Perspective on Real Estate

September 4, 2002

September 11, 2002

September 18, 2002

Live and learn from an atrocity

I'll interrupt my series on real estate to introspect on the consequences of Sept. 11, 2001.

At the Urban Land Institute, one of the most popular programs has always been "lessons learned," which has something to do with every project through which any builder, developer, investor or buyer travels. Experience is the best teacher; there are no short cuts. Therefore, as I search the lessons learned from Sept. 11 I think of the following:

To pay attention to location as it may pertain to vulnerability of danger -- therefore insurance and risk. Do related industries have to collect at concentrated areas and buildings? Yet we know that the marketplace is usually the study of like industries and where they prefer to be, and how they might prosper better in more concentrated marketplaces in particular locations. Think of shopping centers and you get the idea. Does that mean a tall WTC-type building or does that make too easy a target for the crazies?

I don't believe it's the height, but rather the statement and destruction the fanatic means to make -- like the Pentagon, an aircraft carrier or the Capitol building -- height is not the criterion.

Growth areas are locations in which employment factors wish to locate. This has been the Sunbelt because people love to be warm, even when skiing. So the key places of growth will remain California, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, the Carolinas and Virginia; do not overlook the Mountain States and Nevada. If danger and threat persist, more smaller places will prosper, because psychology plays a large value in our decision making. Read Joel Kotkin's excellent book "The New Geography" for better explanation.

Tyranny in the name of environmentalism or protectionism is still tyranny. It takes a disciplined commitment to be dedicated to liberty for all, regardless of race, religion or sexual persuasion. Fear is a rotten enemy and an even more rotten motivation.

Watching formerly forgotten uniformed policemen and firemen rush up the stairways while others were trying to escape downward sends a message that the "Golden Rule" is a powerful spiritual ethic only when it is practiced. Heroes are most frequently in disguise, and rise from atrocity and accident in the most unexpected manner. And then they motivate all of us with the glory and power of selflessness.

Good business and profitability are not the cancellation of either ethical behavior or the Golden Rule. I do not care how much a builder deserves to make a full profit, or a banker deserves to gain extra points or a full interest rate, or cities need special taxes when this means that a significant percentage of the population is deprived of any opportunity to gain decent rental or equity shelter. It is selfishness and that is that.

Learn that cooperation and mutual reaching outside the traditional lines can ignite more good than all the trade organizations protecting their turf, or political "animals" trying to be elected.

I believe that what we witnessed on Sept. 11 was the "sinking" of another Titanic, thought impregnable -- in fact, not even thought of as a target of the criminally religious. We now are aware that all Americans are targets, for there is no conscience in the minds or values of the ultra-holier-than-us.

There must be a spiritual resonance in each of us, not seeking whom to blame, but rather how to protect our dream, the spirit of liberty and its practice.

Perhaps we have learned that spiritual values are more important than conspicuous consumption, that religion is not which deity but how marvelous human nature can be when it is kind, sensitive and responsive to a stranger's pain or deprivation.

The next World Trade Center should be a living organism, a memorial to all good that is possible in a global society, so that economic vitality rewards both marketplace and society. This is what I have learned.

Goodkin is president of Ackman-Ziff-Goodkin, an international real estate adviser and strategist, and has been a housing analyst since 1956. He can be reached at

September 4, 2002

September 11, 2002

September 18, 2002