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  1. Oooh that is not good: http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=7051 http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00400&num=7050 If they had decided to make their megalopolis somewhere reasonable in the south instead of in that sleepy little town it would be so much easier to have taken care of this problem decades ago...
  2. Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare? Suburban neighborhoods are becoming refuges for those outpriced in gentrifying inner-cities. By Lara Farrar For CNN (CNN) -- When Shaun Yandell proposed to his longtime girlfriend Gina Marasco on the doorstep of their new home in the sunny suburb of Elk Grove, California, four years ago, he never imagined things would get this bad. But they did, and it happened almost overnight. art.jpg "It is going to be heartbreak," Yandell told CNN. "But we are hanging on." Yandell's marriage isn't falling apart: his neighborhood is. Devastated by the subprime mortgage crisis, hundreds of homes have been foreclosed and thousands of residents have been forced to move, leaving in their wake a not-so-pleasant path of empty houses, unkempt lawns, vacant strip malls, graffiti-sprayed desolate sidewalks and even increased crime. In Elk Grove, some homeowners not only cut their own grass but also trim the yards of vacant homes on their streets, hoping to deter gangs and criminals from moving in. Other residents discovered that with some of the empty houses, it wasn't what was growing outside that was the problem. Susan McDonald, president of a local neighborhood association aimed at saving the lost suburban paradise, told CNN that around her cul-de-sac, federal agents recently busted several pot homes with vast crops of marijuana growing from floor to ceiling. And only a couple of weeks ago, Yandell said he overheard a group of teenagers gathered on the street outside his back patio, talking about a robbery they had just committed. When they lit a street sign on fire, Yandell called the cops. "This is not like a rare thing anymore," he said. "I get big congregations of people cussing -- stuff I can't even fathom doing when I was a kid." Don't Miss For Yandell, his wife and many other residents trying to stick it out, the white picket fence of an American dream has faded into a seemingly hopeless suburban nightmare. "The forecast is gloomy," he told CNN. While the foreclosure epidemic has left communities across the United States overrun with unoccupied houses and overgrown grass, underneath the chaos another trend is quietly emerging that, over the next several decades, could change the face of suburban American life as we know it. This trend, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, stems not only from changing demographics but also from a major shift in the way an increasing number of Americans -- especially younger generations -- want to live and work. "The American dream is absolutely changing," he told CNN. This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars. Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism" -- both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything -- from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters. The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls "drivable suburbanism" -- a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since. Thirty-five percent of the nation's wealth, according to Leinberger, has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape. But now, Leinberger told CNN, it appears the pendulum is beginning to swing back in favor of the type of walkable community that existed long before the advent of the once fashionable suburbs in the 1940s. He says it is being driven by generations molded by television shows like "Seinfeld" and "Friends," where city life is shown as being cool again -- a thing to flock to, rather than flee. "The image of the city was once something to be left behind," said Leinberger. Changing demographics are also fueling new demands as the number of households with children continues to decline. By the end of the next decade, the number of single-person households in the United States will almost equal those with kids, Leinberger said. And aging baby boomers are looking for a more urban lifestyle as they downsize from large homes in the suburbs to more compact town houses in more densely built locations. Recent market research indicates that up to 40 percent of households surveyed in selected metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban areas, said Leinberger. The desire is also substantiated by real estate prices for urban residential space, which are 40 to 200 percent higher than in traditional suburban neighborhoods -- this price variation can be found both in cities and small communities equipped with walkable infrastructure, he said. The result is an oversupply of depreciating suburban housing and a pent-up demand for walkable urban space, which is unlikely to be met for a number of years. That's mainly, according to Leinberger, because the built environment changes very slowly; and also because governmental policies and zoning laws are largely prohibitive to the construction of complicated high-density developments. But as the market catches up to the demand for more mixed use communities, the United States could see a notable structural transformation in the way its population lives -- Arthur C. Nelson, director of Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, estimates, for example, that half of the real-estate development built by 2025 will not have existed in 2000. Yet Nelson also estimates that in 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes that will not be left vacant in a suburban wasteland but instead occupied by lower classes who have been driven out of their once affordable inner-city apartments and houses. The so-called McMansion, he said, will become the new multi-family home for the poor. "What is going to happen is lower and lower-middle income families squeezed out of downtown and glamorous suburban locations are going to be pushed economically into these McMansions at the suburban fringe," said Nelson. "There will probably be 10 people living in one house." In Shaun Yandell's neighborhood, this has already started to happen. Houses once filled with single families are now rented out by low-income tenants. Yandell speculates that they're coming from nearby Sacramento, where the downtown is undergoing substantial gentrification, or perhaps from some other area where prices have gotten too high. He isn't really sure. But one thing Yandell is sure about is that he isn't going to leave his sunny suburban neighborhood unless he has to, and if that happens, he says he would only want to move to another one just like it. "It's the American dream, you know," he said. "The American dream." http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/06/16/suburb.city/index.html
  3. CN sells Montreal station for $355-million Reuters September 19, 2007 at 5:26 PM EDT VANCOUVER — — Canadian National Railway Co. [CNR-T]agreed Wednesday to sell its Central Station complex in Montreal to Homburg Invest Inc., [HII.A-T]but will keep its headquarters in the facility. CN Rail said it expects to get $355-million for the downtown Montreal property, and will lease back the 17-storey office building that houses its headquarters. The sale and long-term lease deal will also allow the station's passenger facility to continue being used by commuter trains, Via Rail Canada and Amtrak, Canadian National said. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. announced last month that it also wants to sell its Windsor Station in Montreal as part of a plan to monetize the value of its real estate assets.
