Is every healthy child a potential prodigy? ... Before Laszlo Polgár conceived his children, before he even met his wife, he knew he was going to raise geniuses. He’d started to write a book about it. He saw it moves ahead. ... By their first meeting, a dinner and walk around Budapest in 1965, Laszlo told Klara, his future bride, how his kids’ education would go. He had studied the lives of geniuses and divined a pattern: an adult singularly focused on the child’s success. He’d raise the kids outside school, with intense devotion to a subject, though he wasn’t sure what. "Every healthy child," as he liked to say, "is a potential genius." Genetics and talent would be no obstacle. And he’d do it with great love. ... Computers have long since outclassed humans in chess; they’re vital in training, but their recommended moves can seem quixotic. "No, it’s very human," Polgár assured them. The students, most of them grandmasters, grew quiet, searching the more than 100,000 positional situations they had ingrained over their lifetimes, exploring possible moves and the future problems they implied — moving down the decision tree. It’s the knot at the heart of chess: Each turn, you must move; when you move, a world of potential vanishes. ... "It’s important to look at top performers to look at the limits of human abilities — the maximum adaptations people can undergo." By looking to the best, we can understand the rest.
I first heard about Luke Weiss from an elder of the Waorani, a tribe scattered along the Amazon tributaries of northeastern Ecuador. He spoke of a white man living with the Secoya, a small tribe settled on a nearby river, but one who had ceased to be a white man. This man had become Secoya. He practiced the tribe's oldest and most difficult traditions. He spoke a pure, antiquated Secoya dialect. What's more, he had achieved something no outsider ever had among the tribes of the region: He became apprentice and heir to the tribe's renowned healer, a 103-year-old shaman named Don Cesario. When people from local villages and distant towns seek out Cesario for healing, it is Weiss who prepares the ritual potions. ... Weiss, it turns out, is about to enter his second year of a master's program at the Yale School of Forestry. His research project: figuring out how to cultivate yoco, a caffeinated vine that suppresses appetite and provides a sustained energy boost, making it the go-to energy drink of the northern Amazon. Weiss wants to crack yoco's code. If it can be cultivated more easily at scale and turned into a marketable drink like yerba maté, then yoco could become a viable, sustainably produced cash crop — and the Secoya's only chance for cultural and economic survival. Young Secoya are leaving San Pablo for the cities or taking jobs with the oil companies.
Somewhere in the haze of the last generation, funky Old Austin disappeared and was replaced by something sleek, fast, and unbelievably popular. Suddenly everyone wants to be in Austin, from tech twentysomethings to middle-aged corporate hot shots. Austin is the fastest-growing big city in the country, at the top of lists for things that can be measured (real estate and jobs) and things that can’t (cool and kicks). It has become the City of the Eternal Festival, from South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival to Pachanga, Reggae, and Formula 1. Where else can you eat the best barbecue in the world, watch more than a million hungry bats ascend into the gloaming above the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, hear amazing music every night of the week, and behold Lady Gaga covered in vomit as part of a SXSW show? Two months ago Forbes called Austin the next boomtown, apparently forgetting that Bloomberg ranked us the country’s number one boomtown back in 2013. As of October, the greater metropolitan area had grown to an astonishing 2 million people, which is 1.4 million more than we had in 1980, when I was slacking my life away.
Thomas Kelly, the American ambassador here, likes to say that Djibouti today feels like what Casablanca must have felt like in 1940. “All the different nationalities elbowing into each other,” he says. “All the intrigue.” ... About 4,000 soldiers and contractors live here, and they include commandos from Joint Special Operations Command, the team that undertakes the military’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations. After the 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, a 150-member rapid response team was established at Camp Lemonnier, assigned to handle future threats to diplomatic personnel abroad. Djibouti is also the U.S. military’s regional hub for drones, and it sends thousands of Predators and Reapers across the region each year.
Howard Air Force Base was once an imposing military installation alongside the Panama Canal, from which the United States fought guerillas and hunted down dictators. Sixteen years after the Americans left, there is a new man in charge: Colombian businessman Jaime Gilinski, who is turning the base into a brand-new city. ... Livingstone and his brother Richard became billionaires developing real estate in Europe but had never before invested in Latin America. When Ian was on a vacation in the Bahamas in 2004 Gilinski persuaded him to stop by Panama and take a look. They rented a helicopter and from the sky surveyed the land, framed by the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean and the Pan-American Highway, which stretches from Canada to Argentina. Together they concocted a grandiose plan: to buy the wasteland of bunkers and barracks, rename it Panama Pacifico and build an entirely new city from scratch. ... The entire property is now worth an estimated $3.6 billion, with land selling at more than 25 times its original price.
