March 2010

After a fairly gloomy week, we are blessed with a spectacular Spring day in Nashville.  The only thing that could improve the crystalline blue sky would be a plume of applewood smoke tinted with the succulent smell of simmering sausages.  Oh, I know, we are not supposed to laud carbon emissions, so to compensate for my lustful vision, here are some links to sites of green retrofits.  I got onto this subject because of a wonderful presentation that our ULI Sustainability Committee put on a couple of weeks ago where they brought in the group that was working on the renovation of the Empire State Building…bon apetit!

  1. Empire State Building renovation – go here and spend some time looking at the videos and interactive exhibits.  This was a renovation done with care and passion.
  2. Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center – this was the first building to get a LEED Gold certification as a historic renovation.  I visited the building several years ago and was impressed by the care they took in preserving the beauty of the original architecture while achieving a sustainable goal.
  3. The Old Mint Building – San Francisco’s “Granite Lady” is getting a facelift and conversion into a historical museum.  This is a good summary article about the scope of the project, complete with a cool slide show.
  4. Madison Children’s Museum – This is a fascinating adaptive reuse and sustainable project in Madison, Wisconsin.
  5. Ford Rouge Factory –  how about taking a 1915 auto production facility and bringing it up to LEED standards a century later?  That’s what is happening at the Ford Rouge factory in Detroit.

That ought to get your green ideas flowing!  Come to think of it, I might try some wasabi mustard on that bratwurst…


Let’s hope this is good news and we see home prices level off in their historic range.  The problem is going to that inside that parabola…err, open ended triangle, is a heck of a lot of second mortgage debt and homes no longer worth the note they were purchased for.  There is an estimated $103 BILLION in lost value that was supporting credit cards, trips to the beach, business start-ups and the like.  It will take us some time to claw back out.

This is a sobering picture.  The little bitty red column for which there are only two entries is new home sales.  This represents about 9.5 months of inventory according to the Census Bureau.  Couple this news with the pending resets scheduled for ARM’s and new construction looks a long way off:

I hate to continue to point out bad news, but I firmly believe it you are better prepared when you are armed with knowledge.  Unfortunately, a lot of the regular press is just kicking the can down the road and trying to convince you that the magical powers of Washington have changed the realities of the business cycle forever.

Why do businesses leave Cleveland?  “Taxes and red tape.”

What does the current administration want to do to the economy?  Taxes and red tape.

Go figure.

Not yet.  The Labor Department announced that “first time” jobless claims fell by 14,000 to 442,000, which is below the 450,000 that they expected.  You always have to read the story behind the story though…excluding the results of “seasonal adjustments,” the real drop was only 4,000.  Look, at this point we’ll take anything we can get.  Every sentient human being knows that the secret to an economic recovery is not health insurance reform, it is job creation.  And, as the following chart illustrates, that is at least trending the right direction:

Now this number does not take into account the number of folks that that have given up or are underemployed…if it did, the number would be, well, it’s called the U-6 number over at Labor.  The cushy 9.7% unemployed number is “U-3.”  Here’s what U-6 looks like:

Now it’s trending a little bit the right direction too, but be aware that it is over 16%.  The seriousness of the problem is illustrated with the following chart:

That 6% drop from the previous peak is unmatched in prior recessions and represents a lot of new jobs that need to be created to get us back on track.  Bottom line is this: the job situation appears to be flattening out at the bottom, but there are still over 11 million people receiving unemployment benefits and although the pace has slowed, we are still shedding jobs and digging a deeper hole to climb out of.

Our good friends over at Transit Now, are doing yeoman’s work on highlighting the benefit of transit in our urban core and beyond.  Coming in April is a week long series of events to raise awareness – click on the link below to view the flyer:

Transit Week 2010 Flyer

This really is a worthwhile effort.  Not only does it show wise stewardship for our resources, it is actually good for you! is running a series on fixing problems in a city…Cleveland, Ohio specifically.  On this second episode, they focus on what works for fixing education.  Well worth the 10 or so minutes to watch:

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