  4. January 11, 2009, 10:00 pm What Will Save the Suburbs? For a long time now I’ve been obsessed with suburban and exurban master-planned communities and how to make them better. But as the economy and the mortgage crisis just seem to get worse, and gas prices continue to plunge, the issues around housing have changed dramatically. The problem now isn’t really how to better design homes and communities, but rather what are we going to do with all the homes and communities we’re left with. In urban areas, there’s rich precedent for the transformation or reuse of abandoned lots or buildings. Vacant lots have been converted into pocket parks, community gardens and pop-up stores (or they remain vacant, anxiously awaiting recovery and subsequent conversion into high-end office space condos). Old homes get divided into apartments, old factories into lofts, old warehouses into retail. Projects like Manhattan’s High Line show that even derelict train tracks can be turned into something as valuable to citizens as a vibrant public park. A brownfield site in San Francisco has been cleaned up and will house an eco-literacy center for the city’s youth. Hey, even a dump (Fresh Kills, on Staten Island) is undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis into a recreation area. But similar transformation within the carefully delineated form of a subdivision is not so simple. These insta-neighborhoods were not designed or built for flexibility or change. So what to do with the abandoned houses, the houses that were never completed or the land that was razed for building and now sits empty? Lands cleared to make way for houses that were not (and may never be) developed. (DigitalGlobe, Sanborn, GeoEye, U.S. Geological Survey; 2008 Google Imagery) Cover of Julia Christensen’s “Big Box Reuse.” Take as an analogous example their symbiotic partner, the big box store. As I learned in artist Julia Christensen’s new book, “Big Box Reuse,” when a big box store like Wal-mart or Kmart outgrows its space, it is shut down. It is, apparently, cheaper to start from scratch than to close for renovation and expansion, let alone decide at the outset to design a store that can easily be expanded (or contracted, as the case may be). So not only does a community get a newer, bigger big box, it is also left with quite an economic and environmental eyesore: a vacant shell of a retail operation, tons of wasted building material and a changed landscape that can’t be changed back. The silver lining in Christensen’s study are the communities she’s discovered that have proactively addressed the massive empty shells they’ve been left with, turning structures of anywhere from 20,000 to 280,000 square feet into something useful: a charter school, a health center, a chapel, a library. (And, in Austin, Minn., a new Spam Museum.) The repurposing of abandoned big-box stores is easier to wrap one’s head around: one can envision within a single volume (albeit a massive one) the potential to become something else. But exurban communities are a unique challenge. The houses within them are big, but not generally as big as, say, Victorian mansions in San Francisco that can be subdivided into apartments. So they’re not great candidates for transformation into multi-family rental housing. I did visit a housing development last year that offered “quartets,” McMansions subdivided into four units with four separate entrances. These promised potential buyers the status of a McMansion with the convenience of a condominium, but the concept felt like it was created more to preserve the property values of larger neighboring homes than to serve the needs of the community’s residents. There has been a nationwide shift toward de-construction (led by companies like Planet Reuse and Buffalo Reuse, the surgical taking-apart of homes to salvage the building materials for reuse, but often the building materials used in these developments aren’t of good enough quality to warrant salvaging. I don’t have the perfect solution for how to transform these broad swaths of subdivisions, and while I’ve heard much talk of the foreclosure tragedy, I’ve heard nary a peep about what to do about it. A recent article in The Times spotted an emerging trend of kids usurping the abandoned pools of foreclosed homes for use as temporary skate parks. (Interestingly, this was big in the ‘70s, as you can see by watching the rad skate documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”) It’s a great short-term strategy for adolescent recreation (and for ridding neighborhoods of fetid pools, which often harbor West Nile virus), though it’s not a comprehensive solution to the problem of increasingly abandoned, ill-maintained and more dangerous streetscapes. But there are some interesting avenues to be pursued. Part of President-elect Obama’s proposed massive public works program, for example, is to be dedicated to clean tech infrastructure. Included in