Sunday, April 8, 2007
It is no secret that Global Warming is already taking effect on the world. Rain patterns have shifted, unseasonably warm temperatures are occurring in certain states, and certain islands have already become submerged underwater. It is because of this that I believe the university, specifically the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California needs to do more to educate their students by offering a class which teaches about sustainable efforts and Global Warming. The class should not be mandatory for all students, but I believe the university should strongly urge students in the College to take the class. The class should have rotating professors to keep the course relevant and fresh, as well as provide different perspectives. For example, USC Policy, Planning and Development Professor and Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo, could explain the efforts of urbanization and sprawl and its’ effects on the environment as well as what can be done in the future to build more wisely. Another week could have geologists come in and explain how the Earth is changing. The opportunities for professors in all walks of life to come teach for a week are myriad.
As a supplement to the class, I believe students enrolled in the class should have a final project which is done as a class to incorporate more sustainable elements into our campus. Perhaps we can dedicate one vacant area on campus to grow corn for Ethanol production for alternative fuel. Although it has already been done before at USC, students enrolled in the class should also plant grass on top of each building (if possible) to add more green to our campus, although it may not be visible to people on the surface level.
The university itself should consider sustainable development when building new dorms, housing or research faculties. Should the university have to renovate outdated buildings, sustainable efforts must be on the agenda.
Though these are small steps, they are steps needed to be taken. Many small steps still can travel a great distance. The neighborhood in which USC resides does not have sustainable efforts put into place. Perhaps a raised awareness of sustainability will eventually spread throughout the community. This is why I urge the University of Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts, and Science dedicate a class to raising awareness to sustainability.
Monday, April 2, 2007
When thinking of someone who should receive an honorary degree in the field of Real Estate Development, it is really hard to pin point names. It is a field of work which takes many people to make deals go through, and usually very difficult to find one name in particular to give any credit to. However, my nomination did not take too much thought. I attend the
Donald Trump is my nomination for the
As a builder, Donald Trump has not always been the most successful person. Trump has been in bankruptcy and has previously held a lot of debt, one of the bigger figures reported at two billion dollars of debt. But I do not wish to focus on his past failures. Instead, I really want to commend him on his creativity and tenacity. In business, it is often too easy to file for bankruptcy and call it a day. Donald Trump did not settle for the easy way. Trump kept working at it, doing whatever he could to pay off his debts. In the mean time, he has done plenty to promote other businesses which bear his name. Whether its Trump Vodka, or “The Apprentice”, I admire his willingness and ability to promote himself and his name at all costs. It is this kind of raw business savvy which holds no regard for anyone else’s opinion but his own which really strikes me as admirable. Donald Trump is a man who marches to the beat of his own drum and that is something which we all need to admire in this world where complacency and “fitting in” seem to become more and more of the norm.
Donald Trump is not only a great nominee because of his achievements in life, but also because politically it is a good move to nominate and award people who are of high status or wealth. It is no secret that many universities nominate and hand out awards because there is usually a hefty donation made thereafter. With a man like Trump who has a lot of money, it certainly would not hurt any university to honor him with an award. For my university in particular, Real Estate Development is part of the
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I believe that responsibility should be the main focus of real estate developers world wide. The real estate industry, up until recently, has been a very hot market, and to some extent will always be at least in
Throughout building my blog, I realized that I slowly became interested in not only real estate developments all over the country and the world, but that there are other ways in which we can build and develop land. When I think responsibility concerning building, I think of “sustainability” and “smart growth”, which are the only ways in which we can build and satisfy our needs for homes, office space, etc. while doing our best to minimize our impact on our surrounding natural environments. I must admit, when I first became interested in Real Estate it was simply because I thought it was a smart career move. I realized that so many people have made so much money doing it. I landed an internship and was wowed at how much money my bosses made and how seemingly easy it was to get into the industry. It was a period in time