FOR SALE: Largest ranch in the U.S. within a single fence. Texas fixer-upper with more than 1,000 oil wells; 6,800 head of cattle; 500 quarter horses; 30,000 acres of cropland; tombstones for legendary cowboys, long-dead dogs, and a horse buried standing up. Favorite of Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt. Colorful history of drinking and divorce. Fifteen-minute drive to rib-eyes at the Rusty Spur in Vernon. Ideal for Saudi oil sheiks, billionaire hedge funders, and dot-commers who can tell a cow from a steer. Profitable. Zero debt. Property taxes only $800,000 a year. Price: $725 million.
Wang Jianlin, one of China’s richest men, is creating a rival to the American dream factory, from scratch. ... Most americans probably associate Qingdao, China, with beer. In 1903, German and British settlers founded the Tsingtao Brewery there, and Teutonic influence can still be seen in some of the architecture in older parts of town. But the city’s temperate climate and coastal setting, almost 350 miles north of Shanghai, lend it an atmosphere that more strongly recalls Southern California, an association lately reinforced by the new buildings going up on the coastline southwest of town. There, on a steep green hillside that overlooks the Yellow Sea, you’ll see a gigantic sign with white freestanding characters: 东方影都, which translates literally as “Eastern Cinema.” It’s like the Hollywood sign that has overlooked Los Angeles since 1923, only bigger. ... On a sprawling 1,200-acre site at the foot of that hill, a gaggle of construction cranes is noisily building Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a vast development that includes a movie studio, a theme park and entertainment center, a 4,000-room resort-hotel complex, a shopping mall, a 300-berth yacht club, a celebrity wax museum, and a hospital. The Dalian Wanda Group, China’s biggest commercial real-estate developer and the world’s largest owner of movie theaters, has committed $8.2 billion to the project. Wanda Studios Qingdao is the linchpin of the new development, and when it opens its doors in April 2017, it will be one of the largest and most technologically advanced feature-film-production facilities in the world, encompassing 30 soundstages; an enormous temperature-controlled underwater stage; a green-screen-equipped outdoor stage that’s still larger, at 56,000 square feet; a permanent facsimile of a New York City street; and much more. ... In 2011, the research firm IBISWorld named postproduction one of America’s “dying industries,” along with DVD, game, and video rental; newspaper publishing; and photofinishing. ... In 2012 alone, the country added 10 theater screens a day; it now has more than 28,000. Only the U.S., with close to 40,000 screens, has more, and Wanda owns more than 5,000 of those.
The National Football League wants to put at least one franchise in Los Angeles by the start of next season. Kroenke, the owner of the St. Louis Rams and arguably the most powerful owner in sports, wants it to be his. He’s ready to build a $1.9 billion stadium southwest of downtown. He has big backers. Jones, who built an 80,000-seat cathedral to excess known as “Jerry’s World” for his Cowboys in 2009, admires the grandeur of Kroenke’s plan and has sided with him against owners from the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, who want to build and share a stadium in the L.A. suburb of Carson, bringing two franchises to the city at once. ... Kroenke aims to turn a demolished horse racing track and parking lot in Inglewood, Calif., into an 80,000-seat stadium with a latticed open-air roof; an adjacent 6,000-seat arena; 1.7 million square feet of retail and office space; 2,500 residential units; and a hotel. To put the Rams there, he’ll have to secure the approval of at least 24 of 31 of his fellow NFL owners and give a stiff arm to his native Missouri. ... Along with the Rams, Kroenke owns the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets, the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, and two-thirds of the English Premier League soccer club Arsenal—all separate from his wife Ann’s $3.8 billion inheritance.
Driving itself is changing. Between electric and self-driving vehicles, ubiquitous sensors, network connectivity, and new kinds of transportation companies, everything is in flux: cars, how we feel about them, even roads and cities. This isn’t just hypothetical; you can use these things today. A radical phase shift is redrawing the map, literally and metaphorically. ... the new tools and technologies for moving around are interesting; put them together and you get something profound. Connect these new systems and individual networks to each other and they self-assemble into a transportation super-network. It’s decentralized, offers multiple routes from node to node, carries any kind of person or thing to any kind of place, and adjusts itself in real time. ... Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s how the Internet works. ... To the new transportation supernetwork, you and I are just data. It doesn’t matter where we want to go; it just knows how to get us there—faster, cheaper, and utterly in control.