this is the intent to weatherize (that is, make energy-efficient) one million low-income homes a year. One can already see how those in the construction industry can begin to make the shift from new construction to home retrofitting. It’s the centerpiece of “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” the best-selling, Al Gore- and Nancy Pelosi-endorsed book by environmental activist Van Jones. Though we hear a lot in the news about new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design/) buildings and incentives for implementing the latest green technology, it’s often the case that fixing leaks and insulation are just as effective in reducing the carbon footprint of single-family homes (which account for about 18 percent of the country’s carbon footprint). As people increasingly stay put — and re-sell homes less — this retrofit strategy makes sense. Millions of homes, not just low-income ones, are in need of the sort of weatherization the Obama plan describes. The non-profit Architecture 2030, established in 2002 in response to the global warming crisis, is leading a major effort in this arena with the goal of dramatically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the building sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed. And after decades of renovation-obsession that has simply gotten out of hand, it seems a prudent time to swap Viking ranges for double-paned windows and high-efficiency furnaces. It’s the perfect moment to fix what we’ve got. Despite their currently low numbers, green homes typically re-sell for more money than their conventional counterparts. I still dream that some major overhaul can occur: that a self-sufficient mixed-use neighborhood can emerge. That three-car-garaged McMansions can be subdivided into rental units with streetfront cafés, shops and other local businesses. In short, that creative ways are found not just to rehabilitate these homes and communities, but to keep people in them. __________________________________________________________ “The Ponzi State” New Yorker, February 9, 2009, p. 81 ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about Florida’s real-estate market and the economic downturn. Writer visits a number of inland real-estate developments near Tampa, Florida. Developers there dreamed up instant communities, parceled out lots, and built look-alike two-story beige and yellow houses. The houses sold to some of the thousand or so people who moved to Florida every day. Now many are ghost subdivisions. In one community, Twin Lakes, property values dropped by more than a hundred thousand dollars in the past two years. Writer interviews Angie Harris, a Navy veteran and mother of five, who says of her neighbors, “It used to be people would wave. Now they don’t.” In another community, Hamilton Park, the writer interviews a woman named Lee Gaither, whose only income came from Disability payments. She was facing eviction and planned to sell many of her possessions on eBay. Florida is one of the places where the financial crisis began. Gary Mormino, a professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, tells the writer that, “Florida, in some ways, resembles a modern Ponzi scheme. Everything is fine for me if a thousand newcomers come tomorrow.” The state depends for revenue on real-estate deals and sales taxes. By 2005, the housing market in Florida was hotter than it had ever been. Flipping houses and condominiums turned into an amateur middle-class pursuit. Writer tells about Floridians with modest incomes who made money buying and selling real estate. Mentions one case in which a house appreciated in value by almost fifty per cent overnight. According to an investigation by the Miami Herald, government oversight of the real-estate market was so negligent that more than ten thousand convicted criminals got jobs in the mortgage industry. Flipping and fraud burst the bubble. But in places like Pasco County, it was the ordinary desire of ordinary people to buy their own home that turned things toxic. Tells about Anita Lux, who moved to Florida from Michigan with her husband, Richard. Gives a brief history of Cape Coral, Florida, which was first developed in the fifties by two businessmen from Baltimore. Writer interviews a number of Florida residents who have lost their jobs or homes. A Fort Myers real-estate agent named Marc Joseph tells the writer, “Greed and easy money. That was the germ.” By last year, the highest foreclosure rate in the country could be found in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Mentions other indicators of the economic hard times, including the closure of auto dealerships and the theft of copper. Writer visits the office of Tampa’s mayor, Pam Iorio, who is determined to build a light rail system to revive the city’s fortunes. A number of people in Florida told the writer that the state needs a fundamental change in its political culture.
