Parks are free, right?

Stripey
See those high-rises? They paid for Millennium Park.

And this month’s award for Not Getting the Point goes to:

“The idea that McMillan could be Washington’s Millennium Park or High Line, that kind of creativity has never come to the project,” [John] Salatti [of Bloomingdale] says.

Not only does he want a free park instead of taxpaying development on a decrepit old industrial site that the District needs to develop to meet its own revenue projections. Not only that, but he wants a park on par with two fabulously expensive parks: $475 million and $250 million apiece just for construction, plus ~$9 million a year apiece in maintenance, and all even though his neighborhood is a half-hour stroll from the National Mall, which is not only about as big as Grant Park and Central Park combined, but might have a few world-class attractions of its own. (And yes, in fact, building The Park Of Their Dreams on the unstable structure and soils at the Sand Filtration Plant would in fact cost somewhere in the nine figures.)

No, the real stupidity lies in his ignorance of park financing. Both of those parks were largely paid for by lining said parks with skyscrapers: Millennium Park with revenue from the Central Loop TIF, bolstered by 80-story towers that boast park views, and parking garages underneath it that serve the adjacent downtown; the High Line only became possible by selling its underlying development rights and upzoning some adjacent areas by 50% to permit residential towers in an industrial zone.

It seems especially rich when these NIMBYs lash out in ad hominem attacks that impugn the ethics of anyone (including me) who disagrees with them: obviously, they must be paid off by the greedy developer, since money is apparently the only possible motivation. These folks know something about selfishness: They want city taxpayers to lavish hundreds of millions of dollars to beautify their backyard, in addition to foregoing a considerable opportunity cost from new development.

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3 thoughts on “Parks are free, right?

  1. Another point to consider: 4-5 million people visit those two parks every year. One can’t assume that a new park would have fewer impacts on the neighborhood than new, primarily residential development.

  2. The newest conceit from the “McMillan Park” people is to attack the diversion of $50 million in tax revenue to NoMa BID — which is yet another instance of value capture, whereby taxes from local development pay for that neighborhood’s parks. It’s absolutely not comparable to asking the entire city (one not at all starved for park space) to pay tens of millions of dollars (the minimum cost just to stabilize the site) for a park that benefits a single neighborhood.

    The DC Fiscal Policy Institute, in criticizing the bill, notes: “The NoMa Reinvestment Act would take a portion of property tax, sales tax, and deed and recordation taxes collected within NoMa that that would otherwise go to the District’s general fund and instead put them in a special fund for NoMa parks.”

  3. Pingback: Towards a unified theory of midtowns | west north

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