Climb on up

On your nearest crane and take a look at how far we have yet to fall. Through the contours of language, from the way banks cache who owns what to the way we talk about cycles of growth, the signals are coming in clear enough to touch.

Rising vacancy rates were expected in Orange County, Calif., a center of the subprime mortgage crisis, and New York, where the now shrinking financial industry dominates office space. But vacancies are also suddenly climbing in Houston and Dallas, which had been shielded from the economic downturn until recently by skyrocketing oil prices and expanding energy businesses. In Chicago, brokers say demand has dried up just as new office towers are nearing completion.

To the extent that the reporter touches on how terribly caught off guard owners and developers have been by how quickly the market has collapsed underscores the deliberate, long-term nature of such construction projects. Okay, things could have markedly changed since ground was broken on a particular, hypothetical skyscraper some eighteen months ago. But getting in on markets just as they deteriorate is not the kind of specialty for which you want to become known. And then this

Among commercial properties, the most troubled have been hotels and shopping centers, where anemic sales and bankruptcies by retailers are leading to more vacancies and where heavily leveraged mall operators, like General Growth Properties and Centro, are under intense pressure to sell assets. But analysts are increasingly worried about the office market.

So picture an aircraft carrier, having received a special message about a new mission, slowly turning to begin in a different direction. It’s slow, perhaps hard to see or feel, but everyone on deck and below knows the ship has to change course in order to actually begin moving in a different direction. It would be foolish to allow the captain, crew and the whole admiralty to expect the sea – and the globe – to re-orient itself around the old path of the carrier in order to change its course. Wouldn’t it?

All kinds of things to stop doing. Take your pick.