  5. Bylaw tweak could allow more drive-throughs Patty Winsa Urban Affairs Reporter Ads by Google A battle to restrict fast-food and coffee drive-throughs in the city’s residential areas may be brewing yet again. An amendment in Toronto’s new zoning bylaws, which go to council for approval this week, counteracts a 2002 city-wide ban that says drive-through lanes can’t be within 30 metres of homes and, instead, applies the standard to the order box only. The amendment could make it easier to put drive-throughs in some locations. The change comes six years after a residents group and the city successfully defended the original ban at the OMB, following a challenge by the Canadian Bankers Association, the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association along with other business interests, including the OMERS pension fund. “If in fact (the amendment) does undo the intent of the bylaw that we fought three years for and won at the OMB, I’m shocked and outraged,” said Susan Speigel, president of the Humewood Neighbourhood Ratepayers Inc., which raised $30,000 and hired a lawyer to make their case. “I will pursue this with the same dogged determination with which I fought for the original bylaw,” she said. Councillor Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke Lakeshore, Ward 5) pushed the amendment as part of Toronto’s new bylaws, a six-year project to harmonize regulations across 43 zoning areas brought together when North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, York and East York amalgamated with Toronto in 1998. The situation was complicated by the fact that some of the former cities had a web of bylaws, enacting new sets each time a new residential area was formed. Scarborough had more than 30. The harmonized bylaws went through the city’s planning and growth committee last week and go before city council at its meeting Wednesday and Thursday — the last before the election. Milczyn said he proposed the drive-through amendment after meeting with industry representatives and lobbyists for large companies such as Shell and Esso, who complained the current laneway restrictions were too onerous. “They’ve been attending every committee meeting and deputing and writing on this issue for months and months,” he said. Milczyn proposed a 30-metre distance between homes and the order box, which he says “is the point where there’s the most noise.” The original 30-metre setback was created after city staff did a Toronto-wide report on drive-throughs years ago. “We wanted the separation of the car, noise and fumes, including the order box,” said Joe D’Abramo, the city’s acting director for zoning bylaw and environmental planning, who wrote the original report. “We wanted them pulled away from residential zones. It was quite offensive when they put them right next to one,” he said. Milczyn said he intended the amendment to apply only to corner gas stations with drive-throughs in the outskirts of the city, but the language doesn’t specify that, say planning staff. And even then, it would still contravene the original bylaw. D’Abramo says the amendment put forth by Milczyn requires the order box to be 30 metres away from a residence, but the laneway could be right beside it. The new bylaws are online at http://www.toronto.ca/zoning and can be searched by entering an address or using the interactive maps. What’s new in the amalgamated bylaws Building heights: Say goodbye to stand-alone big-box or liquor stores on main streets in combined commercial-residential areas of the old city. Minimum heights will now be three storeys. Rooming houses: City staff proposed allowing rooming houses in high-density areas, including former boroughs where they were once banned, but the committee decided to defer a decision on the controversial subject until 2011. Group homes: Despite a human rights complaint, the new bylaw requires that group homes, including correctional homes and housing for people with mental health issues, be separated by at least 250 metres. The municipalities had various distance requirements, but mental health advocates such as the Dream Team want none. Restaurants and bars: South of Bloor St., and from the Humber River to Victoria Park, restaurants are restricted to the first floor of a building. Outdoor patios can be at the front or side, but not on the roof or in the back. Industry: The old bylaws had no provisions for propane facilities, but in response to the Sunrise explosion, they are now restricted to industrial zones and must be at least 300 metres from homes. Visitor parking: Council directed staff to include a city-wide ban on paid visitor parking at apartment buildings, which has been in effect for years in North York, but an amendment put forward by Milczyn on Thursday took that off the table. Schools and places of worship: There is no longer an automatic right to put a school or place of worship in a residential area, so as to restrain conversion or elimination of houses. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/851861--bylaw-tweak-could-allow-more-drive-throughs?bn=1
