Thursday, April 19, 2012

Was It Worth $7,000 A Foot?

From 2 years ago  
The Clematis in front of our house in in full bloom, giving a bright blast of color when you walk toward the door coming home. Each year I think that it just get better and better looking with many more blooms than last.

The wire frame horse in the Court House Plaza was supposed to be full of blooms from seven different varieties of Clematis in time for the WEG.  If you look today, the vinery of the collective plants only rise to the top of the hindquarters.  Did they stop tending them with change of administrations.

That made me think of other differences in priorities and how they are handled.  I recall, as I am sure you will also, probably the most iconic campaign commercial of the victorious Jim Gray.  The one where he is standing on South Limestone near the end of the renovating construction that summer.  In discussing the overall cost of the project and the disruption it caused to so many businesses and commuters, he utters the almost comic, "$7,000 a foot".  I am sure that that resonated with the voters, especially in those slim economic times.  Times that I am wondering if we are out of yet.

Now, considering that there was a big to-do on the weekend that it reopened to normal traffic and has seen many other University related celebrations (most notably the 8th National Basketball Championship), I feel confident that business owners who stuck it out and the ones who followed construction think that the $7,000 a foot was well worth it.

There was a lot written about the timing and extent of the closing, by owners and bloggers and others who felt that this work was somehow unfair to the "stakeholders".  Since the end of construction there has been nary a peep in public from either the owners or the bloggers as to whether the redo was worth it.

The most silent is the one who, I think, benefited the most from the phrase, Mayor Jim Gray.

Earlier this week, the APA (American Planning Association concluded their 2012 National Convention in Los Angeles.  In the closing address, Renée Jones-Bos, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States, noted that Dutch engineers have been forced to approach large infrastructure and planning projects head on and are known worldwide for their expertise. She also pointed out that American cities may learn from their Dutch ally’s proactive embrace of cost-benefit analysis.

The Dutch are well known for weathering almost constant calamities and for wresting their country from the ravages of the North Sea.  So much so, that they have come to think of it as part of their DNA.  Another part of Dutch DNA is found at the entrance to the old port of Amsterdam in a sign which reads “The cost comes before the benefit.”

To all of those who have cried and whined about the outlandish outlays of the City and State for projects leading up to the WEG, and to all of those who have wondered where the windfall profits that were predicted have gone, I say this; the benefits have only barely begun.

But I ask Mayor Gray, was the $7,000 a foot worth it, both in the short run and in the long run?  And should we do it again?

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