Chapter 12: The Words – Glossary of a New Frontier

THE BUILDERS of Edge City—the developers and their cohorts—are the biggest gossips since federal prosecutors, and for the same reason: they are constantly trying to figure out What makes human beings tick.

As professional gossips, they have evolved their own code. It includes:

ACTIVE WATER FEATURE: Any man-made body of moving water out of which you are not supposed to drink. A waterfall. A fountain. See Passive Water Feature.

AMENITIES (also, AMENITY PACKAGE): Frills. E.g., trees. An Amenity Package is that collection of all nonessential and not readily justifiable elements in a development which, it is hoped, if sold creatively enough, can be transformed from an obvious drag on earnings into an inducement for a tenant to pay more rent than he might do otherwise. E.g., day-care centers, jogging trails, subsidized restaurants, a concierge, picnic tables. See Quality of Life.

AMPLE FREE PARKING: The touchstone distinction between Edge City and the old downtown.

ANIMATED SPACE: A place in which an attempt is made to overcome barrenness and sterility by the addition of anything that suggests life, especially flags. In use: "Jeez, can't you do something to animate that space?" See also Amenities, Quality of Life, and Programmed Space.

ATTITUDE, AN: A negative mindset. Thought to be the source of most, and see also, Situations.

BACK DOOR: The first thing a smart developer looks for. His Back Door is his ultimate fall-back position, should the worst possible Situation materialize. No matter how grand a scheme he proposes, a savvy operator has first calculated the minimum he has to do to survive. In use: "We had a Back Door. If all else failed, we could just perc the damn lots and go" The Back Door is most especially what you use when you are faced with, and see also, Five Thousand Mexicans Knocking on the Door of the Alamo.

BEAUTIFUL BUILDING, A: One that is fully leased. Oldest joke in the developer's lexicon. Not really a joke.

BEAUTY CONTEST: An attempt to inject Quality of Life into an Edge City in which government zoning officials offer a developer higher densities—and thereby profits—than would otherwise be politically palatable in exchange for such concessions as, and see also, Amenity Packages, Quality Statements, and Active Water Features.

BILLBOARD BUILDING: A building designed to announce the presence and enhance the image of the corporation whose name appears prominently at its top. Structures like this are especially common in areas with laws that restrict communication via real billboards or other large signs. A Billboard Building can be curious-looking because it is not designed to face the access road by which a person actually reaches the office. It faces out on the freeway, where the maximum number of passersby will receive the message at high speed. Also, Signature Building.

BLANKS: What residential developers call land. A blank is a lot on which a house can be built. As in blank slate. But more important, it is a basic conceptual unit. Land is not a meaningful commodity to a residential builder until it has been reduced to Blanks by a process that includes taking the entire amount of land available, subtracting that on which homes cannot be built (because of provisions for parks, floodplains, roads, shopping centers, and the like), and dividing the remainder by the total number of homes the developer can get zoning for. Not until land has been translated into Blanks can it be entered into the play of a Deal. When residential developers and builders think about land, they do not run the numbers through their heads in acres, as farmers do, or in square feet, as office-space builders do. In fact, if a builder Were to bid, say, $30,000 on a Blank, it is of relatively minor importance whether the Blank is 05 acres or 5.0 acres, since it represents only one house. The actual size of the Blank is significant only when it is so unusually large or small as to offer major constraints or opportunities. Note: Blank is used especially to refer to "raw" land as opposed to "improved" land. This means that the building lot has been subdivided and zoned, but no Hard Costs have been incurred, such as those for sewers, water, power, phone lines, or roads, nor most Soft Costs, such as, and see also, Carry.

BLUE WATER: The stuff you put into the fountain of your mall to offset the unsightliness of the pennies that people throw in, as well as the grout that washes off. It is this fluid you then discover kids will stick a straw into and drink, as you watch, horrified, having utterly no idea of its level of toxicity. See Situation.

BRICK-SNIFFERS: Renovators and gentrifiers. Also called White Painters. How builders refer to those young couples who, when they rehabilitate an old place, sandblast all the plaster off, right back to the brick, frequently causing structural damage in the process. They then ritualistically stick their noses right up against this brick and inhale deeply, immediately after which they paint everything white except the wood that they varnish.