  6. I have noticed in the past months in this forum and many others in SSP/SSC the amount of rants about ugly suburb sprawl and design. These days, Many neighborhood planners just build and go. Sure they might build a park here and there, but nothing that might add uniqueness to a city or town. Personally i had the chance to live in Calgary and I once visited a neighborhood called McKenzie Towne which is by far i think one of the best examples as to how i would develop suburbs in Canada. All the amenities in the central area with beautifully constructed houses on the outside with great parks, fountains and bicycle trails. At night the neighborhood is surprisingly vibrant (only 11, 000 people) with restaurants and fantastic pubs. I can only imagine in 30/40 years how this little town will look with all the trees and vegetation matured! I would love to see these kind of developments around Montreal or Toronto! http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.913702,-113.964581&spn=0.015315,0.042272&z=15&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.913702,-113.964581&panoid=rzCDkdLVVG2sB2fGzF2jrg&cbp=12,280.66,,0,8.68 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.913536,-113.9698&spn=0.003863,0.010568&z=17&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.913536,-113.9698&panoid=lrnqlqsqoGl1FuR1rrDQdQ&cbp=12,100.14,,0,5.57 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.913296,-113.969818&spn=0.003863,0.010568&z=17&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.913156,-113.970046&panoid=-L2scdoFHHHP5r2uuY0RQg&cbp=12,228.7,,0,4.39 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.91634,-113.960246&spn=0.000014,0.021136&z=16&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.91634,-113.960246&panoid=u2VS_zIsxUsGQd0xAhB3Pg&cbp=12,74.85,,0,7.49 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.91525,-113.960637&spn=0.000003,0.005284&z=18&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.91525,-113.960637&panoid=gTpjEsRS8yDtkiCpBpnCOw&cbp=12,222.93,,0,15.08 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.913757,-113.962308&spn=0.001931,0.005284&z=18&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.913757,-113.962308&panoid=BuvKEP1o_b7-0o-KyMAItw&cbp=12,79.11,,0,2.74 http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=mckenzie+towne&hl=en&ll=50.91337,-113.968863&spn=0.007725,0.021136&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=50.913584,-113.968534&panoid=stfZebx-Ap8oFn19zAJ3RQ&cbp=12,17.37,,0,9.78&z=16
  7. Roman Bezjak Roman Bezjak, who was born in Slovenia but was raised in West Germany, set out to document the everyday qualities of communist buildings. Once the Ministry of Road Construction, this building in Tbilisi, Georgia, consists of five intersecting horizontal bars and resembles a Jenga game. It was designed to has as small a footprint on the ground as possible and to allow natural life to flourish. Now it houses the Bank of Georgia. Roman Bezjak Pictured here is a Cold War-era commercial complex in Leipzig, eastern Germany. Bezjak wants viewers to approach his photos "with a gaze uncontaminated by ideology." Roman Bezjak Nemiga Street in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where an old church still stands in the old city core, between two monstrosities of postwar modernism. Bezjak made repeated trips to Eastern Europe over a period spanning five years. Roman Bezjak Prefabricated apartment blocks in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bezjak wanted to show the buildings from eye level, the way local citizens would have seen them every day. Roman Bezjak A patriotic mosaic on the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania, built in 1981. Roman Bezjak This massive 1970s government building in the eastern German city of Magdeburg become a department store after 1991. Roman Bezjak The "three widows" in Belgrade, Serbia -- three massive apartment blocks. Roman Bezjak Bezjak's book has collected photos of post-war architecture from countries including Poland, Lithuania, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Georgia. Roman Bezjak The 12-story building in the middle is a three-star hotel -- the "Hotel Cascade" -- in the Czech city of Most. Roman Bezjak This publishing house in Sarajevo, Bosnia, looks like a spaceship. It shows signs of damage from the war. "It was near Snipers' Alley," Bezjak recalls -- a street in the Serbian capital that received its nickname during the Balkan wars. Roman Bezjak An earthquake in 1963 gave city planners in the Macedonian capital of Skopje the chance to envision an "ideal city" in concrete. The city's main post office could be from a science fiction movie. Roman Bezjak A department store in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk. Roman Bezjak The center of Dresden, where a state department store built in the 1970s was meant to be the height of modernity. The building was torn down in 2007. Roman Bezjak A dinosaur of communism: The roof of the sports hall in Kosovo's capital Pristina looks like the back of a stegosaurus. Built in 1977, it's still in use for athletic events and concerts. Roman Bezjak The Polish port city of Gdansk has prefabricated apartment blocks from the 1960s and 1970s that are supposed to look like waves from the nearby Baltic Sea. Called "wave houses," they take up whole city blocks. The largest is 850 meters long and is said to be the third-longest apartment building in Europe. Roman Bezjak For Bezjak, these buildings are not just relics of a failed system, but also, simply, home. "That can't be measured according to aesthetic or social categories, but only in terms of memories," he says. This photo shows the city of Halle in eastern Germany. Bezjak's photographs repeatedly met with incomprehension from Eastern European colleagues. "They can't understand why anyone would focus on this phenomenon," Bezjak says. Roman Bezjak's book "Sozialistische Moderne - Archäologie einer Zeit" is published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011, 160 pages. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,777206,00.html
