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Posts Tagged ‘Real estate’

What do you remember of your childhood home(s)?

In aging, beauty, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life on October 26, 2013 at 1:10 am

By Caitlin Kelly

English: Carl Nielsen outside his childhood ho...

English: Carl Nielsen outside his childhood house at Nørre Lyndelse, Funen, Denmark in 1927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This writer, a columnist for the weekend Financial Times, Harry Eyres, is one of my favorite writers. He recently wrote a poignant piece about emptying his childhood home and finally leaving it for the last time:

Strangely, I dreaded the loss of the house from a very early age. I had nightmares about it.

Leaving a
house you love is hard. Relinquishing a house where you grew up from
your earliest childhood, where you spent your first springs, summers,
autumns, winters, every one of whose corners, cupboards, creaking
staircases, floorboards and smells became almost like an extension of
your being, is harder still…

We bade farewell to the house on a perfect golden September day,
which started misty and hazy and rather mysterious before the sun broke
through. Some people had told me that it would be easier to leave the
house when it was empty, as it would have lost many of its most personal
connotations, pieces of furniture, even curtains. But I did not find it
so.

The house seemed just as beautiful as ever to me on the day of our
departure. In some ways even more beautiful, as being emptied of
furniture can restore a certain youthfulness and sense of possibility to
a dwelling. The upstairs spare room, which had become a sort of dump
before I cleared it out, hadn’t looked so inviting for decades.

We, three generations and a stalwart family friend, had a sunny
picnic on the raised terrace outside the front door, sitting on the low
wall rising up from the hydrangea beds, as there were no longer any
chairs.

I’ve only lived in a few houses with my parents, at least those I can recall.

There was one in London, when I was very small, then one in Toronto, a big brick house with a deep backyard and my bedroom at the very top, where I lay in bed and listened to the radio. I knew my mother was climbing the stairs when I heard her ankles popping. There were brilliant yellow forsythia bushes outside the kitchen window I used to call “for cynthia” — my mother’s name.

When my parents split up, and I was about seven, that was the end of that house. I miss it still.

I didn’t live in another house until eleventh grade, when I moved in with my father into a white brick house on a Toronto corner. There was a lilac tree just outside the kitchen door and a huge park behind our yard where our dog would get out and run in circles really fast, usually whenever I was having a party and it was the last thing I wanted to deal with.

Since then, after leaving that house when I was in university, I’ve never owned one nor have my parents stayed very long in any of theirs, usually only for a few years, scooping up a healthy profit, and moving into yet another. I watch the houses come and go, envious they’ve even owned a house, let alone several. I wonder if I ever will.

My father had a 200+ year-old house in Athenry, just outside Galway City, for a few years, that’s now a nursing home. I loved my few brief visits there, scything the lawn and staring out through its ancient, rippled glass panes.

When I return to visit Toronto, I often drive past that white brick house. It doesn’t look much different, even all these years later.

Jose’s childhood home was torn down and is now the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The only remainder of his life there is a tiny courtyard and the apricot tree from whose fruit his late mother once made jam.

Do you remember your childhood home?

Is it still there?

Happy July 4th! How My Great-Grandfather Louis Brought Me To The U.S.

In History on July 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

There are families who lovingly and carefully preserve not only their memories, but all the artifacts of their ancestors. Not ours. I had seen a few photos and never got to meet either grandfather.

The very little I knew of my great grandfather, Louis M. Stumer, was a brochure for an office building in Chicago, the North American Building, in which he was an investor at the turn of the century.

With the Fourth of July coming up, and the recent renewal of my green card after 22 years of living in the U.S., I Googled him recently. I wanted to learn some more about the man, and found an eerie set of coincidences. I’m a journalist — he published two successful literary magazines, The Red Book and the Blue Book. I just finished writing a book about the retail industry and discovered that he owned or co-owned one of several prominent Chicago stores of the era.

I even found a photo of his mausoleum, the one to which my mom holds the key.

A photo of his wife, swooning in a theatrical tableau, from a 1907 image in the Chicago Daily News, may explain my occasional penchant for drama.

As I was growing up, Louis was only an initial, S, the middle of my grandmother’s monograms. The man was a total mystery. He was Jewish and Republican; I’m neither.

From a newsletter of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society:

While mail order remains Rosenthal’s chief claim to fame, he was also active in other enterprises. Together with his partners, Eckstein and Stumer, he was involved in such ventures as clothing and millinery establishments, restaurants, and drugstores. Emporium World Millinery was one of their largestventures. The partners also owned and managed real estate properties, and even had success as magazine publishers (The Red Book and The Blue Book).

