Land Economics

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Instructors:
A. Albert Taubman
Glen LeRoy
Martin Schwartz
Fall 2010

Course Description:
This course focused on issues of “land economics,” the process of determining the highest and best use of land, a key concept at the core of real estate development. This concentration was supported by the study of other related issues including the role of architects and architecture in the development process, architecture as an investment, and how value is added to property. The principles the govern the evaluation of land, the idea of the “highest and best use,” and other factors that generate good development decisions were examined through lectures, case studies, readings, discussion, and assignments.

Reading List:
Threshold Resistance by A. Alfred Taubman
Concise Townscape by Gordon Cullen
Real Estate Development: Principles and Process by Gayle Berens
Professional Real Estate Development: The ULI Guide to the Business by Richard B. Peiser

Guest Lecturers:
Rafael Vinoly
Eugene Kohn
Ken Walker
Michael Graves

Semester Project:
Bloomfield Park Redevelopment

Course Reflection:
The Land Economics course was technically called Real Estate Practice and fulfilled one of the architectural electives in the graduate curriculum. This particular semester was unique because the LTU College of Architecture and Design provided students with the opportunity for A. Alfred Taubman, philanthropist and development guru, to teach the course as an “honorary professor”. Mr. Taubman appropriately renamed the course Land Economics to better relate to the course content. Several employees and consultants from the Taubman Company assisted with the course by presented case studies of their companies recent developments throughout the United States. Typical lectures instructed on the various development typologies, site selection, development design and arrangement, project feasibility, construction, and marketing. These topics were very informative and thorough, and while I will be likely to use this information in the future, the significant learning moments for me took place during the informal discussions with Mr. Taubman and his employees as well as from the notable guest lecturers.

Though the various case studies presented in the lectures, I learned much more about the financial and political factors that affect development. A particular example that stuck out to me was how a current development’s design in Salt Lake City, Utah had to be adapted to the likings of the local religious stakeholders. It was also intriguing to learn about the science of locating stores and developments based on purchasing and shopping patterns. This gave me better insight on how to design for the convenience and the eye of the consumer. Mr. Taubman’s book Threshold Resistance gives advice on how to design and transform businesses, as well as architecture, to be more inviting- to eliminate or diminish the threshold. Gordon Cullen’s book Concise Townscape also influenced how I view the design of developments, but from a more urban perspective. Cullen’s book talks about the concept of “serial vision,” which I had never learned about prior. The idea of strategically creating emerging, or even teasing, views in the line of sight in order to guide circulation a specific way and evoke constant interest is something I will continue to address as I move forward in my design career. I now have a better understand of why the developments I encounter are designed the way they are; why certain stores are in certain developments and why they are located in their specific location within the development. Should I ever design a development that includes retail, this course’s value will be extremely significant.

One of the aspects I appreciate the most about the course was the opportunity to meet and be taught by some of the famous guest speakers Mr. Taubman arranged for. Each speaker presented a public lecture for the school, but the group of students in this class had the extra benefit of spending time with the speaker during the actual class time as well. Rafael Vinoly, Eugene Kohn, Kenneth Walker, and Michael Graves all presented to us, and more notably spoke to us candidly regarding their views on the profession. They all expressed a true passion for architecture while also highlighting specific challenges they face with the profession and with some of their individual projects. This was a very rewarding bonus to the course.

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