Since 1960, tens of millions of people have migrated toward the Pacific, settling in Las Vegas and Tempe and Boulder. Denver has tripled in size. Phoenix, having added some 3.6 million people, has more than quintupled. Today, one in eight Americans depends on water from the Colorado River system, and about 15 percent of the nation’s crops are grown with it. ... the demands on the river were never sustainable. In 1922, the seven states in the Colorado River watershed signed a compact dividing its water. With little historical data, they calculated the river’s capacity after a decade of unusually wet conditions. ... Since the current drought began, in 2000, that shortfall has averaged 25 percent. Instead of adjusting their allotments, states have drawn down the nation’s largest reservoirs, which are quickly draining. Even this winter’s El Niño weather pattern won’t bring enough rain to restore the region’s supply ... To determine who gets water and who doesn’t, states rely on a system that originated more than 150 years ago—when water was plentiful and people were scarce. ... “prior appropriation,” which promised rights to use a share of water based on who got there first. ... Prior appropriation became the foundation of western water law, and it established order in the West. Today, though, state water laws are largely to blame for the crippling shortages. Because water rights were divvied up at a time when few cities existed west of the Mississippi, some 80 percent of the region’s water goes to farmers, leaving insufficient supplies for growing cities and industries. And farmers must put all their water to “beneficial use” or risk losing their allotment—a rule that was originally intended to prevent hoarding but that today can encourage waste. Many farmers have not adopted modern technology that can cut water use by up to 50 percent, in part because they need to protect their water rights. ... Allowing people to buy and sell water rights is a more expedient way to redistribute the West’s water, he argues. Waste would be discouraged, water would shift to where it’s needed most, and farmers would be compensated. ... The West would have plenty of water if people used it more wisely: Most of the region’s supply goes to growing low-value, water-intensive crops such as hay and alfalfa—in many cases in the desert.
Saudi Star’s proprietor, a Saudi-Ethiopian tycoon named Mohammed al-Amoudi, has spent more than $200m turning a swath of bush into a farm the size of 20,000 soccer pitches. That puts the sheikh, as he is known, in the vanguard of the global land rush. ... As the populations of better-off nations move to cities in ever greater numbers, the gap between the amount they grow and the amount they eat widens. Agricultural trade has long filled this gap. But a price shock in 2007, when staple crop prices doubled in a few months, demonstrated that global markets for food can break down. Then the financial crisis created demand for investments that were not linked to volatile equities and bonds. Governments, multinational companies and institutional funds started to pour millions, then billions, into other countries’ land. ... From Southeast Asia to Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, investors are seeking to profit not simply by trading the fruits of the earth — the rice and the coffee, the oil and the gold — but by controlling the land itself. ... This is a nation of smallholders: 85 per cent of employment is in agriculture and 95 per cent of all agricultural produce comes from small farms, typically the size of a couple of football pitches. ... Of that, 80 per cent is consumed by the households that produce it; only 20 per cent is sold. These farmers rely on their hands, some rudimentary tools and the fickle rains.
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.
We are currently in the midst of another clambering epoch. The city has 21 buildings with roof heights above 800 feet; seven of them have been completed in the past 15 years (and three of those the past 36 months). In this special New York Issue, we explore the high-altitude archipelago that spreads among the top floors of these 21 giants. It totals about 34 million square feet in all, encompassing lavish living spaces, vertiginous work environments (during construction and after), elite gathering places. Visually, the experience of this new altitude feels different in kind from its predecessors, the peak uplifts of previous booms that topped out at 400, 500 or 600 feet. At 800 and above, you feel something unusual in a city defined by the smelly bustle of its sidewalks and the jammed waiting and inching and zooming of its avenues — a kind of Alpine loneliness. Every New Yorker knows the pleasant private solitude that can be found at street level, among anonymous crowds. This is something different: an austere sense of apartness inspired by achieving a perspective seemingly not meant for human eyes. ... Alysia Mattson, who works near the top of 1 World Trade, likens the experience above 800 feet to “being in a giant snow globe. Everything is calm.” We were standing at the window, looking down at a ferry inching across the Hudson. “You focus on things like boat traffic,” she said. “You don’t feel you are really in the city.” At that height, the earth-binding sounds of city life evaporate, along with close-up details. Perspective flattens. Cars and people on the street appear to crawl.
