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Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Detroit: Where Hedge Funds and Goats Want to Work Together to Improve Livability

June 24, 2014 | 7:15 am |

goatwiki

The city of Detroit has a problem with goats, among other significant challenges. It has been battered with political corruption (two former mayors are in jail) and it is trying to sheppard (pun intended) through a huge bankruptcy but goats are where the city draws the line.

The city also a tremendous amount of potential and is desperately trying to reinvent itself. My wife’s family is from the Detroit suburbs and I went to college in the Michigan for 4 years – one thing I noticed – the suburbs and the City of Detroit are mutually exclusive unlike most big US cities I have visited. One of the best explanations of Detroit’s fall was a recent read of mine: Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. The original urban planners got it all wrong.

But let’s talk about goats. Last year a Detroit city councilman had a vision, that vision was eventually carried out by a billionaire hedge-funder who brought unlicensed goats to control the overgrown vacant lots of Detroit. Goats as lawnmowers are used in other cities.

I don’t think many people in the US realize just how much abandoned property there is within the city boundaries – the size of Paris.

An op-ed piece in the Detroit News made an argument for it, but the city was not interested.

The hedge funder explains:

Detroit is very much a place that lives by what I call ‘home rule.’ The people are bound by a lot of laws from years ago that restrict them from doing things that can help their community. The people of Brightmoor have decided to step up to ensure the survival of their families and the community. One of the ways they are doing this is with guerrilla farming. Guerrilla farming brings attention to pieces of publicly controlled land within the city that have been abandoned, left vacant or have been left to grow wildly out of control by absent owners. It cleans these areas, brings them into a productive capacity and converts them from a nuisance to an asset within the community.

The housing market won’t recover without the abandoned elements being removed ie unkept lawns, condemned housing and commercial structures. One of the surprising aspects of Detroit’s rise from the ashes has been the non-conventional nature of progress. Goats would definitely fit in.

Arguably my favorite type of goat entered this world from 1964-1967.

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[Central Park v. Detroit] $363,538,692,000 v. $4,500,000

October 26, 2009 | 11:57 pm | nymaglogo |


Source: Google Earth

Back in 2005, I did a fun exercise for New York Magazine – I was asked to value Central Park (just for fun) in about 3 minutes. It was within an article that ranked the reasons to love New York and was item number 3.

The New York Observer recently asked me to update this calculation using the same methodology (in 3 minutes and just for fun) and I came up with $363,538,692,000 which is a far cry from $528,783,552,000. The same disclaimers apply as the original effort, seriously.

To put this in perspective, about 9,000 Detroit properties were auctioned (hat tip WalletPop) with opening bids of $500. Only 20% received bids. The total land area of these properties was equivalent to Central Park. If all 9,000 properties received a bid of $500 (which is probably not far off if you assume the 20% that received bids were over $500 and the rest $0), that represents a total value of $4,500,000.

Thats’s not much of a value and these properties also pull down values around them – plus they are off the tax roll placing more financial burden on existing properties.

Not a good sign
Most of the bidders were investors and vacant land in Detroit equals the entire footprint of Boston.

As much as I love my time spent in Michigan and my relatives there, I believe this is called an economic failure spiral.


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