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Terrapin Landing: Another View

Adding a major cultural amenity to a town hurts some but benefits more.

Last month, to surprising response, I. Would the town of 7,319 have the capacity to absorb enough of the traffic, noise and other potentially negative impacts to balance the benefits the new concert hall might bring? How bad would it be for residents of Claus Circle, the residential street closest to the new hall.

The issue produced a lively back-and-forth among commenters, who seemed to be divided into three camps: the Claus Circle residents, who were understandably concerned, having purchased a home in the shadow of a grocery store only to find it morphing into a nightclub; second were civic boosters, insisting that the new business would be a positive; third were Deadheads, who I’ve learned take any perceived jab at their favorite band very personally. Were it Billie Joe Armstrong or Lars Ulrich and not Phil Lesh building a nightclub in Fairfax, you have to wonder how it would play to camp #3.

This month, I’m going to address the second group, the civic boosters. The Claus Circle people have legitimate concerns. Unfortunately for them, the greater good might have to prevail here. Cultural amenities -- be they museums, theaters or live music venues -- are good for property values. No matter if Phil’s shows empty the remaining communes dotting the Western Marin countryside or if he books Michael Buble, the addition of a significant cultural attraction – like a live music venue – is good for property values.

And the fact that it’s Lesh (not “Phil,” I don’t know him personally) who’s behind the new concern, named – surprise! – after a Dead song, might actually increase those values even more; his hippie ethos suggests that his shows will be more accessible to moderate and low-income residents than entertainment booked by Bill Graham Presents.

“Local availability of cultural amenities can have significant impacts on property values,” says Economist Stephen Sheppard of Williams College, in Buying into Bohemia: the Impact of Cultural Amenities on Property Values, a 2010 study completed by the Massachusetts-based Center for Creative Community Development (C3D). “They must,” he continues, “be combined with policies that ensure continued access to the community for low- and moderate-income renters.”

The concept of art improving a neighborhood is not new. Traditionally, it has been the artists who’ve reclaimed blighted urban neighborhoods, followed (at a safe distance) by young professionals and, finally, families. This is the formula used by wastelands turned hot neighborhoods like Manhattan’s SOHO and San Francisco’s Hayes Valley.

The impact of cultural amenities in small towns and suburbs is not as dramatic, but it’s inarguable – as long as the amenities in question are accessible to local residents. Buying Into Bohemia suggests that this access can be capitalized, as local residents will save money on transportation to cultural events, sometimes receive ticket discounts aimed at locals and learn of events they might have missed, were they not in their front yard.

Using hedonic models and focusing on 11 Massachusetts towns, the C3D determined that cultural amenities’ impact on property values are directly tied to per capita expenditures on the arts. Measurables vary from city to city but the bottom line is the same: spend the money, make the money. And spend it wisely.

Right now, there is a . Residents’ concerns are similar to those facing Phil Lesh in Fairfax: traffic, parking and noise. A single-screen movie theater – if that’s what they’re planning – will not impact a community as much as a live music venue. It will, in the long run, also benefit property values, however minutely.

I’m not saying that the residents of Claus Circle should suck it up and deal with the changes. Their situation is very different from that of the community as a whole. And I’m not saying that Lesh’s proposal should be rammed through because his affiliation with the Grateful Dead somehow captures the “spirit” of the “real” Fairfax. I’m saying that the benefits of such an addition to the community might outweigh the costs.

