Archived entries for Real Estate

Point Grey Lust

When I grow up, I want a big house on Point Grey Road in Vancouver. Home to old money, rich professors at nearby UBC, and rich Canucks players, this place is hot!

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The homes of Bogotá

Beautiful homes abound in the wealthy north end of Bogotá (some more fortified than others):

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Real estate round-up

The depression recession is doing great things for real estate availability in previously tough-to-come by places in coastal Maine. And the desperate masses are unloading homes for pennies on the dollars. In some cases, it’s a real fire sale. It’s a great time to buy — if you can convince a bank to give you a mortgage!

Over on North Haven, this Main Street gem, smack down in the center of town, is a mere $395,000. You can’t get a studio in Manhattan for that!

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Real estate doesn’t come cheap over on Mount Desert Island, long the home of Maine’s grandest summer homes, but they’re a relative bargain compared to some summer towns in other states — and there are an unbelievable number on the market. Atlantique, a former Astor family place, is on the market for $5.5 million (plus $30,000 a year in taxes). It’s also available to rent for a pittance: $50,000 per month this summer. Not a bad price, if you have the right friends to split the cost. You just have to overlook the incredibly questionable decor.

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Over on Islesboro, where you can hobnob with residents like Kirstie Alley and John Travolta (not that you would, but you could), the Tiffany Cottage is available for $4.75 million. Like Maine’s other island summer colonies, there seems to be a lot up for sale on Islesboro this year. Check out all that frontage!

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Vancouver Ritz-Carlton dies

The economic slump has begun to hit Vancouver’s crazed real estate market. The city’s flashy new Ritz-Carlton project has been scrapped. While construction was already underway on the $500-million new tower on West Georgia Street, only 62 of the 123 condos (priced at $1.4 million to $28 million) had sold, so developers pulled the plug on the project this week, citing “worldwide economic turmoil.”

Putting off the Ritz | Vancouver no longer puttin’ on the Ritz

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Shingles rock

There is nothing quite like a big old summer house in Maine. I am obsessed with shingle style “cottages”! Below are some of my favs from my town in Maine (including one hot clapboard home).

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A pre-Olympics hotel boom

fairmont_pacific_rim_constructionThis Sunday’s New York Times has a good piece on Vancouver’s pre-Olympics building boom. I’m obsessed with new hotels, and the piece focuses on all the new ones coming to town, including a Ritz-Carlton, the continent’s first Shangri-La, and my fav construction project: the new Fairmont Pacific Rim.

I’ve written much about the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel and residences, but I think it is worth repeating that this will (hilariously) be the fourth Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver (fifth if you count the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which I don’t, sixth if you count the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which I don’t).

Fairmont has taken the Starbucks approach to site selection and has practically saturated Vancouver with hotels on every possible corner. The Pacific Rim stands two blocks from the Fairmont Waterfront (and their views will be virtually identical!). Four blocks south is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Nine miles south is the Fairmont Vancouver Airport.

Luxury condos for…Buffalo?

Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this in Buffalo. For the record, Buffalo has never seen anything like this in Buffalo. I present you with the proposed Parklane condo building which developers hope to erect on the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Gates Circle. I like it a lot. If this 23-storey tower gets approved, which I think it won’t, based on Buffalo’s skewed preservationist-to-realist proportions, I’m not sure there will be much of an appetite for homes ranging from $400,000-$2,000,000 in the Queen City.

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Buffalo has never seen anything like this before, and for good reason. Palatial homes (gorgeous ones) can be had for half the price of the Parklane’s smallest units. The new tower will be steps from the famous gilded age mansions along Millionaires’ Row, but the Millionaires long ago decamped for other parts. Who will fill these new apartments? The yuppies of Buffalo? They all up and moved to Charlotte and Atlanta.

Truth be told, I love Buffalo and I know a few yuppies who could easily afford one of these new places. But they never would. The real charm of Buffalo are those affordable, huge homes that big city folk salivate over. Friends who now pay 600 bucks for that big two-bedroom with a backyard won’t be trading up for 1000 sq ft apartment with a (presumably) crazy condo fee. If bringing big city condos to Buffalo is seen as the answer to the city’s economic and brain drain woes, we might have a bigger problem!

The opposition to this tower is immense, and the comment boards on the Buffalo Rising blog are out of control. Here are two thoughts:

“I’m sick and tired of nothing coming to Buffalo because every time some one comes up with a project there are people who don’t like it and protest it. Well keep protesting everything and no one will come and everyone will leave and sooner or later the entire city will turn poor and Buffalo won’t have anything.”

“I’d rather see Buffalo thrive as a living, breathing city than an interpretive history museum. This sexy new highrise will help breathe some new life into an otherwise yawnirific area.”