For years, the conventional wisdom has been that millennials prefer urban living and the culture and excitement of the big, dense cities, want to be flexible and avoid owning a home, and if given a choice, would rent an apartment in a development like Taxi in a heartbeat. But as millennials age, and more marry and consider starting families, the numbers tell a different story. ... It’s true that homeownership among this age group has traditionally been lower than in previous generations. But that may be more a function of delayed purchases due to millennials’ new financial reality: historically high student debt, recession, rising real estate costs, a challenging and stratified job market. ... Last year, millennials, the largest generation in American history, purchased 35 percent of homes sold in the U.S. Consider that the median age of the millennial generation is 25, and the average age of a first-time home buyer is 31, and it’s fair to say there’s a sizable wave of millennial homebuyers on its way. Realtors, urban planners, and home builders, not to mention city and local governments, have a lot riding on when, and where, this generation settles down. Predictions that this generation will permanently rent, or, if they do buy, will stay in cities forever, may have been premature.
- Also: Bloomberg - America’s Dying Shopping Malls Have Billions in Debt Coming Due < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - The Real Value of a Home < 5min
- Also: Fortune - The Ontario Teachers' Pension Owns Your Town < 5min
- Also: Huffington Post - 'Agrihoods' Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses < 5min
- Also: Urban Institute - We are not prepared for the growth in rental demand < 5min
Many of the properties that bear Donald Trump's name are not owned by him. Many of the properties owned by Donald Trump were not erected by him. While he does sometimes conjure buildings out of the dirt, Don's more of a collector, a tweaker, a stamper-uponer ... Trump's reported history of property acquisition shows he regularly deploys a cunning tactic that, depending on your political stance, you might refer to as either “shrewd” or “technically legal.” Step one: Purchase some innocuous piece of territory at the edge of a real estate gem (a yard, for example). Step two: Use this as a tactical base from which to launch campaigns dissuading anyone who considers buying the actually desirable property. Step three: Wait for the price to plummet, then buy it for a fraction of the cost. ... as Mr. Trump's black Cadillac SUV inches closer to the White House, some of his fellow citizens find ourselves wondering: How might things run around here with this guy in charge? Why is his sales pitch so irresistible that we might be willing to let him take a shot at governing, using a nation of 323.8 million people as guinea pigs? ... To find out, I embarked on a far-reaching tour of Donald Trump's America—the parts of it he legally owns, plus one part of Donald Trump's America that is actually located in Ireland—to see if the way Donald Trump runs a boutique hotel could tell me anything about the way he might run a federal republic. ... Most have never met Trump. “The people he's hired to be my bosses, I respect,” says one, who cringes when footage of a Republican debate plays on a nearby TV. “It's the first time in my life I feel I'm not working with idiots.”
Increasingly over the past half century, the Olympics have been seen as an opportunity for host cities to instigate large-scale urban improvement programs, from infrastructure building to the regeneration of entire segments of the city. The hard deadlines associated with the event can provide extra momentum to pursue wishlist projects, like new airports and transit lines, as well as the incentive to make big investments that might otherwise be politically challenging. ... The International Olympic Committee and local organizers are now trying to avoid these kinds of planning missteps and bad investments; leaving behind a positive "legacy" is the new Olympic imperative. London, which spent roughly $15 billion hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics, has been the most proactive in thinking about its Olympic planning as a way to generate long-term benefits for the city, focusing its investments on redeveloping an economically struggling part of the city. Rio de Janeiro, days away from the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics, is hoping to parlay its hosting duties into improved housing and transportation infrastructure—though there are many signs organizers are falling short.
