ICYMI – Week of September 15, 2017

  • Harbinger of a shift in automobile retailing and of the future of malls? With Tesla and car-sharing challenging what owning a car means, the traditional car manufacturers have had to get creative. In the latest – Mercedes is opening up “Mercedes me” stores in malls around Canada.
  • Speaking of redefining retail – Apple announced it is going to start referring to stores as “Town Squares” in an effort to turn their commercial locations into broader gathering places and “communities.”
  • Bloomberg short-lists the likely locations for Amazon’s HQ2 to six cities, with the caveat: “five could be eliminated by politics” (spoiler: five of the six cities are in the US, the sixth is Toronto). It’s a compelling argument considering Toronto actually meets the qualifications easily, though I’m not sure how Toronto’s incentives stack up against those of US cities. An interesting counter-argument was proposed by City Lab: how will Amazon employees deal with Ontario’s foreign-buyer’s tax? I don’t foresee this as a major issue, though, as a bigger chunk of that 50,000 workforce would be Canadian.
  • Meanwhile, tech┬ácompanies are happy to pay premium rents in order to be closer to talent, upending traditional notions of lower-rent seeking as costs of labour for technology and professional services continue to grow as a share of operating costs.

ICYMI – Week of September 8, 2017

  • Boomer’s aren’t leaving the suburbs (as fast as people thought). BisNow reports on the trends of baby boomers staying put in their suburban houses instead of moving to more connected, higher density living that many have anticipated would happen. In the same vein of miscalculation as millennials, those waiting for a boomer tsunami have not quite wrapped their heads around the fact that terms such as “millennial” and “baby boomer” are broad demographic categories, not a specific group of people who all have the exact same tastes and desires at the same time. Like millennials, boomers encompass a large age-group and people in that age-group are going to make key life decisions at different times, not all at once. So the lesson is: yes, boomers will eventually leave their large suburban homes and move to smaller, denser apartments in the city. However, it won’t happen until they’re too old to care for their homes, a phase which is easily 20-years away for those in the median of the age group and will take roughly 30-40 years after that. A trickle, not a tsunami.
  • The St. Louis Dispatch reports┬áthat brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead, it’s undergoing a transition. Although we often hear much about malls and long-standing stores closing down, the actual numbers on brick and mortar retail reportedly show a net gain: retailers in the US built, on average, 4,000 more stores than they closed down in 2017. Now, this report comes from an industry group and I haven’t come across any data to check myself, but it’s an otherwise positive spin on what sounds like terrible news. So, the retail apocalypse isn’t an apocalypse, it’s just change.
  • Amazon made waves this week with an announcement that they were looking for locations for a second North American Headquarters. Thinkers, bloggers and mayors are rolling over themselves trying to guess or bid on why their city is the ideal location for the new Amazon HQ, while residents of Seattle are sending warnings. My take: Amazon isn’t posting this as a popularity contest. If they really were just interested in finding a good location alone, they would have announced the location with the news, not issued an “RFP” for cities to bid on. Amazon is looking for who can provide the juiciest tax break/incentive package here. I like this one clever Redditor’s theory: “Here is my guess: Amazon already knows but will sit by while city & states fight over with massive subsidies & grants. Eventually Amazon will ask whatever city they already chose if they can match it & then surprise everyone with their choice.”

ICYMI – Week of September 1, 2017

  • Hurricane Harvey hit Houston over the weekend. News of the effects of the storm are widely available, but this piece from the Texas Tribune focuses on the lack of appropriate land-use and environmental regulations and their part in the fallout from the flooding.
  • Not a new article but something I came across this week; back in 2016 realty service Trulia published their findings on the effect of low-income housing on nearby housing values. They found that, out of 20 US metro areas analyzed, only 2 showed any negative effects on property prices from the construction of low-income housing. The key note in this analysis, though, is: “at least in cities where housing is either expensive or in short supply.” It’s a great study to keep in a back-pocket for that debate, since the overall message seems to be that in rapidly-growing urban areas the property value uplift from demographic and demand factors is so strong that the development of affordable housing is unlikely to affect it.