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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘condos

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait mourns the death of Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan and calls for a return to the Moon.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling wonders what future historiography will look like when it’s automatically assumed that British imperialism in South Asia was a bad thing.
  • blogTO highlights an impressive new condo tower planned for Mississauga.
  • D-Brief looks at how a literal heartbeat can transform the perception of an individual by race.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the potential for exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs to be habitable, finding that there seem to be no deal-breakers.
  • Language Hat shares the reflections of Russian-born author Boris Fishman who reads his novel, written in English, translated into the Russian.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a paper looking at the potential for industrial espionage to actually pay off.
  • The LRB Blog considers what will happen to Cuban migration now that Cuban migrants to the United States have no special status.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at post-revolutionary Cairo through film.
  • Savage Minds considers the grounds for potentially treating artificial intelligences as people.
  • Torontoist looks at two rival schools of medicine in 19th century Toronto.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Washington D.C.’s Freedom Plaza can be cleared of protests.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the potential financial catastrophe of Russia’s declining villages, and looks at Belarus’ national identity.

[OBSCURA] Aurelian Marechal’s photos of rising apartment tower complexes in China

The above photo, showing a residential high-rise development outside of the interior Chinese city of Yinchuan, is one of a few stunning photos of similar developments taken across China by photographer Aurelian Marechal. Marechal’s work was the subject of a brief Wired article by Charley Locke.

Venture to the outskirts of China’s biggest cities and you’ll find soaring towers and a barren landscape. One day, these futuristic high-rises will house the 250 million or so people the government hopes to move from villages into cities. For now, though, they remain all but empty. “They look like ghost towns,” says photographer Aurelien Marechal. “They’re suburbs in the middle of nowhere.”

China’s relocation plan is designed to give those in poor, rural areas access to healthcare, schools, and jobs. To entice people into the cities, the government is paying people for their land and subsidizing their housing in gargantuan towers that stand 40 stories or more.

Marechal, who has lived in Shanghai since 2012, noticed the developments during a train ride to Nanjing. He found their size and location intriguing and spent two years documenting their construction in 15 cities throughout the country. The images in Block look like an abandoned civilization, a dystopian vision of a city immediately and completely emptied. Exactly the opposite is happening, of course, as China’s plan to relocate people fills the standing suburbs waiting to house them.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

[URBAN NOTE] “More schools needed near Toronto condos to keep up with family boom”

The Globe and Mail‘s Caroline Alphonso describes the new challenges for Toronto’s newly condo-heavy neighbourhoods, now full with families with young children. Where exactly will these go to school?

Among parents living in Toronto condominiums, Natasha Tysick counts herself lucky.

School boards have struggled to keep pace with the boom in high-rise construction, meaning many children are bused several kilometres through city streets because existing schools have been filled to the brim.

But there is a giant hole in the ground near Ms. Tysick’s condo, so she is hopeful.

A Catholic and a public elementary school are scheduled to open steps from her downtown complex in 2019. Her five-year-old daughter, Sofia Spoltore, will be a three-minute walk from school, as opposed to a 10-minute drive. The complex, known as CityPlace, is near the base of the CN Tower.

“It will bring this community together,” Ms. Tysick said. “When we first moved [here], there weren’t too many children. Now you see so many kids.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s grudge against apartments”

Density, as Sean Micallef argues in the Toronto Star, is a good thing for Toronto, indeed necessary if it is to be inhabitable by the many and not the few.

Toronto has a grudge against apartments, a sentiment expressed in various ways.

A few weeks ago, a group in Parkdale held a public meeting on development in their community and invited speakers from other neighbourhoods to share knowledge on how to influence good development. The byzantine planning process is difficult to negotiate, so sharing knowledge is critical to being effective. Good design, affordability, and community amenities are all part of what people want.

The problem is the way this well-meaning group and countless other local campaigns are positioned. This particular one focused on the “900 luxury units” coming to the area. That’s an incredible way to refer to the tiny units that are most condos built in Toronto today, hardly “luxury.” Making it even more remarkable is some of the invited speakers were single-family homeowners.

So warped are perceptions in Toronto that even progressive folks consider tiny condo apartments, the first rung of the property ladder that people claw their way into, as “luxury,” but homes in the million dollar range or more are somehow not. There’s also a perception that those homeowners “contribute” to the neighbourhood and, in this case, the 900 apartment dwellers somehow wouldn’t.

To be sure, owning a house in Toronto is also a feat of economic gymnastics for many people. “The bank owns my house” is a frequently heard phrase, and the state of being “house poor” is common. It isn’t easy. But this damaging way of looking at how we live, when the single family home is valourized so passionately, ultimately means much of the city is nearly impossible to get into unless you can afford a house.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Condo concierges face off against tourists, partiers in Airbnb war”

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeff Gray writes about one front on which the Airbnb struggle continues.