in which I was enrolled in Business school, which made me think of only one thing: profit. It was a selfish and self-motivated effort to get into the industry, but I am glad I found a way to look at my career in a more positive light. After changing majors to Planning and Development, I realized there was a more sensitive way to build which was not only profit oriented, but somewhat philanthropic in terms of giving back to the Earth. The need for homes and shelter will never fade as long as we humans are on this planet. Throughout history, civilizations’ housing was the best way to tell much about who those people were. Nothing else can tell more about a people and their culture than housing. Housing is the best form of outward expression. Solving Global Warming and alternatives to fuel is a very complicated issue, however I believe that I am capable of at least discovering ways in which we can make an office building somewhat self sufficient and not dependent upon the city’s power grid or sewer systems. Through rigorous cooperation with engineers as well as architects, I believe I can make buildings responsibly and in a way which can maximize our stay on this planet a little longer. I hope others will follow this same path of responsible building because I think with how much money is being made in the industry, it would show a lot of character to put some of that profit back into building something that is more environmentally conscious.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Why is it that farmland value is on the rise? The answers have a few components: gasoline, export and the shortage of land in urban areas. As was written in the New York Times, “The Fed can always print more money but it can’t create new farmland, which has generally been rising in value since the late 1980s”. According to the New York Times, American farmland has appreciated in value by 50% between the year 2002 and 2005. Farmland is not something that anyone, even the government, can pull out of thin air. Existing areas of farmland are a valuable piece of real estate. What I mean by gasoline influencing the rising cost of farmland is that there is an increasing demand for bio-fuels. With the ongoing war and the pending oil crisis, alternatives to gasoline, such as corn-based Ethanol (although not a terrific alternative to gasoline) have been developed and are being researched. As is said in the description, Ethanol is made from corn, which means that farmers need to produce copious amounts of corn in order to have a considerable amount of Ethanol produced. Exports are another way that farmland is making money. With our weakened dollar, international trade has increased. Pistachios and Almonds have been selling very well, leading to a 28.2% three year annualized return according to the Hancock Agricultural Investment Group. This increase in the sale of nuts could be attributed to research which has discovered that eating nuts can promote cardiovascular health.
Not only is there money to be made by buying farmland, but also in investing in farmland. The Hancock Agricultural Investment Group manages portfolios for large investors in farm land and reports a twenty percent or more increase in returns for the past three years. This type of investment is not something that just anyone can do. The minimum investment is something in the upwards of forty million dollars. Smaller budgeted investors apparently need not apply.
If you are a smaller budgeted investor, there are ways to try to make money in farm land. Investors could go through companies to do commodities-tracking mutual fund or a commodities-based exchange traded fund. In a sense it is like an agricultural stock market. Many companies are starting to create branches that specifically cater to investing in farmland, like JPMorgan, who like many other financial service providers, already manage farmland.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Walkability as part of city planning is becoming a hot topic. Walkability is one of the many components in a movement known as New Urbanism. New Urbanism is a movement which has been gaining popularity since the 1980’s. New Urbanism calls for a complete reform of how city planning is done and how houses should be built. Walkability is an integral part of the New Urbanist movement. Walkability is simple in definition; it is how accessible a city is by foot. If daily life requires the use of a car, your city is not a walkable city. I like to think that the walkability of a city is also dependent upon mass transit. Ideal as it would be, not everything a person needs to do is accessible by foot, at least in a pleasant distance, even in a walkable city. Many walkable cities are large, like
Suburbs are often, if not always, not walkable to the places you need to go to get errands done. Suburbs are the spread out and clutter free off shoots of the main city near by. New Urbanism looks to
Walkability can solve many of
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Big Sky Resort is no small resort. Big Sky Resort employs about 900 people. Big Sky,
Four workers from
The Yellowstone Club, a private Ski and Golf community, also purchased a motel to house their employees. The Yellowstone Club has both summer and winter attractions, so staff are constantly on hand throughout the year. The Yellowstone Club is now the new owner of Buck’s T-4 Lodge which is close to the Whitewater Inn. Buck’s T-4 Lodge has 74 rooms available to their employees.
