I took a self-guided tour of Pabst Farms in Feb/March, around the time of the last snow. This could be a suburban slum
Pay particular attention to the last twelve (mostly caption-free) shots. This little Towne Centre collection of empty store-fronts is an brutal commentary on suburban sprawl gone wrong. Roll the mouse over and click on the rectangular thingy in the lower left corner for the captions on the photos.
Several months back I posted a piece about Toll Brothers, a big east coast (Horsham, Pennsylvania) builder/developer. They are in the kind of serious financial distress that needs only a few more months of recession to do them in.
The principal reason for their dire straits was reported as partially completed work on developments
, combined with options they had purchased on land for ever more development. That is the bane of anyone with big plans for "build out," based on rosy scenarios for the future of a real estate boom.
Locally, the general partners in Oconomowoc (and, presumably, lots of limited partners) committed huge amounts of capital to purchasing the raw land, surveying it, platting it, greasing the slow-turning wheels of government, creating marketing hype, bulldozing, laying sewer and water pipe, paving/curbing, advertising, lining up "preferred" builders, creating synergy through allied development of a hospital, a research park, and a bunch of corporate warehouses, And the real biggie-- snagging an adjacent Harley Davidson dealership. Then they had to cook up their naming schema (shops
neatly tucked into a Towne Centre),
and the evanescent promise of a regional shopping mall--a destination mall--
with "high end"
anchors (we don't need no stinkin' WalMarts, contaminating our Bon Ton
-like and Lord and Taylor-
). And, of course finagling a $25 million interchange on Interstate 94
to funnel customers into their subdivision and mall.
Once a project like Pabst Farms gets rolling, it needs to stay on a pretty quick, well-disciplined pace . If, heaven forfend, the untimely bursting of a real estate bubble intrudes, the general partners are in trouble. And their biggest trouble often comes from the clamoring of all those limited partners who put up much of the capital. These are, typically, country club fat cats, lots of orthopedists and plastic surgeons, professionals who have big incomes and are desperate for a sweet tax dodge. They have--in the usual scenario-- put up lots of money; they expect, in return, their share of the huge (dare we call them inflated?) expenses of the developers, including the marketing hype
. When things slow down and there's little operating cash from the sale of lots, the general partners have to scramble, go back to the limited partners for cash infusions.
Pabst Farms is very likely in the unfortunate situation of being stuck right in the middle. They really can't justify continuing to lay sewer and water pipe, pave, plat and market overpriced vacant lots ($110 thousand and up, assessed value) in phase two and phase three. They are still trying to get some return on investment from the sale of the last of the lots in the low-rent, and --frankly, cheesy--Phase One. Meanwhile they,the developers, have to pay real estate taxes on the lots that sit there unsold.
As soon as they switch from corn to platted/ready-to-build-on lots in phase 2 and phase 3, they are out of low-tax farming and into high tax subdivision territory. How high? The taxes one pays on a 1/3 acre lot valued by the assessor at $110,000. Continuing to plant corn on most of the Pabst Farms acreage is nothing more than a weak attempt to hold off a looming day of reckoning.
And all that costly-though-tax-deductible Everything Else Is Just Another Subdivision
marketing hype, going back to 2003 and before, is beginning to fade in the sun, just like the signs for Interlaken.
That's the name of Phase Three out at The Farms
, a phase that looks more like a hallucination than a real possibility.
Update: Drove by PF last week. No more subdivision development. They're planting--YOU GUESSED IT--corn, lotsa corn.
With the shortages of enlisted troops, my guess is that the Armed Forces of the US have been paying scant attention to training for the coordinated withdrawal of all those people and all that gear.