BRING TO THE TABLE, TO: To demonstrate an intent to be taken seriously as a player in a Deal. In use: "What can he Bring to the Table?" The etymology is that of poker, in which, to belly up to the table, one must show the color of one's money. But in an Edge City Deal, a player may also be regarded as having gravitas if, for example, he can Bring to the Table a specialized knowledge of the market, or an unusual facility with legislative or zoning bodies, or an influence on federal funding authorities.

BUZZ THE NUBS: Closely trim the grass.

CAMPUSLIKE SETTING: What every office building in an Edge City is invariably said to have.

CARRY, THE: The cost of a loan. Therefore, the most feared cause of bankruptcy. It is a unit of time as well as money. It's how much money a developer has to come up with out of his pocket periodically, off the top, to keep right with his most important constituent, the bank. It is the prime unit of negative cash flow, and a noun. AS in, "The board still hasn't rezoned him, and he's getting killed by the Carry." See also Soft Costs.

CC&RS: Pronounced cee-cee-en-ares, and short for Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, these are the legal ridings embedded in the deeds to homes in most new housing developments. They allow community associations—the most ubiquitous form of shadow government—to do just about anything they want.

CHALLENGE: What you call a Situation after careful study reveals no possible way out.

CHI-CHI FROU-FROU: Shops inside an office building that cater to a high-end clientele. E.g., a gourmet take-out, a tasteful lingerie boutique. Pronounced shi-shi fru fru. In use: "If you're gonna try to get $24 a foot for this sucker, the lobby's really gonna need Some Chi-Chi Frou-Frou." See also Animated Space.

CLASS A SPACE: Premiere office Space, appropriate for a corporate headquarters. How much of this there is in an Edge City is the key means of determining its market quality. Since it always comes measured precisely in square feet, it would be nice if there were a uniform definition of what it is. Like the Supreme Court and pornography, the definition is—we know it when we see it. Generally, it means the newest buildings, charging the highest rents, but that in turn is determined by and influenced by intangibles. See Amenity Package, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon Parking Garage, One Hundred Percent Corner, Great Big Oak Trees Right up Against the windows, and Quality of Life.

CLASS B SPACE: Office Space for the grunts. Places in the medium-price range in an Edge City market where you put the wage slaves and the computer key punchers. Susceptible to the Same definitional problem of what means "middle" as Class A is to "top."

CLASS C SPACE: The pits.

CLUSTER: An attempt to encourage open space in a development—without altering the development's overall density, and hence economics—by allowing or insisting on a dramatic increase in the amount of building on that land which is disturbed.

COMANCHES COMING OVER THE BRAZOS: A Texas formulation of the ultimate Situation. The Comanches were the most savage, brutal, and feared Indians on the Texas frontier. The Brazos River flows just to the west of both Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. In use: "That Situation was no biggie. It wasn't the Comanches Coming Over the Brazos." Federal regulators shutting down a developer's proprietary S & L, however, is a prime example of the Comanches Coming Over the Brazos. See also Five Thousand Mexicans Knocking On the Door of the Alamo.

COMMERCIAL: Office space. As opposed to Residential and Retail. This is the usage in an urban, Edge City context. In markets with little office space, such as the traditional suburb, Commercial sometimes is used to lump office and shopping space together, as in a strip shopping center. In Edge City, Commercial is used to mean office space.

COMMUNITY: What every new residential development is described as being. E.g., a "master-planned, low-maintenance, Campuslike Community." In this usage, it is irrelevant whether anybody in this Community knows or cares about anybody else in it. See Neighborhood.

CORPORATE CAMPUS: A bucolic setting on which are located the office buildings of a number of different corporations. A Corporate Campus location is equivalent to, in residential terms, a "farmette"—more land than is logical to mow but not enough to plow.

CORPORATE ESTATE: A vast sylvan location for a single corporate headquarters. The possible number of Corporate Estates in any Edge City is thought to be identical with the number of available hilltops. The ultimate Corporate Estate is the Two Wind-Sock Model. Two wind socks indicate that the Estate is so large that helicopter pilots fear the weather on one side of headquarters is significantly different from the weather on the other side.

CORPORATE OFFICE PARK: The equivalent of a subdivision.

COVERAGE: The built environment that replaces all life forms susceptible to being removed by a bulldozer. In use: "When you mix it up at .25 gross, look at the coverage you got. The trees and things. That's very low-density office."

