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How Grandview Yard could fail and bring down the schools
Posted on Monday, August 10 @ 12:58:46 EDT by Admin

News from the small city Justice writes "

(Sept. 2009)

The city has completed negotiations and signed the paperwork with NRI, setting the city on a irreversible path to start construction on Grandview Yard. Maybe it will all work out as planned, and retail business will prosper, and the city will eventually gain new tax money from the project. Maybe the schools will cope with the new families in the housing to be built, and the school system will benefit.

Given the bad news we read in the papers every day on the economy, it seems like a long shot. Who can predict with certainty? Despite the Mayor's reassurance that the deal has “non-recourse” clauses in the contract that protect the city, we know it will be bad PR if things go south. It can't be good to be known as “Grandview, the city with a failed development rusting away on prime property”.

There are worse possibilities than just a failed shopping district.

During the lead up to the negotiations the city council looked at every possible outcome, and speculated on the chances of them occurring. The following scenario was one that a council member outlined for me in general, I filled in some speculation, but this is a real possibility.

Failed G.Y. development

I'm not very optimistic about the short and medium economic picture. The best story I have read about the country's financial sector is this Atlantic article, it has a good non-ideological explanation of the problem and the solutions. Washington is not doing very well with those solutions. Unemployment is the other big problem, and I share Krugman's skepticism over a turnaround. Between outsourcing and mechanization of production there are a lot of lost jobs that will never return. Building windmills will not change that fact. I think we are headed for a Japan style 10 year economic downturn.

NRI has told the city that the phase one construction of three buildings and a two story parking lot are on the way, but no major retail has been signed yet. We are still left with this quote - “The developer is looking to show the project will happen and hopefully that will generate more interest." I understand the basics of the strategy, gas prices have caused the ever larger ring of new shopping developments to become unsustainable. G.Y. is supposed to be the central development that the City Center failed to become.

Without a big economic recovery, I don't think the metro area needs G.Y.

NRI has said they are in for the long term. They are willing to wait for conditions to be right to start building the full project. I think they have good intentions – but the pressure on CEOs is to make short term profits. After the second or third new leader of nationwide takes the helm 6 years in the future, that dog of an investment, empty land in Grandview causing nothing but losses will be an easy target for elimination. The sale of 50 acres to another developer will be a fast solution.

The building of low income housing.

Federal programs to increase the building of low income housing are sure to be on the rise. The new jobs that are created are needed, the housing is needed.

The building of low income housing in central city areas is the traditional way, but it is being successfully challenged by Anti-Discrimination groups. Read this NYT article about the landmark desegregation agreement that would compel Westchester County to create affordable housing in overwhelmingly white communities.

This is the future for Grandview.

I personally would welcome low income housing in Grandview. I think the city would have some adjustments but could live with 100 low income units. I think the schools would benefit from 100 low income school children, the exposure to only high and middle income kids is a shelter that doesn't give a full education to Grandview students.

I'm aware that my feeling are not shared by the majority of the community. Some of that is because of a fear of change. I don't think it is out of line to say an underlying thread of racism is present.

Big developments are profitable

If we take it as a given that new low income housing is inevitable in Grandview, why fear that Grandview Yard would be the location? There are smaller places a new development could be built, such as the site of the failed attempt called “Grandview Station” on 33. The problems with that site are no different than those faced by the Bear Creek people, unknown wastes buried in a dump present high costs for building and providing utilities would be expensive.

Grandview Yard will have utilities constructed and ready to go, thanks to the first phase of G.Y. construction. Cleanup of environmental problems will be finished soon.

Take a federal (and court approved) mandate for low income housing in predominately white communities, add the fact that larger projects make the developer more money. Maybe the feds offer increased funding to communities that accept big developments, and hold a stick of reduced fed funding to those communities who refuse to allow these developments.

Grandview schools can cope with 100 new kids. If a 500 unit development brings 500 new students, things start to go wrong, no matter what their economic background. A new school building would be needed, taxes would go up, resentment builds from Grandview parents who don't like the “interlopers”. Bad things happen in overcrowded schools.


The preceding was a speculated future that has somewhere between 10 and 90 percent chance of happening. If you have a good argument for why this can't possibly occur, please send it in (use the feedback form on the left). I would be fine with doing a revision of this story if the facts prove it can't come true.

I don't think the part about a “thread of racism” being present in Grandview will need to be retracted. As a white person who grew up in a white farm community, even I feel a little creeped out by the near total whiteness of Grandview Hts. I don't think that happened by chance. Maybe that will be the topic of another post.

(Much later postscript)

I think the main thrust of this story was proved correct - there was no need for retail shopping in the central city, at least at this location, and the Yard never became a destination shopping area. Nationwide rescued its own development by moving the training campus into the Yard.

There was no low income built into the development (as of 2015) because the thousands of high income jobs provided by the campus allowed them to keep the housing mid to high price.

The alternate reality where Nationwide didn't eat their own dogfood might have been similar to this story.


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