- Also: Priceonomics - Will Real Estate Investors Take Over Airbnb? < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - Manhattan Luxury-Home Prices in a Slide, Defying Broader Market < 5min
- Also: The New York Times - A Mansion, a Shell Company and Resentment in Bel Air < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - With Manhattan Luxury Property Hitting Highs, Some Fear Air Is Getting Thin < 5min
Last year, three million came for the hajj, a pilgrimage in the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar that is considered obligatory for every Muslim who can afford it; five million more came for the umrah, a minor pilgrimage that can be made for much of the year. And millions of Saudi citizens routinely pass through Mecca’s sacred sites as tourists. ... It is a transformation that has been underway since the late 1970s, when the wealth generated by the oil boom led Saudi monarchs to devise an ambitious plan to replace earlier Ottoman structures and to expand the Grand Mosque and its surroundings with Arab-style architecture. At a projected cost of $26.6 billion, the Saudi Binladen Group has led the efforts to increase the capacity of the Grand Mosque ... Throughout the history of Islam, no other ruler built in such proximity to the Kaaba; certainly none built anything to dwarf it. In luxury hotels like the Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower and the Raffles Makkah Palace, views of the holiest site of Islam are marketed as the “Haram view” and “Kaaba view,” and a standard room can run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,700 a night during the hajj.
It seems certain the list will never be fixed or finished. Some ask: How high should we build? How high is too high? But these towers, and their persistent climb, stand on a distant edge of architecture’s horizon, buildings that ask and answer a better, beautifully human question: What’s possible? ... The man leading the upward push is Adrian Smith, the legendary Chicago architect who designed the Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010. Now he has designed the next world’s tallest, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. When the exterior is completed in 2018, it will top out at more than a full kilometer (or 3,281 feet, for those who live in a country that thinks it’s too smart for the metric system). That’s an entirely different scale of endeavor, its height pushing just slightly short of three John Hancock Centers (if you lose the antennas) stacked one on top of the other. Smith is also working on another massive creation, the 2,087-foot Wuhan Greenland Center in China, which will rank fourth. That’s right, Adrian Smith will soon have to his name three of the four tallest occupiable buildings in the world. ... The limitations on how high these structures can go sometimes lodge themselves in the smaller components. Take the elevators. ... Though the flat cable is lighter, it still represents a massive weight at that length. This demands the development of a new wheel, pulley system, and motor. These all must be engineered.
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?
Jay Peak had consisted only of a ski area and a roach-ridden lodge. Now it had three hotels, six restaurants, some 200 cottages, an indoor water park, an ice rink, a spa, and a convention center, all tended to by 600 employees. The $280 million transformation had been made possible by a U.S. government program known as EB-5, which allows prospective immigrants to invest $500,000 in hard-up areas in exchange for temporary residency for themselves and their families. Anyone whose investment creates 10 jobs can then become a permanent resident. The only faster way to become an American is to marry one. ... The EB-5 program has opened up all sorts of possibilities since it was started in 1990—mischief, abuse, and fraud among them. Initially it required investors to put in $1 million and show direct evidence that the money had led to those 10 new jobs. But after two years, Congress modified the program to encourage investment in rural and underdeveloped areas, permitting prospective immigrants to invest less money in projects and count “indirect” jobs estimated by economic models. ... These projects get sponsored by federally approved regional centers, which serve as economic-development organizations drawing on EB-5 money. There are now 861 such centers, all of which—except for Vermont’s—are privately run. ... The tangled financing they’d uncovered left more than half of the 731 foreigners who had placed their money with Stenger and Quiros vulnerable to deportation, and threw $83 million that had been invested in the biotech project into limbo.
