Credit Crunch Visits High Rises

There are a couple of examples where the construction of skyscrapers is stalling out due to credit availability issues. In Chicago, two spectacular residential projects have seen their space sales stall leaving them wanting for construction funds.

Looking like a steel and glass spiral the Chicago Spire was begun in 2007 with a completion date of 2010 (since changed to 2012) and is supposed to be the tallest building in the U.S. at 2,000 feet. There were 34 caissons used in the construction of its foundation and you can see a wealth of construction pictures here. But in a surprising development the architect himself, Santiago Calatrava, has filed a lean against the project claiming to be owed a bit more than $11 million. The developers say 30 percent of the building units are sold while acknowledging the construction site is quiet right now.

The other project, a hotel and condo effort called Waterview Tower is supposed to top out at a little more than 1,000 feet high. One real estate appraiser claims the two projects broke ground and then went for financing. But the developer of the Spire says “the banks should start acting like banks,” and continue lending. In the final analysis, many believe the projects will go on because of the momentum around them.


Chicago Spire may one day top out the city's skyline.
Chicago Spire may one day top out the city

Great American Places Announced

What does Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ have in common with Clarendon and Wilson Boulevards in Arlington, VA? You guessed it. They are both finalists in the American Planning Association’s (APA) Great Places in America: Streets. These streets are designated as such because they are places of “exemplary character, quality and planning.” The organization also cites them as places where people want to be and to live and work. There are slide shows of the various winners at the Web site.

Besides the great streets there are categories for neighborhoods and public spaces. Downtown Salem, MA and Greater Park Hill in Denver, CO were in the top 10 neighborhoods, and Portland, OR’s Pioneer Courthouse Square along with Charleston, SC’s Waterfront Park ranked in the public spaces category. APA says the public spaces honorees are places that help promote social interaction and a sense of community. Great streets have both form and composition, character and a sustainable environment. The other category, Great Neighborhoods, capitalize on architecture, design, scale and other attributes to create visual experiences and other qualities.

There is a lot more at the links above along with the complete list and plenty of pictures. There are also guidelines for those who would like to submit an entry for next year’s event.

Home Energy Tax Breaks Keep Coming Home

As the total 2008 home energy costs begin going over $2,000 for the average U.S. Household, the Alliance to Save Energy put out a reminder about the energy tax break that came as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 signed into law on October 3.

The cap is $500 and can be used by those who claimed less than the total credit available in 2006 and 2007. Check with your tax advisor, or the IRS if in doubt as to whether you may qualify.

The kinds of purchases that qualify include:

  • 10 percent of the cost of insulation products, exterior doors and roofing products;
  • Up to $300 toward the full purchase price of central air, heat pump, water heater or bio-gas stove;
  • Up to 10 percent of the costs of Energy Star rated windows;
  • Up to $150 toward the purchase of a furnace or boiler; and
  • This one runs through 2016 – 30 percent of the cost of Energy Star geothermal heat pumps, up to $2000.

Office Space Morphs To Reflect Change

If you have been in the business of building office space there are some changes underway that may make you rethink how this space is built, according to Corporate Portfolio Analytics. Large corporate occupiers of business office space are expected to decline by 40 Percent over the next five years.

The reasons are diverse and span technology, economics, sociology and organizational structures. Instead of the current 250 sf per employee the demand will be more like 150 sf by 2013.  Mobile devices are freeing people from landlines and allowing them to work most anyplace. Then too the Gen X and Y crowds are different from earlier generations in their desire to just take responsibility for their work without having to be seen everyday by their bosses. Currently 40-70 percent of the cubicles in the U.S. are unoccupied during the workday.

So, if you build out this kind of space you may be seeing reductions not only in the sizes of the facilities, but also in the sizes of the individual spaces that are planned for them. Companies will be aggressively trying to balance the cost of building ownership with the number of people they support. Very green solutions should become higher priorities in this pursuit so that operational costs of buildings don’t get too high per employee. While fuel costs have momentarily subsided, in the long term, rising gas prices are going to keep more people from driving to a workplace. Most interestingly it appears this is not just about telecommuting but also about sizing workspaces to fit the type of work.