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The way things work…


Real Estate (and other) Values

Thinking these days about larger issues in Agincourt—how the county fairgrounds developed over 150 years, for example; evolution of The Strip, as Highway 7 became a bypass around the north edge of town; the sequence of installing infrastructure like municipal water and sewer; garbage (enough said)—I come back to one of my initial thoughts: Agincourt’s public library, the lone building that initiated the project, needed to be situated at what real estate experts and economists call “100 percent corner.” In my layperson’s terms, it’s the piece of real estate with the highest consistent resale and rental value; the parcel against which all others are measured. For me, that plot was a fifty-by-one-hundred-forty-foot lot (two of its standard 25 x 140-foot business lots) at the corner of Broad Street and Agincourt Avenue NE.

Preparing for the third project in ARCH 371, one that will be situated in Agincourt, I never imaginds I’d be discussing with students the principles of real estate and development economics. Despite having a retirement account substantially in the stock market, I ain’t no capitalist. Never was, never wanted to be. Most of my financial decisions are shaped by motives other than pure profit. Yet the way of the Western World is otherwise, certainly here in the United States. So in this regard I am the proverbial fish out of water.

From the perspective of Agincourt history, 100 percent corner would already have been occupied by some prominent building—a bank, most likely—which would have to be displaced. With luck, my friend Diesel Dave had given me a postcard of a Masonic Lodge and theater building with two retail rental storefronts that had been reduced to ruin by fire—still smoldering in the RPPC that he had given me (surely not knowing how it might become part of the story). So, thanks, Dave, if I haven’t already said that.

His contribution, by the way, provided an opportunity for more of the story to be told, because that fire was typical in cities of all sizes. It has implications for so many issues: materials and construction (viz. Prof Martens), municipal services (fire and police protection), the presence of social institutions (fraternal and sororital lodges and associations).

There are days I’m eager to open Pandora’s Box.


So many real buildings presented themselves as prototypes; as reality checks on my sometimes over-active imagination. One of them (though I had long forgotten it) recently showed up in the daily eBay feed: the Masonic Temple of about 1910 in Billings, Montana. It still stands today at the corner of Third and Broadway (perhaps the 100 percent corner of its day) as a landmark building designed by Link & Haire. Beside its handsome proportion and Classical Revival detailing, it also confirms for me the value inherent in a corner lot: at least two storefronts on the short façade, with an entry to the upper floors in the center of the long one. Additional commercial space to the right of the formal, ceremonial entry became the location of the Tennant Memorial Gallery. And the longer elevation faces south in Agincourt, rather than north in Billings, and looking out twoard one of Agincourt’s public squares.

My only point today is that a cheap disposable postcard view such as this tell its own story, the local experience of a national phenomenon. Now, how to get that simple message across to the students of 371.

Oh, incidentally, this is Blog Entry #600, which is some sort of landmark, I suppose.

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