Up and coming in Toronto

shangrila_torontoAs if Toronto wasn’t already overdosing on luxury hotel/condo buildings, with a new Trump Tower, Ritz-Carlton, and Four Seasons all under construction right now, Asian chain Shagri-la is planning a massive 65-storey tower on University Avenue. The lower 17 floors will feature 220 hotel rooms and the upper levels will contain 352 condos. It will be the tallest residential tower in Toronto, and the renderings look hot, even if it will stick out on the corner its planned for.

Critics of Toronto’s bland look always say the city needs to be a little bit more daring, and this tower will be an excellent addition to the skyline.

Hogtown may be the 5th biggest city in North America, but is this just one too many in the latest string of luxury high-rise condo-hotels being built there? The developer, Ian Gillespie, doesn’t think so, according to the Globe and Mail: “The decision to come to Toronto, he said, was not about the hotel market in the next five years. It’s a call on the economy and the importance of the city over the next three decades or more given travel patterns and the rising power of the Asian market.”

How high can Vancouver condo prices go?

Despite being British Columbia’s biggest booster, the constant stream of headlines about Vancouver’s sizzling real estate market is almost getting tiring. The latest report out this weeks says the market — which many believed would turn out to be a too-good-to-be-true bubble — will only continue to soar. Vancouver condos cost an average of $307,000 this year and are expected to reach $350,000 by 2010. That’s still a bargain compared to U.S. big cities (few of which have offer the views that Vancouver does, thanks to restrictive zoning that gives virtually every new condo a “view corridor” to the mountains or the sea…and protects the views city-wide of the mountains).

“Vancouver’s condominium market took off in 2001 and has not looked back,” the report says, and supply has not kept up with demand. “People are seeing a lot more skyscrapers and cranes [around Vancouver] and are wondering ‘who is buying all these things, and [saying] it can’t last,’” Genworth Financial president Peter Vukanovich said.

And now for the obligatory vanity-in-Vancouver shot:

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Vancouver zoning: worked too well!

The New York Times has a decent piece today on the what’s happened in Vancouver since the city enacted an overly pro-residential zoning strategy for the downtown core. While the downtown population has doubled in recent years with the explosive growth of new neighborhoods and gleaming glass towers, businesses are being squeezed and pushed to the ‘burbs. In five years the city will run out of downtown commercial space. Yikes!

As always, the Times closed out their piece with a simple zinger: “Most downtowns would love to have our problem,” the city’s planning director said. “We are well-positioned to do that deeper level of urbanism.”

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My new fav building

This is my new fav building — the Bleecker Building. The sun was beginning to set on one of the most beautiful days ever when I finally stopped and looked up at this building at Broadway and Bleecker that I’ve walked past countless times. I had just left Crate and Barrel and was walking home to Chelsea when the light was hitting this gorgeous building just right for a photo.

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Kelowna tops in Canadian real estate

kelowna_real_estateNot too surprising — “The small B.C. city of Kelowna has become the second most expensive place to buy a home in the country, behind Vancouver,” CBC reports.

Kelowna, which is located a few hours east of Vancouver, is hot in every way possible. “A ReMax Canada survey suggests the average house price in the Okanagan city has jumped to $422,000 this year, up from $355,000 last year — moving it ahead of Victoria, Toronto and Calgary.”

One agent told CBC, “Every single property on the lake is going to be over a million dollars. We’re selling land on the lake. An old knockdown, and it’s over a million dollars. Let’s face it. We’re a lifestyle destination.”

Calgary’s housing boom misses many

calgary_dontmovethereCalgary may be experiencing the strongest economic growth in all of North America right now, but the rapidly rising housing costs are locking out many people.

CBC reports, “A community activist in Calgary has started a large-scale e-mail campaign warning workers coming to the city that they might not be able to find a place to live. Rev. Susan Brandt has sent e-mails to about a thousand people across the country, telling recipients: ‘Do not come to Calgary. There is nowhere to live.’”

Kelowna – Napa of the North

Finally I have a reason to post one of my fav Kelowna photos. Today’s New York Times features the British Columbia city in its travel section, with a piece about the region’s burgeoning wine industry. Kelowna’s a 4-5 hour drive east of Vancouver and has just about the mildest climate in the country and the real estate prices to boot (it’s the fifth most expensive market in Canada behind Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria).

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From the piece: “When I met my friend Anna at the airport in Kelowna, the region’s gateway city (population 100,000), a friendly woman at the information desk asked us where we were from. When we answered, she said ‘New York?’ and put her hand to her chest. ‘Oh my, that’s so far! We don’t get many of you around here.’ That may be temporary. The word is getting out about the Okanagan Valley.”

Real estate wrap-up

Maine summer homes are hot! Here are a few of the finest offering from Christie’s Great Estates. The first two are my favs: 51 acres on North Haven Island (price not listed–bid high; a friend is trying to snap it up); and Felsted on Deer Isle, filming location for the fabulous film “Man Without a Face,” and the former summer home of Frederick Law Olmsted. The 1896 “cottage” can be yours for a mere $2.5 million.

