A potential new life for a long-shuttered 100-year-old theater, federal workplaces that truly make employees ill, and Jerome Powell puts his foot on the economic brake. From the wild and wooly world of real estate, here are the hits and misses for this week.
Hit and Miss: A New Life for an Old Theater. One of the most bittersweet stories of the week involved the Alexandria Theater, a San Francisco movie palace that opened in 1923 and was once among the prominent entertainment venues in the city – “Cleopatra” had its local premiere there in 1963 and ran for over a year in a reserved seating engagement. The theater was closed in 2004 and fell into ruin, with its landmark marquee sign taken down in January after deteriorating from neglect. The good news is that this long-vacant site may finally be reanimated as an affordable housing development – a much-needed commodity in San Francisco. Still, it is sad that a location that was once at the center of the city’s cultural orbit was allowed to die slowly in front of everyone and could soon disappear forever.
Miss: An Unhealthy Working Environment. Many people complain their jobs make them sick, but more than few federal workers are really getting ill from their workplaces. The Washington Times reported the Inspector General of the U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA) has determined the water supply in at least six federal government buildings around the country are contaminated with Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease – and one of those buildings houses a day care center. The GSA doesn’t require testing for non-potable water in the 5,000 buildings it leases and the problem might be even more widespread than the Inspector General reported. In a separate report this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said a military installation had to shut down a barracks because of Legionella. The problem is being blamed on telework – without water running through building systems regularly, the disinfectants that control Legionella and other bacteria degrade, thus create health-impacting situations.
Miss: Fudging the Facts. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge gave a speech this past Monday before a regional NAACP event – and if you read the transcript of the speech, you won’t know whether you should be laughing or groaning. Fudge defended the president by claiming he came to office because “he knew we could do better than a country where entire communities were stripped of dignity and hope,” and she claimed he “is working to reverse decades of divestment in communities across the South.” Huh? She also pointed out how the administration took “the boldest steps ever to address the climate crisis and confront environmental injustice” while it established “a National Monument honoring Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley” and enacted “criminal justice reforms to ban chokeholds and support returning citizens” – though why a HUD secretary would mention those accomplishments rather than housing is unclear. Of course, Fudge failed to mention that mortgage rates soared, home prices hit record highs, housing inventory evaporated and affordable homeownership opportunities diminished since Biden appointed her to office. Oh, and someone might want to alert Fudge that the folks in East Palestine, Ohio, are still waiting for the president to pay them a visit.
Hit: A Much-Needed Pause. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and his central bank fun bunch did the right thing this week by holding the federal funds rate steady at the range between 5.25% to 5.5%. And while the rates are still at a 22-year high, we’d like to think the Fed leadership is finally recognizing their rate hike regimen has been overdone. After all, when medicine designed to treat an illness makes the situation worse or creates a new ailment, you stop swallowing that prescription. Hopefully, the Fed will let the economy recalibrate without its help, which many people considered to be the prime example of making a bad situation worse.
Hit: Thank You for Your Input. We’d like to take a moment to thank the WRE News readers for sharing their comments regarding our articles. Some recent articles have elicited a lively debate among those with different opinions, and the vast majority of the comments provide articulate and cogent insight on the issues shaping our industry. A few readers were especially helpful earlier this week in pointing out that we ran the wrong photo in an article on “Million Dollar Listing” star Josh Flagg – thanks to the input in the comments section, that error was fixed. However, a few recent comments were not published because they came across as personal attacks on other readers who shared their views – while we welcome an exchange of thoughts, we’re trying to maintain a cordial atmosphere. We hope that you will continue to read our news and share your friendly input.
Phil Hall is editor of Weekly Real Estate News. He can be reached at [email protected].