Demolish Easton’s Rock Church Building

The case for demolishing the dilapidated Rock Church building in Easton is strong purely on the grounds of dilapidation, but the case for tearing it down is even stronger when you factor in the opportunity cost.

This is a prime downtown location in a downtown that has gotten a lot nicer in recent years. Rock Church is taking up space that could be better used for a new mixed use building with some apartments and ground floor retail space. At a time when more space is needed downtown for new residents and new businesses, Rock Church is imposing a cost on the whole city by wasting this plot of land on a suboptimal use.

Comments

  1. Donald Dal Maso says:

    I had to smile at this one, Jonathan–next you’ll be taking on Vatican City.

  2. Eastoner says:

    You’re getting a little ahead of yourself, Jon. You should consider that there are other buildings in the downtown that could be rehabbed, and neighboring empty lots that could be developed before you get to talk meaningfully about the opportunity cost associated with taking a building (in the legal sense), tearing it down, and rebuilding it via a hypothetical mixed-use developer. There’s also a counterbalancing social cost in tearing down historical buildings, namely one that’s connected to the what’s believed to be the oldest building in the city. I know you fancy yourself to be an [urban] economist, but using opportunity cost here as justification just comes across as silly.

    • Eastoner says:

      The parent comment is a little meaner than I’d like. Just delete it please. Thanks.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      It’s ok, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable counterargument. I agree there’s some benefit to preserving some historically important buildings. I just think that the pro-preservation position often wins these kinds of debates too easily, without any real discussion of the cost of preserving low-value uses on high-value land.

      Downtown Easton does have other developable parcels, but not too many right in the center. The 500 block of Northampton has a few, and there are surface parking lots here and there that need to get built on. The Family Dollar building on the northwest corner of the circle is certainly ahead of Rock Church on the opportunity cost list.

      But the city center is for the most part built out, and even someone relatively cold blooded about this stuff like me doesn’t want to see most of the other older buildings downtown get replaced with modern ones. So the buildings that are physically dilapidated should be under serious consideration for replacement.

      We should actually compare the costs to the benefits. On the benefit side, this may be Easton’s oldest building. It’s also a church, so we’re talking about a place that’s considered sacred by some people.

      On the cost side, you’ve got an extremely tight apartment market right now that is causing rent inflation, pushing rents above area median income. Rising rents are basically just robbing the poor and the young with no useful contribution to Easton’s economy. Rising rents reduce the disposable income available to be spent at downtown businesses. And on the business side, rising retail rents put upward pressure on prices.

      Any downtown land that is now competing for use with hypothetical apartments is imposing an opportunity cost on the city. It’s true there are other parcels that fit this description, but Rock Church is also one of them, even if its not at the top of everyone’s list.

  3. David says:

    Jon,

    Are you talking about tearing down the actual church building? No matter the current state of disrepair, it is currently being used every Sunday as a house of worship so I doubt you will make any traction with that argument. The church does, however, own various properties in the area, and I can understand the temptation to argue that they should be taken from the church to be used in a more profitable way for the city. I think this is a very slippery slope though, and not many would agree with this type of action.

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