Upzoned

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October 12, 2018  

Opportunity Zones, But for Whom?

If you’re plugged into the urbanist blogosphere, you’ve probably heard something about the new federal Opportunity Zones by now. And you might even think they sound pretty good. After all, anything that incentivizes investment in underserved areas sounds like a pretty good deal—and by eliminating capital gains taxes on new development in some of the poorest regions of your state, there’s no doubt that the money will come pouring in.

But Upzoned hosts Kea and Chuck aren’t so sure. Is a big bucket of money really what these neighborhoods need? Will outside developers really build the kind of locally responsive, fine-grained stuff that would make these towns strong and lift up the people who are already there? What would a better Opportunity Zones program look like—or is using a federal program to develop a neighborhood like steering an ocean liner with a canoe paddle?

And then in the Downzone, Chuck and Kea talk about their recent reads. Hear Chuck’s final thoughts on Mariana Mazzucato’s The Value of Everything, and get the behind-the-scenes scoop on Kea’s recent interview with author William Knoedelseder on his new book Fins: Harley Earl, The Rise of General Motors and the Glory Days of Detroit.

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October 5, 2018  

Failure and the Scientific Method

Failure is an essential part of the scientific method—negative results help us rule out erroneous theories and hone our understanding. And the value of an instructive failure is not limited to laboratory science. In all human endeavors, including city building, our missteps give us vital information that helps us do our work better next time around.

On this week’s Upzoned, Kea and Chuck discuss the New York Times article Congratulations. Your Study Went Nowhere.  The article deals with the phenomenon of publication bias in science: studies yielding negative results are less likely to be published and widely disseminated than those that appear to confirm their hypotheses, and this tendency can lead to bad science. Kea and Chuck take this and run with it, carrying on a broad philosophical conversation about why humans in all disciplines could stand to celebrate their failures instead of shying away from them. Then, in the downzone, Chuck gets a little weepy about seeing Hamilton with his family, and Kea discusses the Flint water crisis as it's portrayed in Michael Moore's new documentary, Farenheit 11/9.

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September 28, 2018  

House Flipping in the Rust Belt

Are house flippers exactly what the Rust Belt needs to recover from decades of systemic disinvestment, or a dangerous speculative game that fragile places shouldn’t be playing?

That’s what Kea and Chuck are talking about on this week’s Upzoned, and it’s a lively debate. Chuck, who lives in small-town Minnesota, is excited by the idea that ordinary people with a few basic home-repair skills can turn their sweat equity into a decent living while gently helping neighborhoods recover from decline. Kea, who grew up in Cleveland and Michigan and now owns and manages a handful of apartments in her new hometown of St. Louis, MO, is a little more cautious: she’s seen developers like the kind Chuck’s describing, but she’s seen far more flippers buy buildings en masse, do shoddy renovations, and transform neighborhoods in a way that’s far from gentle. And when cities give tax increment financing to help these speculative flippers do it even bigger, things can get even uglier.

Listen in to hear them hash it out, and dig into the arguments from Reuters's recent article, How Tech Jobs Helped Rust Belt Become House Flipping Hot Spot.  And then in the Downzone, Chuck and Kea talk about Extant, a sci-fi TV show that Chuck’s been bingeing, Chuck’s most recent read (The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by Maria Mazzucato), and Florida
by Lauren Groff, a collection of place-based short stories that Kea loved.

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September 21, 2018  

Big box stores think their tax bills should be lower. Are they right?

In Episode 2 of Upzoned from Strong Towns, Kea Wilson and Chuck Marohn discuss an article on big-box stores and the taxes they pay. Many of these companies argue that their taxes ought to be lower. Find out what we think of this argument.

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September 11, 2018  

Dams and Reservoirs Won’t Save Us

In the first episode of Upzoned, Kea and Chuck used this article from the Texas Observer as a springboard to talk about the challenges of meeting basic water needs in North Texas and other super-dry desert climates.

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