Grooming white elephants

The Stockton City Limits blogger visited the Commercial Hotel and likes the efforts of preservationists to gussy up the building’s exterior. 

“However, progress has been slow coming as developers have passed over the opportunity to fix up these buildings, citing high costs and uncertain demand,” he concedes.

Saying developers have “passed over the opportunity” is putting it mildly. They flatly reject the building as hopeless. The Downtown Stockton Alliance has trooped numerous open-minded developers through for a decade. Even urban developers with the skills and track records of successfully repurposing old Stockton buildings agree that the building is too far gone. The cost of renovating it would be so high the rents would fly above market.

Preservationists are in denial about this. They always twitter something breezy about available grants. They never come back with a concrete business plan showing how the buildings can be repurposed. Analysis by experts, well, that’s just pessimism to be dismissed.

I wish it weren’t true that the short-sighted city of Stockton let downtown hotels run so far down they cannot be profitably renovated. My instincts are basically preservationist, too. But you preserve what you can, and what you can preserve is what can make money in a new incarnation. Playing ostrich with preservation’s financial realities does not advance preservationism.

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