(The Red Book sold a fairly astonishing 338,5000 copies in 1906 — according to a piece about Chicago publishing I found in the American Journal of Sociology from 1906. Much to Easterners’ annoyance, these upstart Midwestern publishers gave New Yorkers a run for their money.)

The real estate group built on and owned by the Chicago Board of Education, on 99-year leases dating from 1890. The flagship property was the North American Building at 36-44 South State Street, a 19-story office building with many tenants, most of them wholesalers. Benjamin Rosenthal’s office was located in this building. The seven-story Emporium Building at 26-28 South State was occupied for many years by the Miller-Wohl Company, retailers of ladies’ ready-to-wear. The Mercantile Building at 10-14 South State was leased by the S.S. Kresge Company for its own use.

I wish I could have met him. He was clearly a driven, shrewd businessman, and learning these details helps better explain why my maternal grandmother was such a grande dame.

Born and raised in Canada, I always found my American relatives — and their astonishing self-confidence (Canadians hate that!)  — intriguing. I always wondered who they were and what shaped them and how they affected, or didn’t, their own communities of the era.

My new green card arrived this week. It is now really green, with a Statue of Liberty and my photo, this time not in color but sort of a ghostly black and white. My signature is on it below my photo, and my birth date floats above my head in an odd, receding wave. It’s also got my thumb-print. It’s good for another ten years.

Thanks to Louis’s grand-daughter, my mother, who passed on her American citizenship to me to acquire the green card, I get to live in the U.S. — and celebrate the 4th. in his country.

What have you learned about your grand or great-grandparents that took you by surprise?

House Lust, The Subject of Meghan Daum's New Book

In Uncategorized, urban life on May 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm
ELIZABETH, NJ - JUNE 20:  Members of the publi...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

She’s been writing funny and revealing stuff about her life for a long time — once famously confessing in The New Yorker that she couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan; that piece became the title of her book of essays,“My Misspent Youth.”

Her new book “Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House” has a title that sums it up.

It’s the American Dream. (That’s one of those phrases Americans — and their realtors — take for granted. There is no corresponding Korean or French or Canadian “dream” of owning your own home, preferably a little colonial with a lawn and a backyard. Other countries don’t allow mortgage interest as a tax deduction.)

Writes Virginia Postrel:

The fantasy of a life transformed is what makes the ads and features in interiors magazines so enticing—no fashion or celebrity magazine glamorizes its subjects as thoroughly as Architectural Digest or Elle Decor—and what gives HGTV’s low-budget shows their addictive appeal. The longing for the perfect life in the perfect environment can make real-estate listings and “For Sale” signs as evocative as novels. This domestic ideal gives today’s neighborhoods of foreclosed or abandoned houses their particular emotional punch. A stock-market bubble may create financial hardship, but a housing bust breaks hearts.

Although Ms. Daum did buy a house in 2004 and watched its value rise and then fall, her self-deprecatingly funny memoir isn’t a tale of real-estate speculation. Rather she uses her lifelong obsession with finding the ideal living space to probe domestic desire, a deeper restlessness than the search for quick profits.

Whether because of alienation or ambition, Ms. Daum’s family, when she was growing up (first in Austin, Texas, and then in New Jersey), shared “a chronic, lulling sensation of being aboard a train that was perpetually two stops away from the destination we had in mind for ourselves.” That feeling manifested itself in a “perpetual curiosity about what possibilities for happiness might lie at the destination of a moving van.” The result was a childhood filled with weekend trips to visit open houses, dinner-time conversations about relocation and, in Ms. Daum’s teenage years, her mother’s sudden move to her own home: “four walls whose color scheme required approval from no one. It wasn’t another man she wanted but another life.” (Ms. Daum’s parents did not divorce.)

I’ve been living in the same one bedroom apartment since 1989. Will I ever own a house? Not anywhere near I live now — a nasty little shoebox with .25 of an acre on a busy street would run me $500,000 with $12,000 a year in taxes. I’m hoping to buy one, or at least rent one, in France in retirement, and living in 1,000 square feet (about the size of an affordable house in my town) allows me the extra cash to fly to France in the meantime.