CRAMDOWN, A: The bankers' nightmare in which, in a devastated market where property values have dropped below the amount of the mortgage, a bankruptcy court takes pity on the owner and orders that his obligation to the bank be reduced from the original amount borrowed to one that can be covered by the sale of the property. The derivation obviously is based on the relationship of the practice to the bankers' throats.

DEAL, THE: The fundamental Edge City conceptual unit.

DELICATE DETAIL: An expensive architectural flourish meant to distinguish a development from its competition. The structural element that skateboarders invariably discover makes a great ramp.

DIRT LOAN: That which a developer gets to acquire land. As distinct from the construction loan, which allows him to build, or the permanent loan, which secures the property once it is completed.

DOWNZONE: The battle cry of a population sick of growth and its negative attributes. Downzoning is that method by which the amount of development in an area is reduced, by decreasing the legally allowable density. By spreading development farther apart, Downzoning often has ironic effects—such as increasing the need for automobiles, hence creating traffic congestion, which decreases the Quality of Life that Downzoning was originally meant to advance. But for the purposes of the groups advocating this remedy, that is generally beside the point. Since there are few other effective legal methods currently available to fight growth, they go with what they've got. And Downzoning does increase developers' costs—thereby having a genuine effect on growth.

DU, A: A home. Short for Dwelling Unit. Pronounced dee you, but written "du," like a French preposition. Not to be confused with a "dua," which is the fundamental measure of residential density: Dwelling Units per Acre. A standard subdivision of quarter-acre lots, for example, would by its arithmetic have a dua of 4. A townhouse development may have a dua of 7 to 10. In the midst of an Edge City, dua's as high as 30 or more may be encouraged. That is because the land is so expensive that such densities are the only ones economically feasible. But also, a large residential component in the midst of an Edge City is thought to increase the possibility of a true sense of community and urbanity being formed.

DUMB GARAGE: And you thought there was no other kind. A Dumb Garage is one that makes no effort to inform the driver where and whether there are any empty parking spaces. As opposed to an Intelligent Garage, which does. A Passive Intelligent Garage is one designed to allow the eye easily and quickly to sweep all parking spaces and rapidly collect information about their availability. An Active Intelligent Garage achieves the same end through electronics; e.g., a sign that reads "500 Spaces on Level 4."

EPAULETS: Horizontal stripes of a contrasting color at the corner, or "shoulder" of a building.

EYEBROWS: Same as Epaulets, only higher.

EXECUTIVE HOUSING: Housing of a high enough quality that a corporation's top officials would consider it desirable. Proximity of it is thought to be essential to the growth of an Edge City, inasmuch as fancy executives will not put up with long commutes. In context, it does not simply mean an expensive house. It means an expensive house with easy access to clubs, health facilities, shopping, excellent schools, and, frequently, horses.

FAR: Short for Floor-to-Area Ratio. Pronounced eff-eh-are. The fundamental unit of density, from which all calculations spring—parking, hence profitability, hence human behavior, hence civilization. It is the ratio of the amount of building to the amount of land. If you've got 100,000 square feet of office space on 100,000 square feet of land, you've got an FAR of 1.0—a one-to-one relationship. Interestingly, from the point of view of predicting how functional an Edge City will be, particularly in terms of transportation, it does not make much difference whether this 100,000 square feet of office space is configured as a ten-story building, each story ten thousand square feet, surrounded by ninety thousand feet of open land; or a two-story building, each story fifty thousand square feet, surrounded by fifty thousand square feet of open space., or a one-story building utterly covering the available land. The amount of building is still 100,000 square feet, the FAR is still 1.0, and that ratio works magically to predict automotive use and traffic crunch, without regard to what the Edge City looks like.

FAST COMMUTE: One that is painless. Of California origin, the idea is that the absolute amount of time or distance involved in a commute is not as important as the level of stress it invokes. Thus, a Fast Commute of twenty miles, on an unclogged freeway, during which a person's mind can freely wander, can be thought of as preferable to a Slow Commute of half that distance or time, if the Slow Commute involves teeth-grinding exposure to stop-and-go traffic.

FIVE THOUSAND MEXICANS KNOCKING ON THE DOOR OF THE ALAMO: A Texas definition of the ultimate Situation. In use: "That was no big deal. That wasn't Five Thousand Mexicans Knocking on the Door of the Alamo." See also Comanches Coming Over the Brazos.

