The firm’s Northeast Ohio office in Cleveland recently expanded its quarterly report on Akron’s real estate market to a “Skyline Report,” as it does for Cleveland,
Why did Trump win the election?
Dear Fellow Quorans,
James is a good friend of many years. I thought you’d enjoy reading his answer to this question.
He also used to use our home as his SF base of operations and supported Tom and me during my ‘dark’ time. He’s also the most brilliant retail/ shopping/lifestyle/ town center designer I know.
He designed the retail portion of the Venetian Hotel in Vegas, Watertower place in Chicago, and many other renown shopping destinations all over the world.
Oh, he’s another gay man doing good work in the USA! Haha
Feel free to share with your friends. Especially those still on the fence re LGBT ️ rights/marriage etc..
Here is James answer;
“I’ve spent the last several days talking some close friends down since the election.
Some of the angst is justified….especially on the potential for civil rights reversal, but a lot of it is misplaced. Here’s why.
Let’s face it. Many of us live in bubbles and don’t always have such great perspectives, and I say this as a man who works disturbingly long hours to afford to live in a stupidly expensive, amenity-filled place, brimming with convenience and activity.
With love to many fiends who rightfully have a concern that part of Trump’s voters seem to want a return to a social order that subjugates some our citizens into second class status; That battle may lie before us, and let’s not forget that and redouble efforts to protect those rights.
However, I see this differently.
Yes, Trump wanted to win and vanquish his opponents playing a game he is uniquely skilled at, but to have won at the level he did is because he spoke to a huge part of America that isn’t ‘deplorable’.
They’re suffering and anxious and frustrated.
They want decent jobs, and their home towns a sense of dignity restored. Some revival….some hope that the some of that affluence we have on the coasts and in the more stable cities would flow their way. It’s not just promises of new jobs…it’s a sense that they’ve been abandoned.
And they have….some for a long time.
As most of you know, I work in the field of architecture and urban design, and America is a treasure of natural beauty and charming places..some big, and countless small towns and cities. Many contain architectural wonders from a time long past, and sadly, an economy that left them behind and abandoned.
Through my work and travel, I’ve been afforded the great privilege of getting a perspective few of us experience.
Many times, I pull off the interstates…and drive into these towns only seen on a map.
Damn…we built some amazing places…and few of us ever appreciate them. I often look and walk around these towns, taking pictures..imagining what this place was once like at its zenith, sometime before urban renewal chewed parts of the them down, the malls emptied them out, and the local factories went silent.
Oftentimes, that was decades ago.
I get mocked at times by friends here on the coast for saying ‘so, you’re off to the hinterlands again? Have a good time’, in a sort of sarcastic lilt.
I get it…they have no reason to go to such places, or ‘escaped’ them long ago. Many who left found many of these towns culturally unwelcoming…but that is also changing.
Trump won handily in these places and their home states.
I’ve had the great fortune to visit so many, and are still home to numerous, wonderful people who often made me feel welcome.
Charleston, Wheeling and Huntington WV.
Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Allentown, Lancaster, Erie, Washington, Altoona and Harrisburg, PA.
Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica, NY.
Almost ever small city in Ohio, from Dayton to Zanesville to Steubenville to Toledo….you name it.
Ft Wayne, Logansport, and Terre Haute, Indiana.
Peoria, Decatur and Springfield, IL.
Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Jackson, MI.
Racine, Janesville and Eau Claire, WI
I’ve been through some others for no reason other than to see them.
Texarkana Texas/Ark…a completely abandoned downtown…filled with buildings I wish I could pick up and move elsewhere before they’re rotted and gone.
East St Louis IL looks like it went through World War II.
St Joseph, MO has some amazing architecture.
The Quad cities in Iowa/IL…..each with their own downtown and neighborhoods you couldn’t afford to replicate today.
….and many more than I can list here.
These places….are all quietly amazing.
You can see vestiges of wealth that built them…filled with beautiful, old…amazing buildings and homes.
If they were in Seattle, Austin, SF, Portland, Princeton, L.A., San Diego or any of the numerous hot spots in the economy, they would be filled with one percenters, techies, finance firms, or start ups…living and working in them…and would cost a fortune.
Yet beautiful, old and abandoned towns and buildings don’t get investment in places that are economically struggling.
It breaks your heart.
None of this should be as abandoned like it is. You don’t see wholesale cities and towns empty like this anywhere else in the world.
Not to the extent America has it. It says a lot about our priorities.
I’ve have friends from overseas marvel that our Main Streets and towns feel so empty. They can’t understand it and often I explain that many of these towns were built around a few core industries that left, we’re outsourced, or whose products were no longer were needed.
Yet, many people still live there. They have to.
Their families and support networks are there, or there’s just not the resources or opportunity to go elsewhere.
Even if they do, some people have rough time adjusting to new places….it takes time to rebuild the social infrastructure of one’s life.
I’ve lived in nine different cities, so take my word on that.
I drive through their downtowns and the old neighborhoods…many still in good shape, a lot on the edge of despair. A few are just gone…..without any rational way of being restored.
Some of the bigger towns like Buffalo are seeing a resurgence, but the factories, mills and places that made it are never going to be replaced with new industry at the same scale, and like Detroit, St Louis, or Newark…they’re half the size they once were. It costs a fortune to uphold a city that is too big for itself. Parks, schools and streets are not cheap to maintain, but they’re also big enough places with extensive infrastructure that can be ‘re-invented’.
