For a millisecond, I thought it would be nice to be a developer. Build something, have people pay you more than your cost, make money. It seems so easy, this developing business. After all, everyone is a developer during a hot market. Did you subdivide a 10 acre lot into two parcels? Developer. Put up a partition in a singular office space and lease the two spaces? Developer. The problem with being a developer is that it only works especially well if you develop something in a market that you don’t care about. Allow me to explain.
To be a good developer, you have to be keenly aware of profit margins. The only reason to spend money is to make it, after all, and that’s what developers do best. Spend. Make. Move on. It’s easy to spend, and it’s easy to make (sometimes), and if you’re developing in a market outside of your hometown, it’s easy to move on. But what about those developers that live on one block and wish to develop the next? That would require one of two things of that developer. He (or She) would either have to develop only that which respects his vision for town, or develop something to make money and not concern himself with what he leaves behind. This is how to be a successful developer, and this does not make that person a good developer. This is why I cannot be a developer.
How can I build something in the community that I care about without also being concerned about what that product looks like? How can I build something that doesn’t support my greater vision for the community? Tell me I could have a piece of land for free, place that land in Williams Bay, Lake Geneva or Fontana, and then tell me I have to build something lame on the site. Promise me riches. Do these things and I would decline. What is the point of making a little money at the expense of the community? Do our local developers care nothing of what this area looks like, or what it could become?
I contend the answer is that they don’t care, but it’s not necessarily their fault. They lack proper vision, mostly. In spite of having some wealthy developers in this area, it seems that there is no real concern for the development outcome. I see houses on hillsides and I wish I didn’t. I see cornfield track homes by the dozens and I wish I didn’t. I see condominiums that lack style, and I wish I didn’t. Why can’t we seek development that respects and elevates this market and the community? I say we can.
But until then, I’ll be here trying to fight the bad development. What is a bad development? It doesn’t have anything to do with the profit or loss for the developer. Bad development is ugly and obtuse and it looks out of place in the landscape. Good development is attractive, looks appropriate in its location, and respects the market valuations of its nearby neighbors. There are no other criteria. This hot market is bound to produce new development requests, and I hope you’ll join me in fighting any development that doesn’t belong in our community.