The city, with its stunning views of the mountains and yacht-dotted harbor, has long been one of the world’s most expensive places to live but price gains have reached a whole new level of intensity this year. Low interest rates, rising immigration, and a surge of foreign money—particularly from China—have all driven the increases. ... After copious warnings over the last six months, including from the Bank of Canada, that price gains are unsustainable, the provincial government of British Columbia moved last week. Foreign investors will have to pay an additional 15 percent in property-transfer tax as of Aug. 2 and city of Vancouver was given the authority to impose a new tax on empty homes. ... Demand for luxury cars has risen alongside housing prices in Vancouver, with 1,100 high-end vehicles on the streets of Vancouver as of Dec. 31, 2015, almost double the 2009 count, according to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
The American mall, meanwhile, is supposed to be dying. Many malls are in fact already dead, their gutted carcasses lying dormant on the sides of highways, attracting mild fascination by way of eerie photography and resigned nostalgia. ... Last year, the New York Times put the number of malls suffering vacancies of 10 to 40 percent — an indicator that a mall is not long for this world — at 15 percent. ... In its US Mall Outlook Report from January, real estate research firm Green Street Advisors evaluated mall performance based on sales productivity, assigning grades of A, A+, and A++ to the 198 most profitable shopping centers in the country. South Coast Plaza's self-reported sales volume of $800 per square foot places it smack between A+ and A++, the latter defined by Green Street's report as a mall that boasts "luxury inline and anchor tenants, strong demographics, best-in-sales productivity, retailer ‘waiting list' for space, and strong tourist draw." There are currently 37 A++ malls and 67 A+ malls by Green Street's tally. Together these upmarket meccas account for 44 percent of all mall value, despite only representing about 10 percent of the entire American mall pie. ... The move towards investing in restaurants that are higher quality and unique to the market began percolating about a decade ago, says Marsh. This dovetailed with the emergence of so-called foodie culture, which rendered restaurants of all kinds bona fide destinations, e-commerce-proof businesses that are only bolstered by social media. In the spirit of "experiential living," why eat for sustenance when you can eat for fun and/or for Snapchat?
Before the American Dream was the American Dream, it was Xanadu. When ground broke on the site in 2004, hundreds of guests attended a million-dollar party, with martinis in one tent and artificial snow in another. Xanadu’s developer, Mills Corp., completed most of the main building before running out of money in 2006. A second developer ran aground in the Great Recession. The Trump Organization, among others, decided against taking on Xanadu, which sat vacant and ridiculed, having already cost developers $2 billion. ... The Ghermezian family story, the one they don’t often talk about, begins in Central Asia in the early 20th century. Jacob Ghermezian, Don’s grandfather, operated a large bazaar in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, until the Russian Revolution abolished private property. He moved to Tehran and built a real estate fortune whose centerpiece was a complex with shopping, entertainment, apartments, and offices ... In the 1950s, amid political and economic uncertainty, Jacob, his wife, Miriam, and their four sons—Nader, Raphael, Bahman, and Eskandar, who is Don’s father—left Iran for North America. ... Like most real estate developers, the Ghermezians depend on other people’s money to build. The larger the project, the riskier it is to investors, because the steep initial cost comes far in advance of the revenue.
Hundreds of shopping centers across the U.S. are facing obsolescence, abandoned by shoppers who are going online or getting choosier about where they shop. ... in its combination of novelty, technology, and customer pampering, Roosevelt Field embodies the strategy that has helped its owner, Simon Property Group, navigate retail’s crisis to stay on top of the mall world. ... Its U.S. portfolio includes 108 malls, most of them high-grossers like Roosevelt Field, and 72 discount outlet centers. ... including the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, King of Prussia outside Philadelphia, and the huge high-end New York outlet mall Woodbury Common ... The key to that success: constantly adapting to figure out what sells, at a time when many of the businesses that fill its malls—especially department stores and apparel retailers—aren’t selling. ... Simon dominates the so-called A-malls, those with the highest sales per square foot. To win in that category, Simon has been diligent about staying ahead of trends and modernizing its centers, and quick to replace struggling brands with those on the upswing. ... acknowledge the risk posed by the wave of store closings. ... Analysts generally believe America is “overmalled” to begin with: There are 2,353 square feet of space of shopping centers in the U.S. for every 100 Americans, compared with 1,636 in Canada and 458 in Britain ... From the 1960s through the 2000s, developers built hundreds of malls per decade. But since 2010, only nine new ones have been built ... the typical anchor store pays around $4 per square foot in annual rent; the average non-anchor tenant paid $42.22 per square foot a year as of the third quarter of 2016
Residential real estate construction is a massive sector, generating about $466 billion annually, according to the Census Bureau's most recent figures. What's more telling than outright size, though, is that the publicly traded builders, such as D.H. Horton and Lennar Corporation, have gained market share since the recession but built fewer homes. RCS, on the other hand, is ramping up. Arsenault and Wells, with projects stretching from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, are using their operational know-how and geeky instincts to survive in an industry that is increasingly dominated by giants. ... The 90-employee RCS acts solo or teams with other investors and builders to construct its apartments, standalone homes, and vacation properties. The company has some $1.6 billion in assets under management. Though Arsenault will not disclose total revenue, he says it grew 50 percent last year and is growing at 20 to 30 percent on a compound basis. "We could double from here, no problem," he says. How? "I borrow outrageous amounts of money." ... they've counted on two diverging trends: a coming surge in demand for new homes, and a plummet in the number of entrepreneurs who can build them.