Claus Res May 23, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Larry, Thank you for keeping the topic alive. I heard recently from some Willow Street residents that Phil tried to put the venue at the old Albertsons where Good Earth is moving and it got shot down for all the same reasons we don't want it but our neighborhood is smaller and has less people to fight it... Have you heard anything about that? Also has anything been done, we keep hearing this is a "done deal" from employees of Good Earth and people employed by the city of Fairfax but the city/town council itself says nothing has been set this is all rumor. While I do think it would be great to walk to a venue that has great bands I am concerned by another “rumor” that has been flying around, the plan is to “only have 50” concerts a year and if the venue brings in too many people they would also use the Pavilion, I could only imagine the excitement the town officials have seeing the $$$ coming in for that. Seems like with 50 events per year we are going to have a year round Fairfax Festival, which is a great time but not every weekend…
McKgirl May 23, 2011 at 04:43 PM
I think there's a fourth camp that I am included in and I know from talking to others that I am not alone. My concern is the opposite of the third camp you mentioned. I have no problem with the Dead or their music, it's what follows them. I don't like the idea of Shakedown Street popping up in the parkade. Hundreds of followers setting up shop in the parking lot of Fairfax Market to sell their t-shirts, bumper stickers, veggie burritos and other "edibles," pipes , etc. This is something that Lesh has know control over. If they play, they will come. As an artist myself, I love the bohemian aspect of this project and our town, but when you are talking about the Dead or members of the Dead there is a whole other aspect that you have to look at. It's not just the concert goers, it's the parking lot scene and personally, I don't want that scene to be a permanent fixture in my town. Big music venue? I'm all for it! Dead music venue... not so much.
E. Williams May 23, 2011 at 10:23 PM
I am in the fourth camp with you McKgirl. We'll have to see how this plays out.
keo May 23, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Here it comes back to this assumption of what this venue is going to be if it is to be. Just because Phil will be the owner of the venue does not be that it is going to be a "Dead music venue". If you read Phils original statement about what his hopes for his venue would be it seems as if he is interested in creating something that is much more than a "Dead music venue". http://www.jambase.com/Articles/48113/Phil-Lesh-Terrapin-Landing Does this sound like a bad idea for our community? If you know ANYTHING about Fairfax it is that there is a long standing tradition of community,music, artists, culture and definitely counter culture! I am sure several times a year he would have some sort of Dead inspired event and sure the "element" that everyone is worried about might show up,so what ! His vision seems to span a much broader and eclectic scope than people are giving him credit for. That "element" isn't going to invade town if its T-Bone Burnett w/Elvis Costello & Emmy Lou Harris playing. It's a totally different vibe and it would be a different demographic, like the demo that lives in Fairfax!. I am really surprised at the closed mindedness of so called "bohemian artists" that have moved to Fairfax, that they can't looked past their fear of "hippies" enough to see what an amazing thing this could be for our community, it is almost insane not to invite it in with wide open arms. I'll take a few nights of annoying people to have the benefits of what this venue could offer.
jason May 24, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Thanks Larry for digging up some scientific evidence on property values and related side effects . I thought this was probably the case. All the knee jerk responses ( property values plummet, vagrants, noise) are unfounded and kind of a smear campaign designed to hype resistance to a proposed business. Let the facts come out and then make reactionary comments. Maybe Terrapin Landing will bring your property values back to where you want them!
Ken Ballinger May 24, 2011 at 04:09 AM
As a Fairfax resident who isn't strongly connected to any of the three main groups mentioned in your article I have to say "thanks" for asking the questions and opening the debates. I am very interested to see how this develops for all interested parties and the community as a whole. Thanks!
lynnette May 26, 2011 at 08:43 PM
I think it is a wonderful idea to revive our Town with more music and culture! Our Town itself is going under financially and it is very serious. I have decided to become more active, again, to help our Town. Since we have successfully regulated the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana to the satisfaction of the community, despite all the nay-saying; I think that we can also develop reasonable rules to accommodate Terrapin Landing. I support and welcome music, musicians and their friends to Fairfax! Best regards to everyone. Lynnette Shaw ; )
kim August 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM
I live on Marinda Drive and I have the same concerns as the residents on Claus. Noise, traffic, dealing with non-residents being loud and rude after the show to get their parked. I also don't believe the Lesh's are going to limit the shows to 1 or 2 a week. They are sinking a vast amount of money to build a venue. I expect them to come back after a year, say they can't afford to operate on two nights a week and then threaten to leave unless they are given more nights to be open. I see many concerns with this venue. Marinda Drive residents are just as concerned!
keo August 12, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Kim- How long have you lived in Fairfax ?
FairNAGS October 18, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Classic neocolonialism in the guise of wine, song and revelry! Don't take the bait Fairfax. I, like so many of us, had my oil changed at this site in 1992. Where I'm from that qualifies as cultural heritage. Make no mistake, for West Marin, this would be the cultural equivalent of the Three Gorges Dam. Join our FaceBook Page to help stop this and Save our Abandoned Heritage! https://www.facebook.com/pages/FairNAGS/205437729529921
scrotilla the hun February 16, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Hey, don't like the culture? Love it or leave it! Sell your home ,move to mill valley, become a breeder.is there not one alcove of society left for the Bohemian?!

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