As I am working up a plan to try and salvage a large-scale residential project by taking a more in-depth look at the pro-forma (no small feat considering how land and housing prices have changed), I am reminded of the design successes we had on a similar project in Tempe in 2006. That project, too, was about more efficiently utilizing the land and doing it in a more appropriate way. It was also about playing directly to the specific location (a group of properties adjacent to Arizona State), so the product offering was very dependent on place – focusing mostly on student housing and working within the existing zoning requirements. Unfortunately, that developer also could not weather the coming economic storm, but the lessons learned there apply to the work we are doing now to understand just how exactly new projects are supposed to get built in the new economy.
The good news: The days of “build it and they will come” are over, at least for the near future.
The bad news: The inverse that seems to be in play, “perfect build” let’s call it, is much deeper water than we architects are used to. The product needs to be spot-on. Exactly the right price. Exactly the right style. Exactly the right size. Exactly the right location. And while the design is humming without hitch, it needs to be equally matched with an over-performing financial analysis that the banks will take notice of so developers even have a shot of getting a construction loan.
At least in the metropolitan Phoenix area, I can’t really complain about this “new rules” condition. I have watched almost an entire generation build mostly shoddy homes in areas that should not have been built on anyway in further expanding concentric rings away from center city. In addition to being over-priced, the obnoxiously bad home and development designs were outdone only by the shockingly bad workmanship (and that fulfills my sweeping generalization quota for this paragraph). My industry, the building industry, has certainly “made our bed”.
So, what’s next then?
As the rock band Silversun Pickups would sing…”revolution, baby.”