Parking can seem like the most humdrum concern in the world. Even planners, who thrill to things like zoning and floor-area ratios, find it unglamorous. But parking influences the way cities look, and how people travel around them, more powerfully than almost anything else. Many cities try to make themselves more appealing by building cycle paths and tram lines or by erecting swaggering buildings by famous architects. If they do not also change their parking policies, such efforts amount to little more than window-dressing. There is a one-word answer to why the streets of Los Angeles look so different from those of London, and why neither city resembles Tokyo: parking. ... For as long as there have been cars, there has been a need to store them when they are not moving—which, these days, is about 95% of the time. Washington, DC, had a parking garage in 1907, before Ford produced its first Model T. But the most important innovation came in 1923, when Columbus, in Ohio, began to insist that builders of flats create parking spaces for the people who would live in them. “Parking minimums”, as these are known, gradually spread across America. Now, as the number of cars on the world’s roads continues to grow (see chart), they are spreading around the world. ... Free parking represents a subsidy for older people that is paid disproportionately by the young and a subsidy for the wealthy that is paid by the poor.
Driven by economics (a hunger for resources and new markets) and politics (a longing for strategic allies), Chinese companies and workers have rushed into all parts of the world. In 2000, only five countries counted China as their largest trading partner; today, more than 100 countries do, from Australia to the United States. The drumbeat of proposed projects never stops: a military operating base, China’s first overseas, in Djibouti; an $8 billion high-speed railway through Nigeria; an almost-fantastical canal across Nicaragua expected to cost $50 billion. Even as China’s boom slows down, its most ambitious scheme is still ramping up: With the “One Belt, One Road” initiative — its name a reference to trade routes — President Xi Jinping has spoken of putting $1.6 trillion over the next decade into infrastructure and development throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The scheme would dwarf the United States’ post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe. ... China’s relationship with Africa goes back to the 1960s, when Chairman Mao Zedong promoted solidarity with the developing world — “Ya Fei La,” as he called it, using the first syllables for Asia, Africa and Latin America. Though it was poor and mired in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, China won new allies in Africa by finishing, in 1976, a 1,156-mile railroad through the bush from Tanzania to Zambia. Aid continued to trickle in, but there were no other big projects for nearly 30 years
Pick any other major city or metropolitan area in the U.S., and the situation’s probably the same: a massive surge in deliveries to residential dwellings, one that’s outstripping deliveries to commercial establishments and creating a traffic nightmare. ... It’s estimated that, on average, every person in the U.S. generates demand for roughly 60 tons of freight each year, according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. In 2010, the United States Post Office—which has overtaken both FedEx and UPS as the largest parcel-delivery service in the country—delivered 3.1 billion packages nationwide; last year, the USPS delivered more than 5.1 billion packages. The growth in e-commerce is fueling a commensurate rise in the number of delivery vehicles—box trucks, smaller vans, and cars alike—on city streets. ... While truck traffic currently represents about 7 percent of urban traffic in American cities, it bears a disproportionate congestion cost of $28 billion, or about 17 percent of the total U.S. congestion costs, in wasted hours and gas.
His company, he said, had “grown like a weed.” His workforce had increased significantly over a decade, coming to fill more than 100 buildings as workers created one blockbuster product after another. To consolidate his employees, he wanted to create a new campus, a verdant landscape where the border between nature and building would be blurred. Unlike other corporate campuses, which he found “pretty boring,” this would feature as its centerpiece a master structure, shaped like a circle, that would hold 12,000 employees. “It’s a pretty amazing building,” he told them. “It’s a little like a spaceship landed.” ... Inside the 755-foot tunnel, the white tiles along the wall gleam like a recently installed high-end bathroom; it’s what the Lincoln Tunnel must have looked like the day it opened, before the first smudge of soot sullied its walls. ... They describe the level of attention devoted to every detail, the willingness to search the earth for the right materials, and the obstacles overcome to achieve perfection, all of which would make sense for an actual Apple consumer product, where production expenses could be amortized over millions of units. But the Ring is a 2.8-million-square-foot one-off, eight years in the making and with a customer base of 12,000. How can anyone justify this spectacular effort?
