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Quebec City’s Old Town : An Old-World Feel on the St. Lawrence


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High & Low | Quebec City’s Old Town

An Old-World Feel on the St. Lawrence

 

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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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