placed on it by stakeholders.

If there are five stakeholders to a building, and one values it at -$1,000,000, and each of the four others value it at +$10,000, it should be torn down. It each of the others valued it at +$250,000, then they should either be taxed to compensate the owner for what would otherwise be an arbitrary government-forced financial loss, or alternatively, the stakeholders could band together and buy the building. As a matter of policy, I'd rather see the latter happen...but I could guarantee you that you'd be in for some disappointments, because you clearly have little grasp of the true costs to society that would have to be overcome, and seem to overestimate that value that people place upon historical preservation relative to other goods.

In any case, though, the matter should not be subject to a popular vote, because then an enormous number of people who value it positively only a little override the very few people who value it very negatively.

But to say that it is a weak argument that the building owner is a member of the argument is absolutely wrong. Your views do not seem to acknowledge the existence of property rights in any meaningful way. The importance of property rights is that if they are not guaranteed, few people will want to own property. Policies such as those discourage development and lead to higher costs of living.

And tell me some building owners that have gone out of business because of historic preservation laws.

Seeing as how I wasn't even conceived through parts of the early 80's, I'm not in a good position to provide examples within the context of the Medical Arts Building. What I have communicated to you is oral history gathered from old folks in the industry supplimented in part by microeconomic theory that is supported by office market trends experienced during downturns such as the last one.

Interestingly enough, though, it seems that there were some Sixth Ward property owners that had deals fall through just recently, costing them time and money. It didn't even take hard regulations -- just the discussion of them -- for that to happen.

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My argument, to lay it out in the most simple way possible, is that for any matter subject to public input, the public is comprised of the entire universe of persons. As a subset within that universe, there are stakeholders. The rest of the public doesn't matter because they do not stand to be impacted (for instance, a random person from Burma was not a stakeholder in the Medical Arts Building). The value of a historical building is the summation of the value placed on it by stakeholders.

If there are five stakeholders to a building, and one values it at -$1,000,000, and each of the four others value it at +$10,000, it should be torn down. It each of the others valued it at +$250,000, then they should either be taxed to compensate the owner for what would otherwise be an arbitrary government-forced financial loss, or alternatively, the stakeholders could band together and buy the building. As a matter of policy, I'd rather see the latter happen...but I could guarantee you that you'd be in for some disappointments, because you clearly have little grasp of the true costs to society that would have to be overcome, and seem to overestimate that value that people place upon historical preservation relative to other goods.

In any case, though, the matter should not be subject to a popular vote, because then an enormous number of people who value it positively only a little override the very few people who value it very negatively.

If they value it so negatively, they should probably take that into consideration when they buy buildings. Building owners in cities that have preservation laws know the risk, and can plan accordingly.

But to say that it is a weak argument that the building owner is a member of the argument is absolutely wrong. Your views do not seem to acknowledge the existence of property rights in any meaningful way.

I believe in property rights. But I also believe we are members of a society, not just an anarchy of individuals, and that the public has a certain stake in what gets built, and a right to make certain guidelines regarding what can be done with it. In other words, I am interested in balancing the public good with the private good, without being a property rights absolutist.

The importance of property rights is that if they are not guaranteed, few people will want to own property. Policies such as those discourage development and lead to higher costs of living.

Typical world's-going-to-end argument from the property rights crowd. If we protect a couple dozen landmarks, are people going to want to stop owning property? Have people stopped desiring to own property in all the cities that protect their historic buildings (read: every other city in America)? Give me a break.

Seeing as how I wasn't even conceived through parts of the early 80's, I'm not in a good position to provide examples within the context of the Medical Arts Building. What I have communicated to you is oral history gathered from old folks in the industry supplimented in part by microeconomic theory that is supported by office market trends experienced during downturns such as the last one.

If you've been reading the posts carefully, you would remember that I was asking for examples from other cities - cities that have preservation laws. You said that preservation laws would drive people to bankruptcy, and I am just asking for examples of that happening. I'm waiting.

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