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Commentary: Andrew Steele: Downtown C.P.

Updated: May 7, 2013 1:29PM



The unresolved status of the old Crown Point library building isn’t a big deal at this point, so soon after the building was vacated.

But its failure to sell at auction a couple weeks ago does remind one of the nature of supply and demand for property in the downtown area.

In other places, buildings and properties have relatively stable and relatively apparent uses. In an old downtown like Crown Point’s, usages more frequently over time, and properties’ adaptability does much to determine their value.

In those situations, appraisals can be too precise and too technical for their own good. A building like the old library isn’t very adaptible, and can actually make a property as a whole less valuable than it might be without the building.

Other public properties around the downtown that have outlived their original usefulness have had varied histories.

A building like the old courthouse can find value as an aesthetic centerpiece, architectural anchor and repository of nostalgia. That value is shown in the dedication of time and money to it.

Buildings like the old sheriff’s house and jail essentially aspire to the same kind of value, but for various reasons haven’t been able to reach a financial tipping point that gets it permanently out of its limbo.

Meanwhile, the old court building, and more recently the Carnegie Center, have been identified as retaining value for private use.

People often complain about the the uses of business buildings around, and just off of, the square. Everyone would rather have a hardware store than a bar, except the person who would be owning the hardware store.

The mixed for-profit, not-for-profit and public ownership nature of the downtown, and the changes over time among the various types of ownership, adds some complexity. There’s sometimes that idea that the city can buy it, or a foundation can maintain it.

And there are historic district rules, facade grants and the like that add complexity to the establishment of value.

Things will eventually find their own equilibrium, some of which we may not like, but the fact that there are buildings built as livery stables that are still in some form of use is encouraging.

And some properties will remain aging odd-balls. The downtown’s always becoming something it isn’t now. And when it gets there, it’s already becoming something else.



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