The Huffington Post has a great article up about this phenomenon titled 'Zombie Buildings': Are They The Next Economic Calamity? And its description of what has come to be in so many other parts of the country is also a cautionary tale about what almost happened here. Check this out and see if you don't agree:
While the overall U.S. financial system is showing signs of stability, a rapidly rising tide of troubled loans for commercial real estate threatens the survival of hundreds of the nation's small and medium-sized banks.
Financial reports this month from federal regulators and industry analysts detail a new cycle of uncertainty that they fear could cripple the economic recovery. Billions of dollars in commercial debt will have to be paid back or refinanced at a time when property values have plummeted. About $500 billion will come due in 2010 alone and an equal amount every year through at least 2012, according to the Federal Reserve.
Many banks that cater to regional and community developments were largely unscathed by the residential mortgage meltdown. But now they are facing huge numbers of possible defaults by builders who erected thousands of office buildings, condominiums and shopping centers with the easy credit available five years ago. With few tenants, those developments are turning into what industry insiders call zombie buildings.
Who knew that the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) was actually the Downtown Zombie Plan (DZP)?
You do know that the whole thing really was little more than a get rich quick scheme, right? Borrow a bunch of the cheap money that was flowing in vast mysterious quantities five years ago, throw up some generic condos and minimum wage nicknack shops using the same uninspired plans being used everywhere else, unload the paper on some other equally suicidal bank or investors, then take the money and run for wherever people like that go to live out their lives in grim excess. Excess portrayed locally in the contextual gaucheries of The Magazine.
Of course, what really happened here is the DSP attracted a lot of barely monied mediocrities who imagined themselves to be in-the-know big-a-shots getting in on something swanky. And that they were finally going to make the financial killing they'd always dreamed about. But in the end these eager chumps became little more than that unfortunate form of human annoyance called failed investors. And their whining and complaining is still with us today.
The sad irony here is that if more towns had done what we did in Sierra Madre, put a Measure V style initiative on the ballot and stopped the madness, this country wouldn't be facing quite the kind of financial crisis it is today. But the kind of greed and callous stupidity represented here by the DSP also happened in a lot of other places as well. Only there nobody stopped them.
And now this country is facing a form of blight far worse than it has ever seen before. A blight that will probably cost us over a trillion dollars in taxpayer money to overcome. The attack of the Zombie Buildings indeed.