FLOORPLATE: The shape and size of any given floor of a building. The floorplate that touches the ground is called the footprint, after the shape it leaves on the land. An ideal Floorplate size in an Edge City is thought to be roughly half a football field—on the order of twenty thousand square feet—for reasons enumerated in Chapter 13, "The Laws."

FRICTION FACTOR: The path of most resistance. The notion is that the degree of difficulty of getting from one place to another, by whatever means, can be calculated and used to predict the paths people will take. One grocery store may be twice as far as another from a consumer. But if the path to the far store has minimum friction, and the path to the near store involves hassles, the store with the longer but easier path may be the one picked. In a downtown setting, getting a car out of an underground garage has a high enough friction factor that people are inclined to walk moderate distances. In Edge City, however, the Friction Factor in walking from one place to another may be so high that people will choose to drive trivial distances. The significance is that friction can be both good and bad. When a high friction factor discourages long-distance travel, it can contribute to the rise of civilization in Edge City by forcing goods and services to be provided locally. And to the extent that it makes a downtown difficult to get to, or move around in, it can lead to the center's decline. See also Fast Commute. See also chapter Thirteen, "The Laws," regarding foot traffic.

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, THE: A place claimed to be especially development—worthy because of its location at the confluence of three roads. At extreme levels, reference is made to the Platinum Triangle. See also One Hundred Percent Location.

GOOD DIRT: An investment-worthy location. In use: "Even at $115 a foot, that's good dirt."

GREAT BIG OAK TREES RIGHT UP AGAINST THE WINDOWS: Currently the most ambitious and fashionable stunt in the repertoire of the developers of Class A Office Space, it is the creation of Softscape by the locating of extremely large buildings right in the middle of a forest, without disturbing the trees. No small trick. It involves cutting the hole for the foundation without knocking over the surrounding tall vegetation, stabilizing the hole until the roots heal, and then building the building, again without knocking over the trees. This frequently involves great big equipment to lift everything in that building up and over the six- or seven-story height of the vegetation. But the biggest hassle is the endless threats required to convince the cracker equipment operators—who view trees as weeds—not to "accidentally" knock over a beech with their backswing. Great Big Oak Trees Right Up Against the Windows is the successor stunt to the hitherto most fashionable similar effort, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon Parking Garage.

GROUND COVER: An automobile dealership, or a ministorage facility, or any other easily bulldozed land-intensive use in Edge City that provides an income stream and keeps the whole place from blowing away while its owners figure out what they want to do with the land, really.

HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON PARKING GARAGE: This Is Structured Parking, the Hardscape ugliness of which has been struggled with, through the planting of Softscape hanging vines cascading over every edge, in an attempt to make it look like a terraced garden. When built-in irrigation is included all the way around each level, inside the planters, it is thought to be a prime component of Class A Office Space, particularly in quasi-tropical environments epitomized by the Perimeter Center-Georgia 400 Edge City north of downtown Atlanta. Similar efforts are being made on the outside of the actual office buildings, and inside their atria. The ultimate Class A Hanging Gardens Parking Garage is one in which the entire top deck is also covered with dirt and then planted and even decorated with fountains and sculpture, so that denizens of high office suites looking down have a view of gardens, not of parked cars.

HARDSCAPE: A landscape consisting of man-made building materials such as asphalt, precast concrete, and the like, that developers feel customers perceive as forbidding. Hardscape especially refers to objects that are machinelike or machine-made. See Softscape.

HEADACHE BARS: The horizontal pipes over the entrance to parking garages meant to prevent large vehicles from entering.

IDENTITY POINTS: Landmarks. Since knowing where an Edge City begins or ends is problematic, planners and developers encourage Identity Points to announce that you have indeed entered the grounds of your destination.

I'M NOT GOING TO BE NAMED IN A PATERNITY SUIT: Explanation of mall operator as to why his guards break up teenagers who dare use the benches in the atrium to neck.

IMPACT FEE: The increasingly popular method by which governments assign to developers the social costs brought about by their building. The developers are made to pay for some of the new roads, sewers, water taps, and the like that have traditionally been provided by the taxpayers, but that would not be required were it not for the development. This has a fairness benefit in that it does not assign to existing residents the costs of providing new services to future residents. But to the extent that growth is less subsidized, it drives up the cost, which contributes to issues of affordability. See Proffers.

