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« Hagan's office park blues | Main | Crash pad »

Jul 24, 2009


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Typically meaningless, cookie-cutter street names to match the cookie-cutter houses. Nice photo essay.


Why? Do you just like the way the pictures look, or is there cultural commentary in the collection?

Ed Cone


Housing was a core element of the financial meltdown. It's difficult to picture a trillion dollars or a credit default swap, but we all understand an empty house. My hope is to document a part of the local story in an evocative and meaningful way by showing what overbuilding and its aftermath looked like here.

Doug H

Looks like good places to pick up some building materials. Where are these places again?

Seriously though, it's not very green to let these materials go to waste.


What is worse than an empty house, is an unfinished one, or an unfinished neighborhood. My wife was looking at a job in Salisbury and we looked at some new construction in S. Davidson county. One neighborhood had one completed home for sale, one in construction and nearly 20 empty skinned lots. I imagined my daughter playing by herself with a huge empty space.

Besides the impact to the neighborhoods, this is important because the loans backing these builders and developers are going into default. The resulting foreclosure sales will yield ~50% of the original loans. That 50% is a loss to some bank, which, if small, might push it into fdic receivership, or if large, warrant TARP assistance. The financial crisis has at its roots bad individual mortgages.

The other issue with exurban neighborhoods is the cost of gas. Any economic pickup will quickly increase gas prices, which will make long commutes much more expensive.

Are there commercial development projects in similar situations? I know there's plenty of empty office space, but are there any big to medium projects (besides the WS ballpark) that are on hold?

Ed Cone

CRE looks ugly. I don't know of big uncompleted projects around here, but some completed ones seem to be sucking wind -- look at the empty spaces in the new Fresh Market center on Lawndale, and in the old FM center next door.


I don't see any for lease signs on the old FM center. Pie Works is the only biz left operating there and is closing when it's lease is up. I suspect Koury has a plans to level the place and build some kind of monstrosity on the site at a later date.


You can go a little further down Lawndale to the strip next to the Golden Coral for more emptiness. Battleground Avenue has its share too.

Winstead Commons, katty corner from the Fresh Market Center, has a new sign announcing the hire of heavy hitter Realtor Tom Chitty, but the prices haven't budged. I suspect it takes a very special kind of person to drop $140,000 for a condo above a strip mall surrounded on four sides by parking lot and that the builder has a long horizon for ROI.

Fec the Terrible

We guffaw at Winstead Commons every time we drive buy. Urban living, my ass.


I thought you meant physically ugly... I still remember the Intel building in downtown Austin, prime location, walking distance to the lake, inspired by the dot-com boom, and destroyed first by the dot-com bust, subsequently by the actual wrecking ball.

Is the old FM location near Guilford College still empty?

Ed Cone

Hugh, you may well be right about the old FM center -- but then again, it's not like they've had any reason to rush to reuse the land if that's the plan.

I wonder if we'll be seeing more empty strip centers. There are some big holes in a few of them already.

Speaking of condo living, don't forget this.


Residential perdition is more like it and the current wave of optimism is very long in the tooth. The cycle signals manifested in the images are very young, and just starting to sit up and crawl on its own. One word is missing from most current commentary. Malinvestment. What makes people willing to assume risks and what compels institutions to enable the behavior? What almond shaped mass in the brain sets us on the road to perdition. Will photographing a symptom lead to a cure?

I had oppurtunities to buy property in '91 and '92 for 35 cents on the dollar, but I had 3 children still in school. I wasn't brave enough to catch those falling knives. Now, the knives fall faster with sharper edges and the kids are schooling me. '91 and '92 were the limbo years.


I'm still amazed that so few could see it coming. Here in my neighborhood Sandra Anderson Groat was lauded for using subsudies to build entire developments of starter homes but 1 in 5 houses in the same neighborhoods in which she built were already sitting empty and have been empty for several years.

And Ms Groat is only 1 of dozens of local builders and developers who were contributing to the problem.


And let's not forget that the City of Greensboro is still planning to spend $18 million from their Federal Stimulus funds to extend East Cone Blvd through the middle of the former White Street Landfill. Why? Because 502 of the 1000 acre site was never used as a landfill and is ripe for development.

And that, my friends, is the real reason the landfill was closed and the city refuses to consider W2EPC on the same plot of land.

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