Friday, October 2, 2009

The End of the Universe

My co-bloggers have posted some excellent and erudite observations.  For the the weekend, here is a lighter story (despite the ominous title) of land use development patterns.  Comedian Lewis Black has a famous routine about “The End of the Universe."  He says:

I’ve seen the end of the universe.  And it happens to be in the United States and oddly enough, it’s in Houston Texas.  I know, I was shocked too.  Imagine my surprise when I left the comedy club one day and walked to the end of the block and there on one corner was a Starbucks; and across the street from that Starbucks, in the exact same building as that Starbucks . . . there was a Starbucks!  I looked back and forth thinking the sun was playing tricks on my eyes.  But there was a Starbucks across from a Starbucks.  And that, my friends, is the end of the universe. 

See the hilarious video here or here.   

As I compose this blog post at Ground Zero of the End of the Universe, sipping my Grande Voodoo Zinger (or whatever it is) on the patio of the One Starbucks, and looking across the street at the Other Starbucks, appreciating Mr. Black's insight, I glance over to my left, and I realize that there is a new Barnes & Noble open next door, with a sign for—you guessed it—Yet *Another* Starbucks.  That’s THREE Starbucks on one corner.  Three Starbucks within 100 feet.  The end of the universe?  See this explanatory video; it's worth a view.  

What’s the land use lesson here?  Is this a problem?  Does the Unzoned City allow for seemingly ridiculous results in land development?  (Actually, I met someone who knew about the new, urban, Barnes & Noble plaza at a ULI event, and he told me it was extremely hard for the developer to get the permits).  All three Starbucks are within 100 feet of each other; is this "game over" as Lewis Black says?  “Nobody could be that stupid,” says Mr. Black—but  all three were pretty crowded on a beautiful fall Friday.  So does the market respond to patterns of human traffic and consumer demand within the regulatory system?  Or is it wrong, or just plain funny?

I think the ultimate message is this: Lewis Black, call your office: in Houston we have accelerated the End of the Universe!

- Matt Festa

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