Both companies did an excellent job by taking a proactive role in finding housing for their employees. While it is not mandatory that employees rent from their companies, it is a smart move. At the same time, the companies are not obligated to rent the rooms to employees since both motels still operate as tourist lodging. Unfortunately, rent is not the same for everyone. Both companies decide their rent based on what position the future renter holds at the resorts. The criteria for establishing rent prices was not mentioned in the article, but either way, it is meant to serve as an affordable and safer alternative to renting in Bozeman. Employees are valuable, and with the high numbers of deaths reported on the two lane pass every winter, it is pleasant to see that companies take an interest in their employee’s livelihood by trying to accommodate them closer to the workplace.
Although as mentioned above, the idea is not ground breaking to buy a motel near the resort to house employees, but there is a small element of sustainability involved here. Neither resort built dormitories for their employees. While it would be costly to do so since property values are always on the rise, it was certainly a possibility, but instead both resorts opted to occupy buildings that were already built.
Monday, February 12, 2007
This week I scoured the web to find some topics that I think are not only interesting, but also have something fun incorporated in the planning and developing field. Rather than creating a blog, this week I looked at other’s blogs to see what was exciting and interesting to them in the blogosphere. In particular, I’ve been reading up on sustainability. Although profit is in the equation for my desire to be a developer, I also wish to maintain a sense of social responsibility. Sustainability and “green” incorporated planning are topics which seem like they are fun issues to tackle, but also gives back to our earth for the damages we cause to it. Another topic that is of interest to me is the walkability of cities. I want to give credit to anyone who wants to incorporate the idea of leaving our cars behind to get around town so I found a blog on walkability as well. Below are my comments that I left at other blogs.
To see walkability of a city making a comeback as a planning priority is something that is definitely welcomed and should be applauded. It is unfortunate that walkability is a thing of the past. In a country such as the
Cohousing could make a comeback as a chic or progressive idea, if it ever was in the first place. Although it is not particularly hard to find or build a condominium or townhouse complex, to find or build one with an emphasis on neighborhood interaction as well as the integration and preservation of green space, can be a little difficult. It would definitely be a nice way to give back to Mother Nature if developers would start incorporating more green space to their dwellings, especially in the noted urban environment. Green space can contribute directly to an improvement of life since it is always pleasant to find a nice patch of grass to sit down on and read or do something of the sort. A development like this which incorporates a good amount of green space can definitely have an indirect effect on the value of the properties on the premises since open areas of green can be an area for children to roam around and play in should potential buyers have children. Finding sizeable backyards in a town-home is difficult, if not impossible. To have a communal yard sounds like an excellent idea.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Sustainability in its most general concept is creating a way of life that is less harmful to the environment. In a lot of ways sustainability gives Mother Nature a helping hand in getting back to a better state of health. Sustainability not only helps out our Earth, but it is good for us as well. Sustainability is an idea that applies to many things: food, traffic, natural resources, health and development among other things. Building sustainable cities is something that should be on the minds of urban planners, but even local level contractors and builders can incorporate sustainability in their designs.
Take for example the Alberici Enterprises corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. Alberici Enterprises is a contracting company that most recently finished expanding St. Louis University’s Business and Administration school. Alberici’s corporate headquarters “boasts the highest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating ever awarded by the US Green Building Council: 60 points out of a possible 69” according to WorldChanging.com. Exactly what did Alberici do with their corporate headquarters to earn this very high rating? First, their electricity is generated by a wind operated turbine that was salvaged from California. This not only saves the company money on their electricity bill, but it also does not take from the city’s power grid. A sustainable concept is also used here in the fact that the power generating turbine was a second hand unit, therefore not letting it go to waste or the company having to buy a new one which would require new parts that would be fabricated at the cost of the environment. Fortunately, the building is so well built and maintained climate wise in terms of sustainability that rarely any electricity is used at all. Lighting is natural for the most part (as long as it is light outside). The building is built so that natural light comes in at every possible point of entry. Employees are encouraged to keep the windows open in the summer to let in a cool breeze to keep temperatures lower inside the building. Asphalt is not used around the building to keep the amount of heat radiated by the ground surface at a minimum. Parking is in a tiered garage built into the building. No extra surface area on the property was developed to facilitate parking. The building itself was not even built by Alberici . The corporate headquarters occupies a building which was built almost half a century ago. Sustainability pointed out here again in the sense that nothing had to go to waste; the building was salvaged and put to use all over. Plumbing is even done in a sustainable way. Water is drawn from the roof via a storm water collection system. Should the amount of water collected be too much for use at the current time, the water drains off into a pond nearby so that the water does not affect St. Louis’ sewer system.