KIT OF PARTS: A limited number of design elements repeated endlessly throughout a development in the hope that such recapitulation will give the project an identity.

LAND BAY: The Edge City equivalent of a city block. It is that portion of a commercial development on which nothing has yet been built, but that has been surrounded by major second-ary roads, and thus marked off as one unit. The curious word here is "bay." Possible etymologies: this is the land equivalent of a bay of water, waiting for its ship to come in. Or perhaps it is the equivalent of a loading bay, waiting for something to be dumped.

LANDSCAPE UPGRADE: Bushes. Especially when offered as an op-tion at additional cost in a development that otherwise would not have any.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: A screw-up of Such monumental propor-tions that its memory has been Seared into the brains of the participants for life. In use: "Oh yeah, owning that Sucker Was a real learning experience."

LEECHES: Journalists, politicians, attorneys, regulators, government planners, environmental lobbyists, bureaucrats, and the perpetrators of all other sniveling, caviling occupations Seen as producing nothing of value, at great expense to those who do, i.e., the developers, Who coined the word.

LULU: Locally Unacceptable Land Use. E.g., nuclear waste dump, AIDS hospice. Any societally important facility for which it is impossible to find a location because of the massive resistance by property holders near its proposed location. In some areas, even a day-care center is viewed as a LULU. See also NIMBY.

LUMINAIRES: Lights. Especially those thought to be complemen-tary to, and See also, Signage.

MASTER PLANNING: In theory, that enterprise which all design professionals and a great number of citizens believe an Edge City never has enough of. In practice, that attribute of a devel-opment in which so many rigid controls are put in place, to defeat every imaginable future problem, that any possibility of life, spontaneity, or flexible response to unanticipated events is eliminated.

MEMORY POINT: An element of a development meant to be re-garded as So Spectacular as to Stick in the client's mind long after he or she has gotten home that night. Lavish use of real gold in the bathroom, for example. Or marble. See Ooh-Ahs.

MOON, TO: To Situate a building So that its back Side is presented to another building in a distasteful fashion.

NEGATIVE ABSORPTION: That dreaded condition in which more people are moving out of Edge City's offices than are moving in. Not only is the overall market not filling up (new Space is not being "absorbed"), but the market is actually shrinking. Especially when additional new Space is completed and added to the market at the same time, this is the Situation immediately prior to, and see also, Restructurings and Workouts.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Any collection of hitherto unacquainted individuals with physically proximate homes who find themselves suddenly united in vigorous opposition to unpalatable change, especially a rezoning, development, or highway. See also NIMBY, LULU, and Community.

NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. Same as, and see also, LULU.

NONCOMPETING LOW-DENSITY USE: A church. As seen, positively, by the owner of an adjacent mall.

NONEXEMPT, A: A working-class person. Specifically, someone who is not exempt from laws requiring overtime pay for overtime work. In use: "You don't want a mix of shops in your mall so high that the Nonexempts won't come." One class up from, and see also, the Transfer-Payment Population.

NORC: Short for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. Golden-age ghettos. Neighborhoods that spontaneously attract unusually large numbers of the elderly.

OFFICE, TO: The verb form used to describe where a person spends his productive hours. In use: "Where is he officing now?" "He offices over by the Galleria." Parallel in all uses to the verbs "to live" and "to work."

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT LOCATION: A prime site; a locale thought to have all the desirable attributes for development, from image to accessibility, and none of the negatives. In practice, a phrase used to describe the geography of all development schemes for which financing is still up in the air.

ON-GRADE PARKING: Your basic, flat, parking lot. As opposed to, and see also, Structured Parking.

ON-TIME-AND-UNDER-BUDGET: Utterly devoid of imagination. A slur used by architects. In use: "Oh yeah, him, yeah, he's just full of On-Time-and-Under-Budget."

OOH-AH: An unusual Amenity inserted into a development specifically to elicit an animated reaction from a client. No Tract Mansion is thought to be salable for over $800,000, for example, unless it includes a bidet as an Ooh-Ah. This, although bidets serve in America as nothing but cat waterers. Commercial Ooh-Ahs include built-in hair dryers in the men's rooms.

