Catching up on some reading

I’m a little late with this but in case you missed last Sunday’s Ledger, here’s their story about Union County home sales in the first half of 2009. It was a county-by-county breakdown of a larger project, “N.J. real estate bust hits urban home sales the hardest.”

Compared to the first half of 2008, “prices dipped 8 percent” in Union County, with only Elizabeth, Fanwood and Springfield seeing more home sales during the first half of this year compared to the same time in 2008. Berkeley Heights (0%) and Scotch Plains (7%) were the lone towns to see median home prices remain the same or rise over last year, and nine towns saw double-digit declines. Only Summit (2%) was up last year over 2005 median prices.

For Rahway, the analysis indicated a median price of $267,000 this year, compared to $307,500 last year (-13%) and $281,000 in 2005 (-5%). Those figures were still good enough to rank Rahway among the top third among the 21 Union County towns in both years, matching Clark and Mountainside in 2008.

The number of home sales was down 18 percent in Rahway for the first half of this year, which was about the ninth lowest rate within the county.

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I also came across this New York Times piece yesterday. It talked about “municipal governments and arts groups pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into larger, flashier exhibit spaces and performance halls,” believing it was “the answer to what ailed cities everywhere — a way to lure tourists and economic development — and a potential boon to cultural institutions.”

The specific projects mentioned are of a much larger scale and in some cases very different, but it did bring to mind the $6-million expansion and acquisition of the local arts center by Union County, which also was pushed in part by the idea of spurring economic development earlier this decade.

The most provocative quote came from a senior fellow at the University of Chicago studying these projects: “These were situations in which ‘nobody actually asked: Is there a need here? If they build it, will they come?'”