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Real Estate & Property Law

: Kelo and Beyond


By Greg Alvarez


Out of an unfortunate moment where we were a little too giddy with one another, my wife and I exchanged pleasantries in which both of us referred to the other as "darling." Unfortunately, this moment was also witnessed by my in-laws, who have ever since deemed us as "the darlings." This week I actually picked up a bottle of wine, with "Darling" on the label, mostly because of our nickname. The way in which we have been branded by my wife's family got me to thinking about the way in which certain places are treated in such fashion -- i.e., where media outlets and the population at large have certain perceptions of places as "darlings," or at least places that receive more attention, to the exclusion of others, when it comes to being the "hot" place, or being "up and coming."

Take for instance the love affair that continues unabated for Las Vegas. Starting with the boom in the late '80s ushered in by the Mirage, the metropolitan area has grown unabated as the fastest-growing settlement in America. Now the talk surrounds the next round of construction on the northern Strip, particularly in connection with the new resorts and new condo developments rising from the desert floor. "The building on the Strip is mind-boggling. There's more construction going on here than anywhere else in the world except Dubai and China," touts one local booster, a title insurance representative. It's still so hot, that owners of certain vacant lots are opening temporary casinos, for no more than a day, in order to preserve the properties' zoning designations permitting gambling on the premises. I have to admit -- I've been a follower of the trend for over a decade, and I've just put down more words devoted to the subject. But why do we choose to focus on these type of phenomena?

The same type of love extends to beloved landmarks. Take for instance Major League Baseball parks, where fans and city officials alike cannot wait to see the likes of Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, to be eradicated from the face of the earth. But the love continues for such places as Fenway Park in Boston, and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Not too long ago the City of Chicago, the caretaker of hallowed Wrigley, permitted the construction of seventy "bullpen box seats" to be added to the local landmark, but not without careful consideration. As a representative from the City's Department of Planning and Development made clear, "landmark buildings aren't frozen in time,[but] need to be maintained and can be improved while respecting their history." Separately, the Governor and Mayor are considering whether to have the State of Illinois' Sports Facilities Authority acquire and renovate the structure, as requested by the Cubs' current owner, the Tribune Co. Certainly a deal more about economics than preserving history, the government is nonetheless buying into the "darling" designation of the stadium.

But just as their are "darlings," there are perpetual punching bags as well. Not the least aided by another scathing season of HBO's "The Wire," which just began a few weeks ago, news came out of the real-life city of Baltimore, Maryland, that the municipality is suing Wells Fargo Bank for allegedly contributing to the massive number of foreclosures in the wake of the subprime scandal still leveling the housing industry. Similarly, in Cleveland, where the foreclosure nightmare has hit hard, rumblings continue to mount, even in its more affluent suburbs, like Shaker Heights, where some news accounts almost try and bait its residents to go along with what the writer seeks to argue. Another popular whipping place these days is Beijing, where the air quality is painted as being not exactly up to Olympic quality.

But finally, there are those places where people are trying to root for change for the better. In Newark, New Jersey, plans are underway to bring in high-end apartments into the downtown area. Sure, the usual artist stalwarts in the neighborhood bemoan the coming change. As one complained, "We've clearly become part of the strategy of using artists to turn areas into luxury enclaves." This may be true. But at least, until it gets to the point of being called a "darling," people are talking about Newark, without including the obligatory reference to the riots that happened there forty years ago. This may be a small step, but one hard-earned for the long-maligned city.

Full post as published by Kelo and Beyond on January 18, 2008 (boomark / email).

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