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Mount Desert Island has long had some of the most grand homes on the Maine coast. Many of the big names who inhabited those huge homes have since decamped for other summer colonies but the real estate they erected remains. Isis in Northeast Harbor can be nabbed for just under $7 million, or you can take the 1892 Far from the Wolves for a touch under $10 million.

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Sound Edge in Northeast Harbor is $8.9 million while the Williamson Cottage on Islesboro is just $3.5 million. It takes a special breed to summer in Islesboro — but if you can hack it, you’ll have a fabulous view looking out to North Haven.

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The Toronto wrecking ball

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As it grows and matures, Canada’s biggest city has a wee bit of a problem. Architecture critics claim the city is continually tearing down buildings of significance while the ugly ones are left behind. A casual stroll around downtown Toronto reveals much truth to the idea: like all big Canadian cities, T.O. is littered with architectural ugliness.

“The problem isn’t that Toronto tears down so many buildings, but that it tears down the wrong buildings. Instead of destroying the good stuff, which is in short supply, we should be ridding ourselves of architectural blight, of which there is plenty,” writes Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star.

“There’s so much the city would be better off without. Some buildings were poorly designed by architects who tried but failed; others by architects who clearly didn’t care. Their failure goes beyond questions of taste and aesthetics; these are the buildings that deaden the street, blot the skyline, and suck the life out of the city.”

North to Canada, for an ocean view

The New York Times reports today that New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are quickly becoming the latest hot spots for Americans seeking the last bits of reasonably priced oceanfront real estate on the Atlantic coast.

“Once dismissed as too chilly, too rocky or just too far away, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are increasingly in the sights of Americans priced out of beach houses at home. They are drawing buyers from as far away as Florida, California and Texas. Seaside cottages, Victorian-style homes, town houses, rustic ranch-type houses, golf-course houses and parcels of ocean frontage are all for sale if you’re willing to go up, up and away — at least 500 miles north of Manhattan — and east into the Atlantic time zone. Americans are also buying in Nova Scotia, a neighboring Maritime province, but their interest there is longstanding.”

With Continental now flying from New York to New Brunswick, that horrific drive from Manhattan is now just as easy as an 80-minute flight.

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The condo capital of the continent

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It was once said that Vancouver is “the best setting in the world in search of a city.” That city, in my lifetime, has gone from a small town of low-slung architecture, admittedly somewhat of a backwater, into one of the most booming and alluring cities on earth. That transition has been bolstered by an urban planning philosophy that has encouraged residential development in the downtown (even when it comes at the expense of more office/commercial space) and has led the city to become the condo capital of Canada. No city in North America has as many residential high-rises, per capita, as Vancouver.

I took this photo a few mornings ago at the construction site of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the latest big development to hit the waterfront in the Coal Harbour section of town. The Fairmont chain is taking hints from the Starbucks saturation technique and siting their new residences and hotel conveniently next door to their Fairmont Waterfront Hotel (not unlike Toronto where a new Four Seasons is going up across the street from an existing one). The new condos will be sure to fetch quite the price: Vancouver already has the highest real estate prices in the nation, and Coal Harbour tops all city locations.

From one interesting article: “Vancouver may go down as the place where the North American high-rise was unexpectedly perfected,” Sutherland points out. “With few major companies” head offices on its downtown peninsula, the city has re-zoned most of the land to be residential, leading to the construction of hundreds of narrow, glass-clad, view-seeking condominiums. At street level the ambience is almost European, while 30 storeys up the Wallpaper magazine ideal is finally being lived.”

For Sale: A White Elephant, Scandal Included

no_10_toronto_streetThe New York Times has taken a neat look at an old scandal-plagued building in downtown Toronto that is expected to hit the real estate market shortly.

No. 10 Toronto Street was the office for media mogul Conrad Black but now his protracted legal troubles in both the U.S. and Canada, and those of his holding company, Hollinger, mean the building is no longer needed.

The agent handling the sale “said he did not know whether the building’s security camera system would be included; last year it captured Lord Black and some of his personal employees removing boxes out a back door in defiance of a Canadian court order.”

Maine real estate is hot!

My friend’s parents just moved to Maine, which piqued my interest in discovering the latest real estate prices. Check out these gems, clockwise from top left: a beautifulRockport Harbor estate ($4.5 million); a gracious city home in Portland’s West End that realtors claim has views of New Hampshire’s White Mountains — somehow, I’m skeptical ($1.6 million); an old farmhouse on Camden’s prestigious Chestnut Street — one of my fav streets, where your neighbor will be the former CEO of Apple Computer ($735,000); and a cute village house on North Haven island ($350,000).

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