Sand covers so much of the earth’s surface that shipping it across borders—even uncontested ones—seems extreme. But sand isn’t just sand, it turns out. In the industrial world, it’s “aggregate,” a category that includes gravel, crushed stone, and various recycled materials. Natural aggregate is the world’s second most heavily exploited natural resource, after water, and for many uses the right kind is scarce or inaccessible. In 2014, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report titled “Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks,” which concluded that the mining of sand and gravel “greatly exceeds natural renewal rates” and that “the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth in Asia.” ... Geologists define sand not by composition but by size, as grains between 0.0625 and two millimetres across. Just below sand on the size scale is silt; just above it is gravel. Most sand consists chiefly of quartz, the commonest form of silica, but there are other kinds. Sand on ocean beaches usually includes a high proportion of shell pieces and, increasingly, bits of decomposing plastic trash ... Sand is also classified by shape, in configurations that range from oblong and sharply angular to nearly spherical and smooth. Desert sand is almost always highly rounded, because strong winds knock the grains together so forcefully that protrusions and sharp edges break off. River sand is more angular. ... Aggregate is the main constituent of concrete (eighty per cent) and asphalt (ninety-four per cent), and it’s also the primary base material that concrete and asphalt are placed on during the building of roads, buildings, parking lots, runways, and many other structures. A report published in 2004 by the American Geological Institute said that a typical American house requires more than a hundred tons of sand, gravel, and crushed stone for the foundation, basement, garage, and driveway, and more than two hundred tons if you include its share of the street that runs in front of it. A mile-long section of a single lane of an American interstate highway requires thirty-eight thousand tons.
Despite its boots-and-hat veneer, Prineville, Oregon, is a primary driver of America’s next great boom industry. In 2010, Facebook broke ground on a billion-dollar data center here in Crook County, its first; Apple soon followed. The two tech giants now operate in close proximity to one another, on a bluff just west of town. Stumpy and others have been drawn by this economic influx—but also by Prineville’s incredible outdoor access. From here one can, within a 30-minute drive, catch trout on the blue-ribbon Crooked River, climb at Smith Rock, mountain-bike or backcountry-ski in the Ochoco National Forest, or cycle buttery roads through high-desert juniper and sagebrush. “I fixed up two houses in Maui,” Stumpy said. “I’ve seen Telluride. I could have bought a shack there in ’83 for ten grand.” He believed that Prineville was about to pop. James Good agreed. “Everyone’s afraid of it becoming the next Bend,” he said, referencing the nearby adventure-sports hub. ... Prineville, named for an early settler, was built on timber, and the place boomed in the mid-20th century, thanks to its proximity to the railroad and abundance of pine trees. Timber fallers came to work at five saw mills; ranchers ran cattle; the area became a hub for rock hounds collecting agates in the volcanic high country. Les Schwab, the son of a logger, opened a tire store here in 1952 and gave away free beef to customers in the slow winter months.
“Offering a washer and dryer in-unit is a trend we’re certainly seeing,” says Paula Munger, the director of industry research for the National Apartment Association. A recent survey by the industry group found the addition of washers and dryers to be one of the most common upgrades to apartments in recent years. ... That has posed a problem for laundromats. According to data from the Census Bureau, the number of laundry facilities in the U.S. has declined by almost 20 percent since 2005, with especially precipitous drops in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles (17 percent) and Chicago (23 percent). (While that data includes both laundromats and dry cleaners, laundromats account for the bulk of the drop.) In the disappearance of laundromats, a longtime staple of urban living, one can detect yet another way that cities have changed in response to an influx of higher-earning residents. ... Collectively earning $5 billion each year, as estimated by the Coin Laundry Association, the U.S.’s coin-operated laundromats are overwhelmingly mom-and-pop operations and share a tightly knit history with the American city. ... Laundromats’ margins are further thinning as the price of water and sewage services have risen across the country.
Earlier this month a fire from a flying lantern torched the roof of the Rio velodrome, badly damaging its Siberian Pine track. After the Games, the city solicited bids for private companies to run the park, but no one bid, leaving Brazil's Ministry of Sport with the task -- and expense. The maintenance alone will cost the government approximately $14 million this year. Rio's new mayor, Marcelo Crivella, has scrapped plans to turn the handball arena into four public schools. And the 31 towers that made up the athletes village, which were set to be transformed into luxury condos, now sit largely vacant. ... Even some of the medals awarded to the athletes have tarnished or cracked, with more than 10 percent of them sent back to Brazil for repair. Rio officials blame poor handling by the athletes. ... Almost a year since the Games closed, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee still owes $40 million to creditors. Bloomberg reported in April that the Olympic organizers were attempting to pay creditors with air conditioners, portable energy units and electrical cables. In July, the organizing committee asked the International Olympic Committee for help with its debt; the IOC said no.