OVERHANG: The developer's equivalent of a hangover. After a binge of building in which vastly more space is erected than the market can "absorb," the "inventory" left over, vacant, is referred to as the Overhang. It is that which must be worked off before another binge can be contemplated. the market can "absorb," the "inventory" left over, vacant, is referred to as the Overhang. It is that which must be worked off before another binge can be contemplated.

PARATRANSIT: Supplemental forms of transportation, especially those small in scale. While sometimes as prosaic as vans, they also can be as much a form of entertainment as a method of mass transit. E.g., San Francisco's cable cars, and the Disney-style railroads that move people through the Atlanta and Tampa airports. Also, People-movers. Also, Horizontal Elevators.

PASSIVE LEISURE ENVIRONMENT: A park. Although, more generally, any quasi-public place to sit down and rest, including such a place indoors. See also Unstructured Open-space Environment.

PASSIVE WATER FEATURE: Any man-made body of still water in which you are not supposed to swim. E.g., a reflecting pool.



PLOP ART: Abstract sculptures placed about a development for reasons that are an utter mystery. See also Quality Statement.

PRODUCT: Everything in a development that was put there by the hand of man. Whether it be a parking lot, a curbing, a planting of flowers, or a high-rise, somebody views it as Product, and can go into astounding detail about whether it is good or bad, cheap or expensive.

PROFFERS: The system of legalized extortion by which governments convince developers "voluntarily" to build such socially desirable facilities as ball fields, day-care centers, schools, and intersections, in exchange for the governmental unit being kind enough to give the developer permission to build at higher density than usual or, sometimes, to give him approval to build at all. Proffers can be in addition to, or instead of, and see also, Impact Fees.

PRO FORMA: The document meant to demonstrate the financial logic of a development. It is a target, a yardstick, a budget, a bible, a profound hope, and frequently a lie. It is supposed to reveal all a developer's underlying assumptions—his costs, for example, and what he thinks he will be able to get in rents. It is the financial analysis developers take to investors and the bank to justify being given money. No matter how carefully and honestly a Pro Forma is drawn up, reality will rarely match it. Hence the chilling question: "Are you achieving the rents in your Pro Forma?"

PROGRAMMED SPACE: A place where a spontaneous expression of Community is thought to be so unlikely that a consultant has to be paid to hire a street musician to play. Similarly, a place where people have to be paid to march in a Fourth of July parade. Psychologically similar to, and see also, Animated Space.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP: A method by which developers and governments engage in a cooperative rather than confrontational exercise in getting a development built in a fashion that mollifies the neighbors. This is seen by its advocates as the height of developer enlightenment, a Zen in which the builder works "With" the Community, recognizing that he does not really "own" the land he is paying the bank for. It is seen by its detractors as either communist horse pucky or the system by which foxes and chickens are brought together to achieve common goals.

QUALITY OF LIFE: That attribute which a development is said to be sensitive to when attention is being drawn to intangibles that do not directly contribute to the bottom line. See Amenities.

QUALITY STATEMENT: Very large, heavy, expensive, neutral sculpture. Ideally, brushed steel or aluminum. Totally plain geometry a plus. Moving parts, and/or integration into an Active Water Feature, daring. Located at the entrance of an office park or complex, a Quality Statement is supposed to suggest absolutely nothing to the viewer except somewhat understated wealth, to which, it is hoped, a customer's aspirations will be stimulated sufficient unto the rental of office space. Also used to induce government officials to grant higher zoning than otherwise probable. See also Beauty Contest and Plop Art.

RESTRUCTURING, A: The system by which the terms of a loan are renegotiated to decrease the immediate cost to the developer rather than have the loan go into default. The developer's art of sensing when a lender can't afford to let him go under. What a developer does in a down market while he's got a lot of time on his hands since nothing is selling. A particularly vigorous version of Restructuring is known as, and see also, a workout.

RETROFIT: To gut beyond recognition, or bulldoze. That which is done to an Edge City building when, in as short a time as, say, twelve years after original construction, it is viewed as obsolete either because the decor has aged hideously or the mechanical systems—air conditioning or telecommunications—are seen as massively inefficient relative to new technologies. In use: "You want to lease it up, you're gonna hafta Retrofit the hell out of that sucker."