Outside the brightly decorated lobby of the 32-storey condominium tower at 600 Fleet St. stands artist Douglas Coupland’s statue of a giant British toy soldier standing over a fallen invading Yankee, commemorating the War of 1812. Inside, the building’s security team these days has been dealing with another, more covert invasion: tourists and partiers trying to rent units for the weekend via websites such as Airbnb, in defiance of the condo board’s rules.

On the front lines, and behind the front desk, is the building’s friendly security chief, Prince Abiona, 41, who greets many of the tower’s hundreds of residents by name as they come and go. In this war against Airbnb, the Nigerian-born Mr. Abiona, who sports a headset and whose biceps stretch the sleeves of his white Calvin Klein polo, says he is winning. His tactics include scanning the website and others like it for up to three hours a day for illicit listings in his building, questioning anyone who wanders into the lobby dragging luggage behind them and kicking out any short-term renters he finds.

The few that do slip through his defences can cause big problems. Earlier this year, he says, a unit rented out on Airbnb played host to a rowdy drunken party with about 20 people, some of whom urinated in the hallways and even in the elevator. Another time, an Airbnb partier threw up in the condo pool, forcing it to close. Often, the problem is long-term tenants who list their place on Airbnb or other similar websites, without the actual owner of the condo knowing.

“These people are just here for a few days, they just want to do what they want and they don’t care about the building,” Mr. Abiona says. “That’s why we are fighting it.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Arresting condo development in Toronto”

Enzo DiMatteo’s interview with the two parodists who satirically proposed the redevelopment of some of Toronto’s most iconic buildings as condos is worth reading.

They call themselves Glo’erm and Tuggy, and last week the “urban interventionists” (aka Daniel Rotsztain and Mike Stulberg) provoked a timely discussion about the state of the city by erecting a fake development proposal sign outside Old City Hall announcing plans to convert the historic building into a 90-storey condo. Not everyone got that it was a parody. Rotsztain says buildings going up as part of intensification reflect developers’ vision of the city more than anyone else’s.

What triggered the idea to shame runaway development in Toronto?

It was inspired by the profusion of existing development proposal signs downtown. The black-and-white signs have been updated, but even the new ones seem to announce what will be happening on a particular site rather than offering an invitation for a conversation about the future of the city. Some of the real development proposals out there already look like parodies, with giant glass towers rocketing out of tiny heritage buildings.

Your fake proposal to turn Old City Hall into a giant condo is only slightly less preposterous than an idea floated a year ago to turn it into retail space.

Yes, the development proposal sign we put in front of Old City Hall was so mundane that most people didn’t notice it at all. And of those who did, many thought it was real, even when they read that the heritage building was going to be turned into a parking garage. And there’s the problem: the bureaucratic language and the lack of engagement with these signs numb the mind to the point that ridiculous claims can be slipped under our noses. This [art] project hit a nerve because it reflected the helplessness many of us are feeling toward the shaping of our city.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 3, 2016 at 3:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why I pranked Torontonians with fake condo signs”

Over at The Globe and Mail, Daniel Rotsztain explains his motivations for the recent wave of amusing fake condo development ads popping up at different places of note in the city of Toronto.

In the real estate frenzy this city is experiencing, it feels like nothing is too sacred not to be considered for development. Our faux proposals featuring Toronto’s most beloved buildings address our concern that the development proposal process in this city is broken. How many of us are meaningfully included in the shaping of Toronto?

Recent proposals seem increasingly preposterous. Proposed projects, such as 385 Yonge St., or those under construction, as with 1 Yorkville Ave., feature a tiny strip of heritage architecture with an enormous, out-of-proportion glass tower plopped on top. They already are parodies of a development process gone wrong.

While providing some token heritage preservation, such proposals do no service to the city. In lieu of contributing services, affordable housing or community space, today’s developments instead maximize units by multiplying stories ad nauseam.

To be sure, density is good for the city. But concentrated hyper-density is a thoughtless imposition on Toronto, so much so that, last week, chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat called for a pause on development on Yonge Street between Dundas and Bloor. The condo boom, already reaching densities equivalent to London, England, has not been accompanied by an increase in transit, affordable housing, or public amenities.

These hyper-dense development proposals don’t reflect my values as a Torontonian. But I am not opposed to development. In the face of an affordability crisis, this city sorely needs more housing, and the densification of most existing neighbourhoods is necessary. I am opposed, however, to development that so dramatically disrespects the city.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm