Fool or Genius

Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across just now on the Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga Springs (here):

The Adelphi, built in 1877, was designed as an Italian villa with a distinctive second-floor piazza fronting the hotel. It was scheduled to be demolished before Sheila Parkert, the current owner, bought the hotel withher husband in 1979 and restored it room by room.

We were really kids, Parkert said.  Urban renewal was a big thing here, and this town was up for grabs in the 70’s.  My god, they were tearing down everything.  If you could stop the wrecking ball, you could buy something for $10,000.  All the mansions on Union Avenue, you could buy anything you wanted.  It was a big ol’ land grab.

It had gotten to be big news that they were going to tear this place down.  We’d gone to France a lot, and we had seen what people had done with old hotels.  We were just young enough and dumb enough to think, ‘This could work.’ “

Parkert, then 27, and Siefker raised the $100,000 and bought the hotel in 1979.  They would put another $350,000 or so in renovating the building and its interior, room by room as they could afford to do it.  When it reopened in 1980, now painted dark brown with cream-colored trim, the Adelphi was still a work in progress.  But it was already on its way back to prominence as one of Saratoga’s most distinctive inns.

Just to keep my word to Emma, I’m not posting this as sarcasm/satire but as an open thread and question for thought: why do some cities manage to turn themselves around while others do not? Or getting to the title of my post, what drives some speculative plays such as this to create geniuses in the sense of investment and timing versus elsewhere where the play just collapses and the investor/speculator is left a fool?

Again, I’m not posting this to get into an exchange on Chalmers or Esquire now or later; I’m posting it as a strategic and policy question in an earnest effort to raise the level of discourse on policy. I’m going to explore this in a bit more detail but wanted to see if this gets any traction or lands with a thud.

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