It’s the smaller towns that hit me.
What happened in these places has been a slow motion disaster that has no easy answer and needs the equivalent of a ‘Marshall Plan’ to save.
In these hollowed out towns, the biggest employers now are the hospitals, maybe a university….and the rest of the jobs? There are few white collar professions, and most are service or retail and don’t pay what is needed to live on, even at $15 an hour. The tiny farm towns suffer from heroin addiction, and tax bases that can’t support decent schools, infrastructure, senior centers or health services.
Take that all into account and it’s really not a shock that a crude, bombastic, wealthy reality TV star, with his glitzy real estate projects and trophy wife collection….telling them he’s got the solution, and is going to reverse all those trade deals and bring back jobs and build things……is going to sell a whole lot better than a political technocrat…who may know the numbers and the actual reality, but cannot connect or really offer anything more than ‘programs’ which never seem to happen or work for those that need them.
What do you do with Dayton, or Huntington, or Flint? They can’t dry up and blow away…or can they? It seems a lot of us have no issue with that idea. Trump won in these areas because he gave the people in these small, struggling towns and cities something to believe in…even if many of us think it’s hot air and promises.
Here’s another fact. There are hell of a lot more Toledos, Akrons, Elkharts, and Wheelings than there are big tech towns and affluent cities…and although they don’t represent the majority population, they are too numerous to ignore. We’ve got to figuring out ways to give these places a chance to thrive….because if automation and robotics already wiped out how many countless jobs in these places…..what happens to a lot of the rest of us when A.I. starts wiping out the professions that uphold the upmarket economies on each of the coasts?
And if we don’t start figuring out how to help these other places, there’s not a lot of hope we’ll fare any better when that starts to happens, and it’s coming..believe me on this. The business world is salivating over the potential cost savings this new age will bring…since their job is to make money. Nothing more. You saw what happened after 2008. Altruism and community were not part of the equation when it came to severely retracting economy and as soon as companies could offshore and or automate jobs, they did. Our productivity levels have since soared….and yet very few decent playing jobs that are not in health care, tech or finance came out of this latest economic recovery. Those who lost their homes in these towns saw first hand the insidious sham that the ‘mortgage bailout’ was.
Investor pools eventually got most of the homes or they sit, rotting and abandoned.
I’ve often…too many times to count…thought of leaving Los Angeles for somewhere..a lot less expensive (a decent 2br place in central L.A. Is now almost $3k a month!)…and start over, but at mid age, with responsibilities that don’t transfer easily, and clients who value face time…well…that’s an another ‘essay’.
I’m also not willing, yet…to make that move.
I’ll be honest. As much as I extort their virtues, I culturally don’t feel all that welcome in these smaller towns. That is something these places must start to work on; accepting the diversity of a people who’d consider moving there who sometimes look, think, act or pray differently than maybe what’s there now. Welcoming such people might help to revive these places on a level that would make a real difference.
Also, it’s hard to move to one of these places when you’ve become used to, if not built your life around almost virtual, if not adjacent convenience.
There are not going to be coffee shops that stay open until 11 pm, selling $4 lattes and artisan treats, next to my walkable neighborhood of old building or houses where I fantasize my ‘loft’ would be.
There are often no bookshops where I can browse for hours, eclectic cafes or restaurants, or art supply stores. Often there is only a regional airport with (fantastically expensive) connections to the hubs to get back to the cities for work…..or the numerous other amenities I’ve come to rely on that just come with solid populations and high paying jobs.
The national chain stores and restaurants are also few and far between….and believe me, I’ve often advocated for their reps to look differently at these places. Yet, they insist on building drive up and drive-through places in such areas….built to maximize profit…and in the process, diminish community.
That’s what their customers want…which is why every one of these towns has a strip mall row..mostly centered near the big box stores, the WalMart, Kmart or almost dead mall.
The older shops are often filled with check cashing places, buy-to-rent furniture, dollar stores, county health care clinics, start-up churches and fast food places, and to see it so often is soul deadening.
I’ve had numerous discussions with people about investing into a few of these towns…trying to figure out a way of restoring some aspects. Banks and Investor groups want safe and easy returns and that is not going to change anytime soon. Add in any form of government subsidies, and the whole game becomes a cluster of red tape and sub-interests, all looking for their ‘cut’, and again…..all those nice amenities won’t survive without the very thing that these places don’t have….good paying jobs.
That’s why Trump won. He spoke to their hopes…however faint we may believe they are. It’s why America feels foreign today to some of us. Take a trip into this other America. It’s as real as any of the big affluent towns and to see it, you’ll soon understand many of these people blew off the racism, misogyny, bigotries, stereotypes and countless other things said, because they heard him speak about hope for their lives, livelihoods and towns.
White collar professions, high tech, open air offices with your bike and dog, microbreweries, fancy coffee shops, expensive boutiques, farm to table sidewalk cafes and multiple bids on your condo are a fantasy belonging to a world these people feel left them behind, and sometimes mock them for it.
If you read this all the way through, I give you credit and please grade my syntax and grammar on a curve of sleep deprivation and a meh mood, and know that you have too much time on your hands. 😉
To my friends who are struggling with the outcome….take heart.
No electoral swing lasts long, and in the interim, we have a lot of work to do….and I hope this gives you an understanding of where some of us might begin. “