Thursday, November 25, 2010


3608 1 Street S.W.
List Price: $998,000
Square Footage: 2405 Sq. Ft.

DOMESTIC BLISS IN PARKHILL! This semi-detached home is an architectural wonder , boasting a contemporary form with a white stucco facade. Thoughtfully planned to offer open-concept social spaces & private spaces, the main level incorporates a 300 sq. ft. outdoor deck accessed through large glass sliding doors. The kitchen will delight with a blend of stainless steel/integrated appliances (Sub-Zero Refrigerator/Miele Gas Cooktop), satin finished granite counters & seamless flat panel cabinetry. The second level reveals a laundry room & 2 spacious bedrooms, each with a luxurious ensuite. The top floor is a dedicated master retreat with a spa inspired 5 piece ensuite with deep soaker tub, sun deck & walk in closet. Additional elements include open tread stairs, in-floor heating (garage, basement, bathrooms), party wall construction, a double attached garage & a melange of horizontal & vertical windows positioned in a modern manner to capitalize on city/scenic views & natural light.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us,

OUR Lives are LIVING PROOF !!!
To Those of Us Born 1925 - 1970 :
 TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes..

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren't overweight.
Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem..

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.

Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers,  problem solvers, and inventors ever.

The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas...

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of those born  between 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Housing set to find even keel in spring

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Nov. 15, 2010

Record low interest rates and a lack of houses on the market have rekindled demand for Canadian real estate, helping to pull the industry out of its sales slump and setting the stage for the most balanced spring market in years.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday that although prices were flat in October and sales slid more than 20 per cent compared with a year earlier, the market posted its third straight month of increased sales.

In a sign of stabilization after two years of wild fluctuations, CREA said October sales were halfway between the lows of December, 2008, and the record high of December, 2009.

Economists said October’s data likely means the market bottomed out in July; while prices won’t rocket to previous highs any time soon, it’s unlikely they have much farther to fall.

“It seems to me the Canadian housing market has been either feast or famine,” said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Douglas Porter. “But now buyers are facing low rates on one hand, and daily volleys about how bad the market is on the other. That should keep things from getting overly hot, and gives me reason to believe we could have a balanced market in the year ahead.”

After slowing in the recession of 2008, sales activity reached a fevered peak in December, 2009, as buyers rushed back into the market.

Average resale prices peaked at an all-time high $346,881 last May, causing concern that cheap money was driving prices to unsustainable levels. The average resale price in October was $337,842, CREA said.

The market came to an abrupt halt last July, with major regions such as Vancouver and Calgary posting sales drops of nearly 45 per cent and prices pulling back from May’s high. Several factors were cited for the decline: The federal government introduced rules that made it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage, and Ontario and Quebec introduced harmonized sales taxes that made the services associated with buying a home more expensive.

Would-be buyers also faced a barrage of warnings from organizations such as the Bank of Canada, the OECD and International Monetary Fund, all of which have cautioned that as interest rates rise, many Canadians might not be able to make their mortgage payments.

But mortgage rates have actually dropped in the past three months and now sit at all-time lows. A survey by the Canadian Association of Mortgage Professionals released last week showed that Canadians are confident they could shoulder higher mortgage payments without too much difficulty, with 84 per cent saying a $300 monthly increase was no problem.

“There are many reasons to now be optimistic,” said TD Bank senior economist Pascal Gauthier, who called for prices to fall 10 per cent from peak to trough but now expects to issue a more upbeat forecast later this week. “I think there are now limits to both the upside and the downside – things may have firmed up quicker than we expected.”

With the number of houses listed for sale sharply lower than in July, prices are expected to stay firm as buyers compete the few homes available. The months of inventory – the amount of time it would take to sell everything that is for sale, at the current rate of sales – sat at 6.2 months in October, down a full month compared with the July figure.

That doesn’t mean prices are likely to catch fire again in the spring, when activity traditionally accelerates, but it should help keep prices from dropping as buyers and sellers hit the market in equal numbers.

“Affordability drives sales and record low mortgage rates are driving affordability,” said Phil Soper, the chief executive officer of Brookfield Real Estate Services. “I think next year should look a lot like the recent market – with relatively flat prices and fewer overall transactions.”

Photo By: Clara Hinton


Calgary's The Bow: a new skyline symbol

CALGARY— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010
More than 200 metres above Calgary’s streets, a crane swings a long metal beam atop the West’s new architectural crown.

The five-tonne length of steel is designed to support the upper reaches of the Bow, a building that is a study in superlatives: the largest building in the Canadian West and the biggest steel project in Canadian history

Kerry Gillis watches the beam move, and shrugs.