  8. High & Low | Quebec City’s Old Town An Old-World Feel on the St. Lawrence Article Tools Sponsored By By BETHANY LYTTLE Published: July 18, 2008 QUEBEC CITY celebrates its 400th anniversary this year. Founded in 1608 as Kebec (Algonquin for “place where the river narrows”) by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City was the first permanent French settlement in North America. Today, the charms of Quebec City make it one of the most visited cities in Canada, and increasingly a destination for Americans and Western Canadians who wish to own, in the form of real estate, a piece of its history. Perched on the St. Lawrence River, the walled town conjures up images of Europe, its terraced setting filled with narrow cobblestone streets, many of them steep, and a stirring display of restored architecture. Jeannette Casavant, a real estate broker, has been selling real estate in Quebec City for 22 years. “Values have increased more than 25 percent in less than 10 years,” she said. “And although the United States has experienced suffering in its real estate market, we have not felt that nor seen it here.” Ms. Casavant said that in recent years there has been a shift in the trend of buying second homes outside the city. Instead, those who are thinking about retirement, but also a significant population of younger families with children, are choosing to buy pieds-à-terre and historic houses in the Old Town. Extensive government-backed preservation and restoration of the city’s oldest apartment buildings and houses mean that buyers can own a centuries-old dwelling, complete with modern conveniences, and experience the enchanting European-style life without traveling overseas. And Old Town’s central location means there is no need to own a car. With outstanding views of the St. Lawrence River, ramparts on which to walk and enjoy the water, and plentiful outdoor cafes, there is a lot to attract a second-home owner. “People come up here to study French and end up wanting to own a property here,” Ms. Casavant said. Typical prices in Old Town range from 200,000 Canadian dollars, about the same in U.S. dollars, for a condominium to about 2 million Canadian dollars. And one of the area’s coveted single-family houses might be more expensive. “Since 9/11, we have seen a marked increase in American buyers,” Ms. Casavant said. “They want security, and Quebec is secure in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that real estate should continue to increase. “There is no more land left in the city to build,” she added, “and the government is very strict about historic architecture. Nothing here is going to be knocked down and replaced with a condominium high-rise.” High This 5,277-square-foot house was built in 1807. It is within walking distance of Le Chateau Frontenac, a Quebec City landmark and one of the nation’s premier hotels. It is also near all of Old Town’s amenities, including its many terrace cafes, and the newly constructed Promenade Samuel de Champlain, which provides access to the shores of the St. Lawrence River. The house, which includes an attached stable that has been turned into a garage, has been fully restored. It has had only three owners in its history. The property shares its original stone-walled yard with an Ursuline convent and has views of the convent’s French gardens from its upper levels. The restored interior includes marble fireplaces, hardwood floors and arched doorways, as well as deep windows and hand-carved woodwork. There are seven bathrooms and three balconies and a terrace on the upper level. Taxes: 9,727 Canadian dollars. Listing agent: Cyrille Girard, Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec, Quebec City, (418) 264-2809; http://www.cyrillegirard.com. Low This two-story, 1,076-square-foot condominium is in an 1850s building on a quiet, narrow street close to the St. Lawrence River and the shops, cafes and restaurants of Quebec City’s Old Town. It was fully restored and renovated about 10 years ago. On the upper floor is the dining room, kitchen, a living room and a half-bathroom. From this level, there is an entrance to a small garden area in the back. On the lower floor are two bedrooms and a full bathroom. There is an exposed fieldstone wall, original to the building, in the open dining and living area, and there is a wood-burning fireplace. There are hardwood floors throughout except in the bathrooms, where the floors are ceramic. The building has only one other condominium unit. Taxes: 1,600 Canadian dollars, about the same in United States dollars. Listing agent: Danielle Themens, Themens Real Estate, (418) 353-3456; http://www.daniellethemens.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/greathomesanddestinations/18mark.html?ref=realestate
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