From the BlogSubscribe

Prisoners of An Artificial Reality Want Hostages, Americans Want Something Else

When I make time for broadcast news, I am appalled. The product is increasingly unwatchable at a time when the need for insightful and brave analysis is at a premium. I feel like a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders these days, and asking what the hell is wrong, and what can we do to fix it? I had an interesting exchange about one thing that is wrong on Twitter today with writer, speaker and social media strategist Tara Hunt. She rightly noted how narcissism is a problem in brand communications. .@davidburn Many brands are afflicted with a level of narcissism that any human would be committed for.— Tara Hunt (@missrogue) October 8, 2013 Clearly, one big brand with a toxic level of narcissism running through its icy veins is the Republican Party. David Frum, writing for The Daily Beast neatly identifies "self-reinforcing media" as one reason why. Politicians sooner or later arrive at the point where they believe what they say. They have become … [Read more...]

Seeing Things Through A Seattle Scope

Since moving to Oregon in August 2008, I have had the extreme good fortune to spend my birthday celebrations with friends and family, mostly in pursuit of wine and food. This year, Darby and I motored to Seattle early on the 4th. After a morning business meeting and a light lunch on Capitol Hill, we checked in to Hotel Vintage Park (one of three Kimpton properties in the city), before walking over to Seattle Art Museum during First Thursday proceedings. Soon thereafter, the Newmans swooped in to pick us up for the much anticipated birthday dinner in Ballard. By the way, it is a real honor to travel to another great American city and enjoy a birthday dinner for eight. When we got to The Walrus and the Carpenter, a tiny room for Seattle's most popular oyster bar, we were told the wait would be two hours. Normally, that means one hour. On this night the hostess was a woman of her word. It took two hours and fifteen minutes to get seated. Thankfully, an accommodating bar … [Read more...]

Oregon City Can Do Better Than A New Mall. Right?

We moved from NE Portland to West Linn at the end of May and ever since we have been busy learning the area. I like to call it the South Shore, although I may be alone in that. Anyway, one of the things that stands out is the fact that West Linn and Oregon City, just across the river, both benefit from historic roots. In fact, it's what keeps these towns from being suburbs, in the classic "municipalities made possible by Eisenhower-era freeways" sense. Oregon City, of course, is the oldest city in Oregon. It's where the Oregon Trail reached its end, and the place where white settlers filed their land claims in the new American territory. Today, more than 60 buildings in downtown Oregon City are eligible for the National Historic Register. But it's clear that Oregon City needs help, as in economic development and urban renewal. It's times like these that it would pay to be a multimillionaire, because the opportunities to usher in a new era of responsible growth and revitalization are … [Read more...]

Majesty of Trees Ingrained In Seattle Company’s Work

Meyer Wells in Seattle builds modern furniture from reclaimed urban trees. The Seattle Times and The New York Times have both profiled the company in recent months. Although custom furniture builders are abundant in the region, Meyer Wells staked out a distinct territory: the big slab, furniture that bring the raw power of the environment indoors . The company harvests local urban trees doomed by development, disease or storm damage, and turn them into custom furniture, each piece a distinct botanical narrative. Meyer Wells has been profitable from the start and revenue has grown annually. There are now nine employees, and high-visibility clients like Starbucks and the University of Washington. The company also diversified its holding with Green Tree Mill, which provides builders with sustainable wood products. “I think our idealism is meeting with the demand to make buildings greener,” John Wells says. … [Read more...]

Real Estate Bust Leaves Arcitects Holding Their Nuts

"Buildings, too, are children of Earth and Sun." -Frank Lloyd Wright I work in an industry--marketing communications--that has taken a beating during the recession. But people who build brands for a living are not alone in these tough times. In fact, this Los Angeles Times article paints a dour picture for another design-centric profession. Architects, the exalted artists who design structures that will stand for generations, are feeling a lot less glamorous these days. When people look back, there will be few signature buildings on the country's metropolitan skylines to point to that were built in the years around 2010, said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects. The AIA's measurement of commercial real estate work that architects have on their boards is at a low ebb, a 40% decline since late 2008. "You need to go back to the Great Depression to see something of this magnitude," Baker said. Employment at the nation's architecture firms has dropped … [Read more...]

A Brave Man Speaks His Highly Unflattering Truth

SEATTLE—Out-spoken and fearless urban planning expert, social critic, author and journalist James Howard Kunstler is a man on a mission. He wants to shake the American people awake with his special brand of righteous anger, and tonight he’s on stage in a grand ballroom at the Westin to do just that. Kunstler is here to deliver the opening keynote at Living Future 2010, "the unconference for deep green professionals" put on by Cascadia Region Green Building Council, a chapter of the U.S.G.B.C. (and my wife's employer). Kunstler is an interesting choice to open the unconference, for he is a rabble-rouser of epic proportions. He says, “People call me a ‘doomer,’ but I call myself an actualist.” One of the things he’s being “actual” about is suburbia, which he says is “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” Kunstler says, “We’ve invested our identity in this. Suburbia is part of the American dream.” Kunster claims the suburban … [Read more...]

Portland Developer Looking To Green Buildings For Future Profits

The Oregonian is running a feature on Gerding Edlen Development Co., one of Oregon’s biggest real estate companies, and its CEO, Mark Edlen. Between 2002 and 2009, Gerding Edlen built 3,200 condos valued at $1.6 billion. Naturally, that didn't work out too well for anyone. The article goes into all the juicy details of investor losses and bank repos, but that's not the part I'm interested in. This is: With the condo boom over, Edlen is trying to reposition the company to be the national leader in green building makeovers. The green economy is in. Gerding Edlen's strategy is to buy completed or partly finished buildings at bargain prices, retrofit them with state-of-the-art energy-efficient technology and then either sell the buildings or hold them and lease them out. Edlen is convinced sustainable building has finally arrived as a viable business strategy, thanks in part to the Obama administration's view of the green economy as one of the country's primary economic … [Read more...]

One of Portland’s Primary Principles: We’re Not California

One of the charming aspects of life in the Portland Metro is this not little thing called the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). It's a line beyond which, "the city" can't go. According to Eric Mortenson of The Oregonian, Portland's elected regional government known as Metro--which serves more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties--believes the Portland area can grow by one million more residents over the next 20 years, without pushing the UGB beyond its current dimensions. Michael Jordan, Metro's chief operating officer, said Tuesday at the Metro Council meeting that the region can buffer prime farmland and preserve key natural areas while providing land for the projected newcomers and for the additional jobs they will need. Jordan laid out his recommendations backed by a 3-inch stack of studies, charts and maps compiled by planners during the past two years. Among the findings: There are 15,000 acres of vacant, buildable land within the current … [Read more...]

What I Would Do With A Million Dollars

Luzon Building, downtown Tacoma If you're a real estate investor with a penchant for saving important old buildings, the city of Tacoma needs you. According to Tacoma News Tribune, The Luzon Building at 13th & Pacific in downtown Tacoma is one of two remaining West Coast buildings designed by famed Chicago architects Daniel Burnham and John Root. The unoccupied structure is being offered for sale for $400,000. Yes, it needs repairs. Burnham and Root were pioneering designers of some of Chicago’s first high-rises. After Root’s death, Burnham designed such monumental structures as Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and several buildings at the Chicago World’s Fair. … [Read more...]