16.5.16

AVERAGING ONE HORSE AND ONE RABBIT.

Strong Towns contemplates the tax yield on the Iron Range, as realized from a big-box store and a district of small stores.
When it comes to cities, however, we tend to judge the success of land development on a miles per tank basis, not a miles per gallon. In other words, we tend to favor policies that result in properties with a high value per parcel rather than a high value per acre.

For example, the Walmart in Grand Rapids [Minnesota] is assessed at $10.4 million. There's a lot of money in that tank, which is why we tend to look at it as a really valuable piece of property. However, it sits on 156 acres of land. On a per gallon basis, the way productivity of efficiency would generally be measured, the Walmart is worth $12.63 per square foot.

Let's look downtown at Frame Up, the art gallery in the little one story building on 1st Avenue. On a per tank basis, it doesn't really compare to Walmart. The property is only assessed at $68,000. However, on a per gallon basis, that little art gallery is three times as productive with a value of $37.36 per square foot.

Put another way, if Grand Rapids had developed the Walmart site with small little shops the size of Frame Up instead of one big store, that acreage would be worth $30.8 million and generate three times the tax revenue for essentially the same amount of public expense. Of course, a site developed at that scale would never have that many of the same building type. If would have a mix of small-scale buildings and be developed with a more incremental approach.
Efficiency, however, is the identification and realization of gains from trade.  Perhaps a community comprising only art galleries and artisanal food stores can be sustainable.  On the other hand, the midwest may have enough Cedarburgs and Galenas already.

Would your answer be any different if the small businesses were resale shops, nail salons, dollar stores and all the other signals of lumpenproletarianization in your town?

Let's push the inquiry further.  What is the tax yield per square foot of an open-pit iron mine, or a beneficiating plant?  What rents are present in the assessment of industrial properties?

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