Is all this necessary? Probably not. Is it a good idea? Of course. This level of sustainability is difficult to achieve in a family home or typical residential neighborhood, but Alberici should be applauded for their pioneering spirit in their endeavors. Corporations usually have large headquarters. Corporations can have a lot of money as well. For the companies who make a large enough margin, they should take it upon themselves to build their corporate headquarters in a sustainable way. If most commercial buildings could be built in a sustainable way, that would greatly reduce the negative impact a large building could have. Even if the plumbing and water usage at your neighborhood Target was conducted using rain water that would consume so much less water. Baby steps like this should be implemented. Of course it is almost impossible to cool down a large indoor mall with just windows, but plumbing using rain water or electricity generated by a private windmill or turbine is something that seems feasible and also smart as a long term investment.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
When one thinks of SoHo, one would probably think of high fashion and boutiques, not so much a hardware and lumber store. Was this a bad move? Yes, one of many that the now former CEO of the Home Depot, Robert Nardelli, has made throughout his career at the Home Depot. Much of the reason why the store did not open was because Nardelli was fired before the deal could be sealed. This was a deal which he had a hand in during its primitive stages.
Robert Nardelli was previously the Head of the Power Systems unit at General Electric. While serving at General Electric, Nardelli made Business Week’s “The Best & Worst Managers of 2004” as a Best Manager, although he had a very shaky start. In the end, before he was given his position at the Home Depot, he raised sales 13.1%.
Nardelli’s more current role as CEO at the Home Depot has not garnered him such praise. The International Herald Tribune likes to attribute his failures to his excessive pay. The Tribune is probably right about this one. If Nardelli has a hefty cushion of cash he is sitting on regardless of his company’s performance, the incentive to work as hard probably is not there. Nardelli made about $60 million a year, even though company stocks were on the decline. Nardelli was fired, however he provided himself a generous exit bonus of about $210 million.
Another reason why the Home Depot did not seal the deal at 34th Street is because the rent nearly doubled in the time since the deal was brought up and to the time the deal was almost signed and sealed. At first, the rent was $40 a square foot, where as now, the rent increased to something along the lines of $70 a square foot. The Home Depot was said to be worried if the building and rent provided enough density for the price they were about to pay. The Home Depot was meant to take over three stories in the building.
However, where the Home Depot decided was junk can easily turn into a treasure for someone else. Since deciding that the Home Depot was no longer interested in sticking around to seal the deal, many art galleries which cannot afford the rent in other areas of New York are looking at the ground level retail space that will be vacant to place their galleries there. Also, CBS seems very interested in the location, as is their parent company Viacom
As far as Apple goes, it will be a shame that they will not be sticking around. Apple stores evoke a sort of hip and futuristic approach to retail. Most locations which house an Apple store are places where the hip and trendy want to be. The addition of an Apple store anywhere would add instant charm and much more foot traffic to the area since now a days, it seems more common to own an iPod than to not own an iPod.
SoHo would be a fantastic location for such a store, however, while 34th Street in Lower Manhattan is a "burgeoning" area, there is also a lot of lower class retail and not so respectable, counterfeit retail still occurring in the area.
Apple is “image conscious” as the Slatin Report says and the Slatin Report is probably right. An Apple store is a sight for only the nicest of places. Just as one would never seen an Apple store in a strip mall, Apple would probably never put a store in a location which still has some improvement necessary. Perhaps Apple’s strategy for retail placement is more of a “follower’s” mentality, rather than a “pioneering” type of mentality.
Apple’s original plan was to have a multi-story, large scale retail outlet. Instead, Apple is now considering to sublease the parcel.
Did Lower Manhattan suffer a loss by not sealing a deal with Home Depot? Probably not. The Home Depot will instead move to an area in Harlem. Did Lower Manhattan suffer a loss by not sealing a deal with Apple? Yes. An Apple store in Lower Manhattan is like instant gentrification.