SIGNAGE: Signs. Especially those which are products of the expenditure of vastly more money on design review than would seem plausible, given the appearance and function of the result, which is to announce "No Left Turn" and the like. Etymology: The guardians of urban esthetics have for decades decried the proliferation of shopping center beacons that makes each nonlimited-access highway resemble the Las Vegas Strip. Thus, developers of large tracks of land who aspire to the label "megadeveloper" indicate their seriousness of purpose, attention to detail, and desire for social acceptance by hiring designers to create signs of a style that are not merely informative, but are distinct to the development. Hence, Signage—probably a contraction of "signs" and "signature." Note: Signage, being an expression of high taste, never radiates light from within, in the fashion of a Gulf or Holiday Inn sign. Its highest expression was once thought to be in the form of sand-blasted, hence three-dimensional, wood. But etched glass and engraved stone have begun to make a strong showing. See Kit of Parts.

SITUATION: A problem of unimaginable, much less soluble, proportions. (The worst thing a boss can hear from an underling: "I wonder if I could have a minute to talk to you about a Situation.") Etymology: In a macho business environment, it is utterly unacceptable to say one has a "problem." That: implies negative thinking, which at best equals high wussieness, and at worst raises serious questions about one's ability to function competitively. At the very least, it indicates an individual who is pathetically behind in reading the latest best-selling motivational literature. Calling a problem a Situation, by contrast, allows for the possibility that enough analysis may reveal a germ of opportunity.

SOFT COSTS: The fees charged to obtain the services of architects, government registrars, and the like. The costs of whatever goes into a building that does not represent a tangible object such as a brick. The location where developers have the highest danger of losing their shirts.

SOFTSCAPE: Plants. Trees. The work of nature, as opposed to the work of man. See Hardscape.

STICKS AND BRICKS: The materials with which Residential is usually built, as opposed to the steel and concrete of Commercial. Also, Stick-Built.

STREET FURNITURE: Everything exposed to the weather put there by the hand of man, not counting roads, buildings, and plants. This "everything else" is far more considerable than most people recognize, because it is usually so plain or so ugly—and thus ignored as a feature of the landscape—as to render it virtually invisible. It includes newspaper vending boxes, stoplights, no-parking signs, and those circular iron grills sometimes put around the bases of trees when they are embedded in a sidewalk. Not to mention, of course, furniture. Like benches.

STREETSCAPE: A road on which sufficient design review has been expended such that the Street Furniture, Signage, and Luminaires all match and/or are festooned with flags.

STRUCTURED PARKING: An aboveground, multilevel parking garage. Considerably more expensive to build than, and see also, On-Grade Parking. It is economically feasible only if the land under it is very expensive, and thus must be conserved.

SUPERCOMMUTER: A person whose round trip to work exceeds a hundred miles each day.

TRACT MANSION: The ultimate subdivision house. A residence of extraordinary size (four thousand square feet and up) and expense (approaching a million dollars or more) built amid homes that are very similar, if not identical. Tract Mansions are distinct from estates in that they are located on relatively tiny plots of land, sometimes as little as a sixth of an acre.

TRANSFER-PAYMENT POPULATIONS, THE: Poor people. Especially those who live in ghettos surrounding the old downtowns. The class below, and see also, Nonexempts.

TREE SHIT: Such byproducts of the life cycle of trees as fall to the ground. E.g., leaves, fruit, seed pods, bird excrement. The cleaning up of such detritus is seen as the primary argument, other than cost, for not putting trees in parking lots. In use: If a mulberry tree were to leave a purple stain on a Mercedes, or a roosting jay to leave a white stain on a 300 ZX, the complaint would be "The trees are shitting all over my clients' cars."

UNSTRUCTURED OPEN-SPACE ENVIRONMENTS: Parks. See also Passive Leisure Environments.

VALUE ENGINEERING: The process of designing structures so that they can be built as cheaply as possible, usually by systematically eliminating such frivolities as esthetics.

WORKOUT: Financial aerobics. A developer's last stand before bankruptcy. If a developer cannot repay a loan in the midst of a recession, he may try to construct a Workout with the bank in which the bank does not foreclose but allows him to retain ownership for several more years while paying almost nothing on the loan, on the theory that the arrangement will be more lucrative for all sides than either forcing a bankruptcy that will eat up millions in attorneys' fees, or forcing a sale of assets at the bottom of a market.

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