@Strib Forum: New Recommendations for Fort Snelling Reuse

VoicesSMAs I mentioned previously, I have participated as one of seventeen writers in a new project created by the Star Tribune. The forum, Your Voices, features commentary by artists, advocates, entrepreneurs. Today, I posted a story describing prospects for reuse of historic structures at Minnesota's 160-acre Fort Snelling complex. A Joint Agency Task Force has been meeting since last year to develop concrete recommendations for how to complement and connect activities at the Historic Fort and the substantial recreational assets widely used there, including athletic fields and the State Park. A long story made short: State policy must be changed to allow private parties with reuse ideas and capital to engage in the reuse of dozens of underutilized buildings on the site. Failure to establish such a process will likely lead to the structural demise of buildings located at a strategic hub of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

Stay tuned for discussion of task force recommendations.

Coming Down with Cartographia

It's a tradition:  In December, we share gifts. In January, we share illnesses. 

This year, in addition to a winter cold, I have taken on a new level of interest in the ever-expanding field of mapping or cartography. In some measure, this is because in the coming weeks I will be releasing mapping services that will interest placemakers – property investors, land use advocates, bankers, transit supporters – seeking to understand why some urban areas thrive and others stagnate. I've posted here before about GIS applications in Donjek projects, but my next steps will extend beyond my prior application of these tools.

For now, I am attaching two maps that I hope will interest you as they have me.  The first is a map I created online at Wordle, a free online tool to convert text to a graphic – the more oft-cited a word in the text, the larger its profile in the map. The map shown here is based on a Donjek report I drafted in recent weeks, and which will be available in final form shortly. You can guess its subject. See the collection of inaugural speeches in this "word cloud" form, provided by the New York Times.

The second is a map representing seven years of over 2,000 iterative changes made to the Wikipedia article on evolution, by 68 editors. The width of the graph bands indicates the number of words in the evolution article, and the colors indicate the identity of the author. The source of this map is Urban Cartography, a quirky and interesting collection.

Colorful pictures are all I can offer today – but I and my health will be back by the end of the week.

Should Recent Shifts in Interest Rates Encourage Placemakers?

It’s been a week since I posted to the Cents of Place.  I’ve wanted to contribute more in that time, but a number of projects have taken a turn for the more involved.  Why? Chaos in the private lending market has placemakers thinking twice and three times about potential partnerships with the public sector.  

One client is a well-seasoned developer and investor, looking to break ground this spring for a project in a major transit corridor. Financing is in place for multiple floors of retail and office, and preleasing has gone well.  Perhaps, the development team has explored, we could add thirty or more rental or condo housing units by building upwards, with a stepped design to ease concerns about views from the street?  Despite their record of selling and managing housing in urban corridors, lenders aren’t enthused.

Part of banks’ lack of spirit on this point is due to the recent spike in the rates banks charge each other for overnight or short-term lending.  The enclosed graphic shows how much higher is this short-term interbank rate (LIBOR) than the three-month Treasury bill; this difference is known as the “TED spread.”  In October, banks would demand interest over 4.50% higher than the three-month Treasury bill, to lend their funds to other banks.  Such a spread between the rates indicated dramatic anxiety among lenders.  If you’ve visited with real estate lenders in recent months, you know what this has done to your odds of securing project financing.

The bright side, of course, is that the graph illustrates the precipitous drop in the TED spread, from 4.63% in October to 1.08% as of this afternoon.  Hopefully, as economist Jim Hamilton suggests in this post, the shift is part of a larger, positive next chapter for the economy.  

Thanks to good friend Courtenay Brown, seasoned bond trader, for providing the graphic.  With uncharacteristic brevity, Brown called the drop in the TED spread “pretty good.”

@Strib Forum: Now Contributing to Newspaper’s Online Space

Starting last month, I have participated as one of seventeen writers in a new project created by the Star Tribune. The forum,
Your Voices, features commentary by artists, advocates, entrepreneurs. When the subject of material I post to Your Voices is topical to readers of the Cents of Place, I will publish a brief post here with a link to the story. The pieces I have published to date are available most directly here.

As with this space, please let me know what you think about Your Voices!