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Great article about the economics of mixed-use development, something we’re always pushing here at Laurel Park Management. Mixed-use helps makes places walkable and livable. It helps make them better, more beautiful, and more vibrant. So, naturally, it provides an economic boon as well. What’s more, the study below was also performed in Sarasota:

Are cities across the country acting negligently in ignoring the property tax implications of different development types? Joseph Minicozzi thinks so, and he’s done the math to prove it.

The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality.
— Andrew Jackson

Downtown Pays
Asheville, North Carolina — like many cities and towns around the country — is hurting financially.

It’s not that Asheville is some kind of deserted ghost town. Rather, it’s a picturesque mountain city with a population of about 83,000 that draws tourists from all over the world, especially during the leaf-peeping season. But it’s also a city that appeals to its residents, who revel in strolling about a true walkable downtown chock-full of restaurants and retail shops featuring locally grown and crafted products. Downtown is not only one of Asheville’s main draws; it also serves as a major driver in helping the city overcome its budgetary doldrums.

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.

We’ll use the city of Asheville as an example. Asheville realizes an astounding +800 percent greater return on downtown mixed-use development projects on a per acre basis compared to when ground is broken near the city limits for a large single-use development like a Super Walmart. A typical acre of mixed-use downtown Asheville yields $360,000 more in tax revenue to city government than an acre of strip malls or big box stores.

If you were a mayor or city councillor facing a budget crisis, this comparison should serve as an eye-opener, both in terms of your policies and your development priorities. The comparison should also get you thinking about not just how you could encourage more downtown development, but also what kind of development could increase the value of buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s not just officials in Asheville who should be asking these questions. In the growing number of diverse cities where we have studied this same equation (such as Billings, MT, Petaluma, CA, and Sarasota, FL) we’ve found that the same principle applies: downtown pays. It’s simple math. keep reading at planetizen.com

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It’s hard to live in Sarasota and not have heard of Owen Burns, the man for whom Burns Court (and by extension Burns Court Cinema) is named, and the honoree of the week-long Owen Burns Week fete November 8-14, 2010. But how much do you know about one of our town’s founding fathers? Here’s a bit from the Owen Burns Historical Marker at the intersection of Orange and Pineapple to bring you up to speed:

Owen Burns was one of Sarasota’s most distinguished citizens and connected with virtually every early development of the city. He first came to Sarasota on vacation from Chicago in 1910 and decided to make it his home. He purchased more than 75% of the land area of the city, making him the largest landowner.

Burns helped organize the Sarasota Board of Trade in 1911, was instrumental in founding the first locally owned bank, and was a leader in the push to divide Sarasota County from Manatee County in 1921.

His other activities included the effort to have the city’s first streets paved and the construction of Sarasota’s first seawalls. He oversaw the development of the bayfront subdivisions of Cedar Point and Sunset Park and of Washington Park, just east of this site. His Burns Construction Company built the Ringling causeways connecting Sarasota to St. Armands Key, and Lido Key. At one time, he owned all of Lido Key. He was initially involved with John Ringling in the development of St. Armands and John Ringling Estates. During the 1920s, his construction firm was responsible for the construction of some of Sarasota’s most notable buildings, including John and Mable Ringling’s home, Ca’d’Zan.

Owen Burns was a dreamer and a visionary who laid the foundation for Sarasota today. His cottages at Burns Court, in particular, are the epitome of walkable urbanism. Speaking of walkable, Burns Court and the events surrounding Owen Burns week are easily reached by foot or bike from any of Laurel Park Management’s Laurel Park or Gillespie Park apartments. The following is from the event organizers:

The City of Sarasota has officially proclaimed the week of November 8-14, 2010 Owen Burns week in celebration of the city’s most significant developer and civic leader 100 years ago. Commemorative signs will be posted at the Owen Burns properties, from Cà d’Zan, throughout downtown and on Lido and Longboat Keys.

Don’t miss the community-wide events featuring a Kick-off Party at Mattison’s™ City Grill, Jeff LaHurd’s New Book Release, Historic Trolley Tours, and a Burns Court Street Party with special appearance by Jimmie Fadden’s “Suitcase Full of Blues” Band. Join us!

For a full listing of all events, check out OwenBurns.com. Hope to see you all there!

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