I work with parties involved in urban land use and redevelopment, ranging from public agencies to private developers and foundations. In some respects, this field, like many, become more analytical and data-driven. We break down components of location: Road, rail and transit access. Visibility. The quality of pedestrian environment. Hot zones. Proximity to vendors and customers. Market values and discretionary income in surrounding neighborhoods. Mix of adjacent land uses.
Recently, I called a client involved in commercial real estate investment for forty years and asked, what's in a location? How do you evaluate places for their potential? To be sure, he cited all the factors listed above and others. It didn't take long to move through these aspects of location, presented individually, understood to influence each other.
But afterward, the list exhausted, he had more to say. After the division of location into components, there was a remainder. An important one.
Intuition. Or is it thin slicing?
I recently read Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink. The premise of the book is that we have an ability and tendency to evaluate others and situations on an immediate, subconscious level. Once we establish these "thin slices," in the author's lexicon, they guide (or misguide) us without much consultation from the thinking side. I'm left to wonder how much of my time has been spent residing in the analytic part of my mind, pretending I am in charge while the subconscious pulls all the levers.
On loan in the Donjek office space is an energetic pair of oil paintings created by a friend, whose artistic method for the works was to project an image on the canvas, paint based on the projection, project a different image, repeat. The outcome is a finished work thickly endowed with oil, drawing the eye and teasing the brain to interpret the combinations of strokes a hundred different ways.
Welcome to the places we're redeveloping.