A Sunday morning ON THE AVENUES encore: “Upscale residency at down-low prices.”

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The ON THE AVENUES column from 2015 reprinted here came to mind as I was reading about grassroots initiatives in Akron.

In Akron: “City hall is listening to small businesses, neighborhood groups and outside experts.”

Here in New Albany, “business of residency” was an upscale Gahanesque buzz phrases for roughly ten minutes during an election year, soon to be discarded by anchor tattoos and supplanted by the mayor’s hostile takeover of public housing, or, “the business of non-residency,” at least for those stubbornly resisting Dear Leader’s vision of upscale living for those capable of regular campaign finance installments.

Nature abhors a moron …
— HL Mencken

… except in New Albany.
— Roger A. Baylor

February 19, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Upscale residency at down-low prices.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

“I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.”
– Kanye West, seeking a position in the New Albany economic development hierarchy

Previously in this space, we’ve examined the Gahan administration’s recurring vocabulary malfunction.

Who even knew that Dr. Pavlov had an office in the Elsby Building?

Obviously desperate to avoid revisiting uncomfortable days of yore in junior high, when the former Marine Corps drill instructor Mr. Buzzkilljoy required they memorize the precise meaning of words in the English language and regurgitate these definitions on demand, city officials in New Albany now delight in the deployment of banal and indeterminate code phrases suitable only for the approbation of the ever-eager stenographer cadre.

Quality of life, public safety and better access have been the most consistently overused of these meaningless bromides, and we await the inevitable resurrection of classic Orwellian gems of doublethink as local Democratic Party campaign slogans:

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
When You Wish Upon A Star/Makes No Difference Who You Are

Oops – sorry.

That last one obviously serves as the credo of the Redevelopment Commission, and any connection with the DemoDisneyDixiecrats is purely Dickeyensian.

Make a wish, blow out the candles, and welcome a new addition to the Gahan team’s tired lexicon.

Upscale.

Exactly what is meant by the word “upscale”? It might depend on one’s socioeconomic vantage point (rats, a penalty is assessed to me for using a seven syllable word within the city limits), but here is the dictionary’s point of view.

up•scale
ˌəpˈskāl/
adjective & adverb

NORTH AMERICAN

adjective: upscale; adverb: upscale

toward or relating to the more expensive or affluent sector of the market.

“Hawaii’s upscale boutique hotels”

synonyms: deluxe, posh, ritzy, upper-class, classy, chi-chi; high-end, expensive, high-priced

Upscale is trending because just last week, in a grudgingly reluctant process akin to tapping maple trees and collecting sap, information about the proposed Coyle site development began seeping ever so slowly from City Hall’s propaganda directorate, located deep within the bowels of the Down Low Bunker.

But first, kindly note the irony.

Among other Gahan initiatives, some randomly sensible and others fully befitting the sort of vision generally experienced in the tuneless strumming of a Jimmy Buffett cover band, only the dormant-by-design Speck Downtown Street Network Plan both contextualizes and (perhaps, maybe, possibly) justifies the city’s involvement in the Coyle infill apartment project.

Naturally, while Gahan and his vacuous minions continue to treat the Speck proposals as though they were paper envelopes filled with free-range ricin, the announcement of “upscale” apartments was owned and groomed and feted by them like a Saudi sheik’s first-born thoroughbred, proving yet again that they are the very worst civic actors in recent memory.

John Mattingly was positively Shakespearean by comparison … or maybe it was Sicilian.

To reiterate, the major selling point of the Coyle site proposal thus far seems to rest on the undefined shoulders of that magic word.

Upscale.

The usage is intended to animate the extension of the pinky at a right angle from one’s grip of the ice-cold Bud Light longneck, to be wiggled while purring like a socialite:

“Not like those low-income housing credits, honey buns.”

Conceding that detailed plans haven’t yet found their way to NA Confidential, the problem is that early indicators like last week’s project drawings simply don’t speak to “upscale” at all, at least when the accepted meaning of words is respected. In fact, the proposed buildings don’t look appreciably different than ordinary blocks of middle class flats I’ve seen in dozens of European cities and more than a few American ones, too.

Regular reader W was specific.

When I think upscale, I think apartment balconies and patios should be deeper than the windows are wide. Just room enough for an 8″ hibachi grill, maybe? The upscale apartment dwellers won’t be able to sit in a lawn chair and enjoy the traffic zooming by on such a tiny sliver of concrete. That’s quality of life?

Ah, but we’re still waiting on that particular definition, aren’t we?

The stacked, multi-story exterior staircases look deadly as well – “upscale” doesn’t include secure elevators? Look at the end of the building, with the lovely, open air staircases.

“Hello, ‘upscale’ apartment tenant, climb the stairs with your bags of groceries that you had to drive somewhere to buy because there are no grocery stores near your ‘upscale’ apartments.”

Oh, I know, all of these “upscale” tenants will eat out every night, because the tenants are just “better” – after all, they live in “upscale” apartments.

Walk up, multi-story flats aren’t exactly upscale. Do you want people from the street to able to climb the stairs up to your front door and wait for you to come home when you’re paying high end, “upscale” rent? What we’re being told and what we’re seeing doesn’t add up.

Regrettably, math class posed its own grave difficulties, especially when all you wanted to do was go outside and play baseball.

The many differences between wishful-star-related thinking and hard reality also were sadly prominent the last time the city struck up a full-Sousa soundtrack and pledged fealty to a private, for-profit construction entity, this being Mainland’s ill-fated Riverview project, circa 2011-12.

Since then, there have been two major themes in what the mayor enjoys tidily euphemizing as “the business of residency” – and no, this phrase hasn’t been defined yet, either.

First, council creatures Bob Caesar and Kevin Zurschmiede would rather see a building collapse of its own neglect and/or grandiosely self-immolate than acquiesce in the consideration of low-income housing tax credits in its refurbishment.

Second, private developers like Matt Chalfant are pursuing living space rehabs without substantive financial incentivization based on a profit vs. loss instinct that looks disturbingly like capitalism.

What of City Hall’s “business of residency”? Let’s go to Bluegill for the coda.

The only thing the Gahan/Duggins administration has proven particularly adept at so far is giving away massive amounts of public money to developers and corporations. This is just part and parcel.

If (developers) want to take on the risk and build within the existing rules that locals have to follow, they can build. We shouldn’t be subsidizing them, especially given the many, more productive uses for local money. Honestly, we need to get over the whole upscale, raising property values gambit and all the trickle down approaches to it. You know who most cares if property values rise? People planning on taking money from the community and/or borrowing against it to go into more debt. It’s just repeating the same cycle.

The only way to stop the concession extraction is to say no to concessions. Unfortunately, our current ED has spent his career doing little except for offering concessions. That’s true, though, of the entire Democratic Party hereabouts. It’s going to be especially funny if the Gahan administration tries to use a big handout as justification for better streets, making it about the developer rather than residents.

Is it time for an addition to A New Albanist’s Dictionary?*

Upscale
An imported construction project pursued with our own municipal funds, as opposed to state and federal low income housing tax credits, as standing in sharp contrast with the dilapidated condition of surrounding neighborhoods, which have been down so long that it looks like up to them.

Not that they’ll ever read one.

* Volume One and Volume Two

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