Troyens

Troyens

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Price of a Concert Hall

Found in the NY Times obituary for Vera Stern, arts administrator, widow ex-wife of Isaac Stern, and one of those who saved Carnegie Hall back in 1960:
When Carnegie Hall was threatened with demolition, to make way for an office tower, Mr. Stern served as the public face of the campaign to save it, but his wife worked furiously behind the scenes, proselytizing and persuading. Eventually, the city agreed to buy the hall for $5 million and spend another $100,000 to improve it. In recognition of Mrs. Stern’s efforts, Box 44 was named for her.
Five million for one of the greatest concert halls in the world!

For comparison's sake, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, which is most emphatically not one of the greatest, cost $28 million and was completed in 1980. Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is one of the greatest, as well as one of the most strikingly beautiful, cost $274 million, of which $110 million went to build the garage (or, putting it a bit differently, the hall's basement)

8 comments:

Henry Holland said...

It's still kind of amazing that the concert hall part of Disney Hall ever got built. For years, it looked like the site was going to be just another parking structure in Downtown, but I'm glad it's not. Too bad ticket prices for the Philharmonic are so high now.....

kalimac said...

Comparing simple dollar numbers for dates that far apart is like comparing them with drachmas or yen. Inflation-adjusted, please.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You know off the top of your head that there wasn't a 10X inflation from 1980 to 2003, I believe.

Lisa Hirsch said...

But as long as you're asking, using the CPI calculator at the BLS, I get this.

$5 million in 1960 has the buying power of $13,900,000 in 1980 and $31 million in 2003.

kalimac said...

I thought there was a 1960 in there also, and no, I don't know offhand how much the inflation cumulatively comes to. Numbers like that can surprise you (remember the story of the king who offered to put one grain of rice on the first chessboard square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on? No, that's not how inflation works, but it does show the surprising power of cumulative change).

Besides, even if the point remains that Disney cost more than Carnegie was worth, how much more?

Lisa Hirsch said...

There is a 1960 in there; as I said, "$5 million in 1960...." That's what NYC paid to buy Carnegie Hall in 1960.

I'm going to rephrase your last question. The inflation-adjusted price of Carnegie Hall would have been $31 million in 2003, so the $274 million cost of Disney was $243 million more. But that's not really a fair comparison either, because building a new Carnegie Hall in 2003, in NYC, would have cost a lot more than the inflation-adjusted purchase price.

Lisa Hirsch said...

But that was my point in the first place: you could buy Carnegie Hall for what amounts to an inflation-adjusted pittance compared to building a new hall.

kalimac said...

"There was a 1960 in there also"

I was responding to your comment in which you chided me for not knowing the inflation rate between 1980 and 2003. Not 1960, 1980. I didn't see the next comment until afterwards.