AboutTime Issue 50 - Page 12

The saying , “ Property development is not for sissies ” is very true because one never knows for certain if your decisions and vision for what you are developing is actually going to be a success or not . One can conduct market studies , surveys and research , but there is always a fear that the development is not going to be as successful as you had hoped or planned .
AROUND THE WORLD

The White Elephant

By Brett Marlin

The saying , “ Property development is not for sissies ” is very true because one never knows for certain if your decisions and vision for what you are developing is actually going to be a success or not . One can conduct market studies , surveys and research , but there is always a fear that the development is not going to be as successful as you had hoped or planned .

One of the worst phrases for a developer is “ white elephant ” as this is the epitome of failure and in many instances can bring about the downfall of the developer . The phrase , white elephant , means a burdensome asset , property or investment whose cost of upkeep is not in line with its usefulness or value .
The term derives from Asia . The white elephant is an icon in Thailand and these rare animals were regarded as holy in ancient times and automatically gifted to the reigning monarch .
The story goes that the monarch would give the white elephant as a gift of either good or bad fortune . If he liked the recipient , he would gift land along with the elephant to help pay for the cost of the elephant . If he did not like you , he would not include land , turning the gift into a money pit .
Luckily , none of our buildings have become white elephants , but there are many examples of this dotted around the world and across history . They all have the same thing in common : although they may ( or may not ) have once looked good on paper , they probably should have just stayed on paper . A few of the more notable examples are :
1 . Tel Aviv Central Bus Station This 230,000m ², eight-storey bus station opened in 1993 . The station was intended to have just two storeys , one for commerce and one for buses . Disagreements between the two main bus companies led to a third floor , so there would be one floor for each bus company . To obtain more funding after construction stalled , an extra floor of retail was added . This process was repeated several times , until the station had six floors . The seventh floor was added to replace the bottom two floors , after high pollution levels were discovered on those floors .
Strangely , the station was deliberately designed to be confusing so that commuters would spend more time around the stores and thus more money . When designed the station was in Tel Aviv ’ s downtown , but by the time it opened the business centre had migrated north , and the station ’ s neighbourhood had become peripheral and impoverished . One abandoned area of the station has been occupied by a bat colony . In January 2012 , the owners of the station filed for its bankruptcy .
Tel Aviv Central Bus Station
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ISSUE 50 - JUNE 2022