Daily Journal of Commerce: "Preservation efforts go beyond bottom line."
The DJC is a business supporting publication (a print and online industry rag), thus, the content is often informative (sometimes marketing hype) and not necessarily journalistic. And that is not a criticism.
The DJC article to a certain extent ignores reality of profit making as enabled by public dollars. To the preservationist developer the bottom line is important too and he or she maintains it by public subsidies. The profit margin is not ignored or is a less of concern merely because preservation of certain buildings is their business.
What follows is my comment (with some editing) posted to the Daily Journal of Commerce article prompted because the author skipped the effort at producing a more in-depth article to produce a more 'feel good' one.
There seems to be an assumption that building preservationists like Art DeMuro are not making a profit. Clearly that is incorrect. Could he make more profit by being a standard developer? Maybe, but everyone has a niche. And, implying that developer Edlen is a preservationist is a stretch.
When the Brewery Blocks and the Armory were undertaken - the thought wasn't 'boy we are going to lose money on this project but let's do it anyway.' As "Edlen says his firm lost money on the brewery renovation, but the preservation work added value to the overall redevelopment of the Brewery Blocks, which have made money."
One has to remember that the Armory has Edlen's name on it because of the theater. And that armory was substantially supported by TIF dollars and the hijacking of the benefit of the census track that is nearly 99% in Old Town; thus giving him access to the NMTC and the financial rescuing of his building adjacent to the armory.
The University of Oregon buying into the move to the three buildings raises also issues of proper use of public money. One argument for rehab of old buildings is that it generates property taxes, jobs, etc. But these building do not generate property taxes nor did they create new jobs beneficial to the city. Frankly, despite the hype, they have not brought the 'promised' redevelopment of Old Town.
Are historic buildings important to the community? It seems easy to say yes, but what part of the community? Would it have made any particular impact on 99% of Portlanders if the buildings were demolished and a new development was put into its place?
Are these projects cost effective? That takes definition. A lot of public dollars go into these projects so the developers can make their profit. Thus, a developer profit is protected because the public subsidizes it. Developer welfare?
Is preservation too expensive? Dollar wise - yes. Without public subsidies, these projects would not provide a positive dollar return on the developer's investment. It isn't clear though that the city receives a ROI in terms of livability, or other intangible, mostly because of difficulty in measurement. Arguably, many of these projects fail to make real impact on the value of the city to its residents.
But, for the preservationist developer - it is still the bottom line, a subsidized one.