My Dad has been scouting houses in coastal Maine, trying to figure out what to do with his. I know a house is a major dream for millions of people and you need a space with room(s) for kids and their toys and pets and activities. We lived in a house when I was little, and when I was in high school, but, other than my rental on the top two floors of a Toronto house, and our rented apartment in an old house in rural New Hampshire, it’s been apartment living since then for me.

There are some amazing houses in my town, one, a huge shingled Queen Anne painted the pale pink of strawberry ice cream with green shutters and several with wisteria trees snaking up across their verandahs and eaves. There are one or two I would love to live in, but could never afford them.

I really love our apartment. I’ve re-painted it a bunch of times, especially since attending interior design school. We have astonishing views northwest up the Hudson and I have hawks and geese and crows swooshing so low over my top-floor balcony I can hear the wind through their wings. I love the light and quiet and feel blessed to own my own home. Its small-ish size and manageable mortgage makes me feel safe, even while working in an industry shuddering through insane and terrifying changes.

I basically see a house as a money pit, something that endlessly needs upgrades and repairs, mugging you financially when you can least afford it — new boiler! new roof! new driveway!

How about you? Do you love your house?

Nightclub, Condos And A Bowling Alley Planned For Ex-NYT Building, While Readers' Digest Campus Seeks Tenants

In business, Media on December 29, 2009 at 8:34 am
The New York Times

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

It’s hard for any journalist who’s ever worked there, or visited its offices, to imagine The New York Times’ former building,  at 229 West 43d Street, becoming just one more Manhattan midtown property under development  by a foreign investor. Long-time employees remember the daily tremors as the presses started rolling, and the truck bays are still there, ready to deliver papers now printed elsewhere. The lobby, entered by a small revolving door, was surprisingly small, even cramped, with a house phone you used — as in the new building — to call whomever you were there to see.

The new building, which is gorgeous if comparatively soul-less, even with its turmeric and cayenne-colored walls and its spectacular cafeteria, just feels like one more tower.

Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who paid $525 million for the premises in 2007, plans to turn the old 15-story building into condos, shops, seven restaurants and a high-end hotel, the paper reports:

“The strongest thing going for the property is its location and the continued vibrancy of Times Square as a tourist center and a magnet for visitors,” said Richard A. Marin, chief executive of Africa-Israel USA, Mr. Leviev’s American real estate company. The new plan, he said, “will allow us to create the most value and make the greatest contribution to the Times Square neighborhood.”

It is anyone’s guess whether this plan will work any better than the last one, given the soft condo market, competing bowling alleys in the Times Square area and falling hotel rates. But there is no better place for a radical reinvention than Times Square, where peep shows, T-shirt shops and prostitutes have given way to Bubba Gump, the Hard Rock Cafe, theaters, French cosmetics shops, bankers and millions of tourists.

“Times Square has a special kind of alchemy that’ll make your head spin,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, a business group. “Sleazy becomes sexy, a bank becomes a theater, decaying landmarks become multiplexes or luxury condos, and a gritty newsroom and printing plant become a boutique hotel. The only thing you know is that you don’t know what’s next.”

Mr. Leviev, a diamond magnate who travels with a coterie of bodyguards, had been having trouble paying the $711 million in loans he had piled onto the former Times building, which the newspaper occupied for nearly a century before selling it to move to a new tower on Eighth Avenue in 2007. Mr. Leviev was so intrigued with New York real estate, brokers said, that he did not even tour the building before he bought it.

Reader’s Digest, whose palatial 700,000 square foot building in Pleasantville, a suburban town about 30 miles north of New York City, will be leaving its iconic building next summer, after 71 years there. In the current, lousy economy, the owner of the 116-acre property, SG Chappaqua, is having a tough time finding tenants thanks to restrictive zoning laws demanding each one take huge spaces, one at least 200,000 square feet.

It, too, was a place of history and presence, the walls hung with Impressionist paintings, a hushed 1950s elegance evident the minute you stepped in the door.

The county office market has been hit hard once again by an economic downturn. The volume of commercial transactions in Westchester is down, to about 900,000 square feet at the end of the third quarter of this year, from 1.6 million square feet for the same period a year ago, according to numbers tallied by CB Richard Ellis.

The vacancy rate countywide increased to 17 percent in the third quarter, from 16 percent at the end of the period a year ago.

Separately, when SG Chappaqua acquired the property, it also proposed building about 220 luxury condominiums and town houses and 56 middle-income housing units on the Reader’s Digest campus. That application is wending its way through the approval process and a decision is expected sometime in the next year.

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