Dead grass became a point of pride as state officials rolled out ad campaigns with slogans like “brown is the new green” and “going golden this summer.” With-it wealthier residents signaled their savvy by investing in beautiful, though dusty, re-landscaped eco-havens of olive trees, white-flowered chamise shrubs, and California golden violets with, perhaps, paths of decomposed granite wending through them. ... Turf Terminators, started by twentysomething entrepreneurs, pitched itself to people like Goldfarb who wanted to conserve but couldn’t afford to pay a landscape architect four or five figures. In less than two years, the company removed 16 million square feet of grass from 12,000 lawns. During that time, Turf Terminators was the veritable face of water-saving landscaping in and around Los Angeles, praised by government officials and some customers for providing a fast, affordable way to get rid of grass. ... The company’s short but profitable life span serves as an instructional fable for other cities that will inevitably face climate change-related infrastructure problems. The takeaway: Solutions are rarely simple or easy, so do a lot of research before throwing public money at the issues.
Wu believes Opendoor can buy and sell homes, in quantity, by employing the type of data analysis that has powered so many Silicon Valley companies and by targeting the broad middle of the market. It deals in single-family homes built after 1960, priced between $125,000 and $500,000. It has no interest in distressed properties, which require too much work, or in luxury properties, which are harder to value. ... Of course, buying up houses to make a market is capital-intensive, and the risks are great. Opendoor has raised $110 million in equity from Khosla Ventures, GGV Capital and Access Industries, among others, most recently at a valuation of $580 million earlier this year. And it has also raised more than $400 million in debt to buy the homes. To succeed, it has to price the homes it buys accurately, without seeing them, and it has to sell them quickly to minimize the costs of carrying them. ... Opendoor is a big, bold play in a market with $1.4 trillion in annual transaction volume that’s been largely undisturbed for decades. ... the model has yet to be tested by a recession or a market crash, which can catch even the smartest players by surprise. Wu says he modeled the business through the 2008 subprime crisis to understand the risk.
Two groups of true believers are driving changes in the developed world. The first: single-minded central bankers who spent trillions of dollars pushing government bond yields close to zero (and below). While this unprecedented monetary experiment helped owners of stocks and real estate, its regressive nature did little to satisfy the second group: voters who are disenfranchised by globalization and automation, and who are on the march. What next? The fiscal experiments now begin (again). ... why do we see 2017 as another year of modest portfolio gains despite the length of the current global expansion, one of the longest in history? As 2016 came to a close, global business surveys improved to levels consistent with 3% global GDP growth, suggesting that corporate profits will start growing at around 10% again after a weak 2016. More positive news: a rise in industrial metals prices, which is helpful in spotting turns in the business cycle ... Furthermore (and I understand that there’s plenty of disagreement on the benefits of this), many developed countries are transitioning from “monetary stimulus only” to expansionary fiscal policy as well. Political establishments are aware of mortal threats to their existence, and are looking to fiscal stimulus (or at least, less austerity) as a means of getting people back to work. The problem: given low productivity growth and low growth in labor supply, many countries are closer to full capacity than you might think. If so, too much fiscal stimulus could result in wage inflation and higher interest rates faster than you might think as well. That is certainly one of the bigger risks for the US.
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.
Here are the facts: there were 5,400 properties on the market at the end of February, half of last year’s figure. That amounted to just one month of inventory—the time it would take to sell all available properties—compared with 5.6 months in Manhattan. Supply isn’t keeping up with demand. ... While Canada’s west coast city of Vancouver has grabbed international attention for its soaring prices in recent years, Toronto is now in the eye of the country’s housing hurricane. The price of an average house in Toronto and its suburbs rose 28 percent in February to C$875,983 from the prior year, the sixth straight month of above-20 percent growth. ... “Nothing is more bubbly right now than the Toronto housing market,” David Rosenberg
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.
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.