By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
The developer of a Hampton Inn about to be built on the corner of Henley and
Main streets recently reached an agreement with the city and local
preservationists about a redesign of his hotel. In exchange for this
redesign and, perhaps other consideration, he was granted nine-year property tax
abatement by the city. I like the new design, especially when compared
with the typically drab, utilitarian design of similar hotels located at
I just hope it isn't too aesthetically pleasing. If it is, the owner
risks having it declared a local treasure, at which time some people would
advocate taking the property for the benefit of the community.
I first thought of this when reading about the small controversy surrounding
the movement of the Kimball's clock from the sidewalk on Gay Street to the new
Kimball's location in west Knoxville. Move the clock? Why that clock
is an institution! It would be an insult to the public for Kimball's to
move that clock.
In the long-term, this type of public policy will actually negatively impact
the preservationist's cause. It will diminish the quality of future
developments. Why should I spend a bunch of money to develop a fantastic
house/office/private park/etc. if there is a risk that it will be so attractive
that I or subsequent owners can't use the property as we please? Last
month the government of Zimbabwe destroyed all property deeds and abolished
private land ownership ' in the name of the common good. Farm production
is expected to decline to the point Zimbabwe farmers will only produce half of
the country's food needs this year. Instead of redistributing wealth, the
government will redistribute misery.
The most important minority is a minority of one. It is intellectually
inconsistent for someone to favor the protection of the rights of certain
minority groups while denying them to a single individual.
For twenty years, I've worked downtown and watched Home Federal buy buildings
in the Market Square area when no one else would. They keep a significant
employment base downtown. They rush to the defense, protection and support
of more local causes than I can name. Their care and concern for the
community is genuine. How can someone question their commitment to
downtown Knoxville if they want to use dilapidated property they own to maintain
and grow their downtown presence? Home Federal has considered demolishing
a number of buildings to provide parking for their large downtown employee
base. Many of the same people who lament the lack of adequate, convenient
downtown parking are the same ones upset about the possibility of Home Federal
deciding how to use its own property. I used to regularly visit a shoe
shop in one of those buildings. If someone is genuinely concerned about
downtown, they would favor the removal of that rattrap.
A few days ago, NY Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was speaking in San
Francisco. 'We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the
For a moment, I thought she was in Knoxville.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).