The Atlantic‘s Cities blog has featured Asheville’s downtown redevelopment efforts, especially those of Public Interest Projects, as an example of “the simple math that can save cities from bankruptcy.”
The article specifically focuses on how dense, downtown redevelopment can put more money per-capita into a city’s coffers, using the Asheville Hotel as a success story:
In the 1950s, the five-story brick Asheville Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, started to fall into decline, presaging what would happen to most of the city’s downtown over the next couple of decades. A department store moved into the ground floor while everything above it sat empty. Then the building got one of those ugly metal facades that’s designed to distract from the fact that all the windows are boarded up.
Twenty years later, the local real-estate developer Public Interest Projects set its sights on the building for a mixed-use retail and residential property. Local bankers and businessmen said they were foolish. No one wants to live downtown, they said. And so no one was interested in financing the project.
In its vacant state in the 1970s, the Asheville Hotel didn’t contribute much to the public coffers. Today, though, that same parcel of land is responsible for exponentially more property tax revenue that helps pay for police, parks and city streets.
Longtime planner and local development thinker Joe Minicozzi, recently executive director of the Downtown Association, gives his analysis:
We tend to think that broke cities have two options: raise taxes, or cut services. Minicozzi, though, is trying to point to the basic but long-buried math of our tax system that cities should be exploiting instead: Per-acre, our downtowns have the potential to generate so much more public wealth than low-density subdivisions or massive malls by the highway. And for all that revenue they bring in, downtowns cost considerably less to maintain in public services and infrastructure.