“Piece of cake on this job,” says the chief operating officer of Ledcor Construction Ltd., which is building the Bow and has hoisted steel pieces three times as heavy.

Earlier this month, Ledcor finished assembling the building’s steel. The building’s diamond-shaped “diagrid” supports will be completed by year’s end; the walls of glass will be installed by late spring. The Bow, the largest North American construction project outside of New York’s Freedom Tower, will then be externally complete.

There is a certain hubris that comes with building a two-million-square-foot tower that, long before workers had so much as dug the first spadeful of earth for its parking garage, was expected to become the new calling card of Calgary. Even competitors say the Bow is an icon for the city, a glass-covered fist thrust in the face of the recession.

It did not escape the downturn unscathed – financing problems by owner H&R Reit resulted in the suspension of plans for a second building. But construction on the main tower never stopped, and the money issues were eventually resolved with a $425-million financing deal last April.

Now, the building’s upper reaches are taking shape at a time of resurgence for Calgary, which has profited from a new wave of development in the oil sands, driven by sustained strength in crude prices.

As some of the final beams are lifted into place, Mr. Gillis glances across the skyline – or, more properly, down on it, from the lofty heights of what will soon be the new headquarters of Encana Corp. and Cenovus Energy Corp. Several blocks away, crews have pushed another huge new tower, the million-square-foot Eighth Avenue Place, high into the sky. It, too, is a construction monument in a city that is nearing completion on two new landmarks.

But Mr. Gillis scoffs at that tower, too.

“Piece of cake over there. This,” he says, casting a glance around the complicated work of erecting the Bow’s curving structure 58 storeys into the sky, “is real construction.”

The Bow contains 45,000 tonnes of steel connected with 45 tonnes of welding and 800,000 structural bolts, some of them so big they barely fit in a man’s hand. It has 40 elevators and is so tall workers talk about the different climate at its summit. From the ground, its enormous walls of glass – which span an area the size of 14 CFL fields – swallow the sky.

For its builders, all of those attributes have combined to make the Bow Canada’s most prominent billboard – a building that remains on budget, although it may be completed slightly later than expected. It’s a feather in the cap that Ledcor’s most ardent competitors have acknowledged.

“I would call the Bow a signature building in Calgary,” said Roger Dootson, the vice-president and district manager for PCL Construction Management Inc., who also chairs the Alberta Construction Association. “And signature and iconic buildings do help out a company’s résumé for future projects.”

Ledcor has a long history in Alberta. Founded in 1947, it has grown into one of Canada’s largest construction companies, with $2-billion a year in revenue. But in Calgary, the Bow has been a coming-out party of sorts for Ledcor, whose efforts in Western Canada have focused largely on the less-glitzy work of building pipelines and oil sands projects. For Ledcor, the Bow has become something of a marketing exercise for its bread-and-butter business of putting together industrial structures.

Standing on top of the Bow, the reason is obvious. In its nearly-complete shadow stand the head offices of much of corporate Calgary. Suncor Energy Inc. is a next-door neighbour. TransCanada Corp. is so close that Ledcor once received a call from a safety executive at the pipeline company, who had spotted a lapse on site through his office window. The problem was quickly fixed.

Ledcor has toured all of its major corporate clients through the construction site, in hopes of creating a profitable halo effect from the building.

“It’s expertise. They can see that we’re not just a one-line company,” said Bob Scott, the Ledcor senior project director who has led the Bow project.

And there is little denying the scale of the Bow construction effort. Because it was building in the middle of a crowded urban environment, Ledcor had little spare space to work with – and has had to warehouse most of its construction materials at a large offsite yard. The company was obligated to turn delivery timing into an art form.

Another unique aspect: To save time and costs, each of the restrooms in the building was built in Ontario as a fully-finished, fully-furnished unit inside a container. Each container was then shipped, lifted into place and connected to plumbing, ready for use. Even the light bulbs were screwed in several thousand kilometres away.

Ledcor also had to contend with hiring up to 1,250 staff – the Bow’s peak labour requirement – in a province that was, when construction began, suffering from an overheated economy. But it got lucky: The downturn came just as construction ramped up. Suddenly, workers from Fort McMurray became available.

That doesn’t mean the Bow has been Ledcor’s most profitable endeavour.

“These big trophy assets are difficult, and at the end you say, ‘I could have made more money building 10 smaller towers,’ ” said Greg Kwong, regional managing director for CB Richard Ellis in Calgary. “But at the same time, you need these big trophy assets as far as stars on your chest are concerned, to help promote your company.”


BNS and RBC expected to be winners in next decade
Financial Post
John Greenwood 
November 16, 2010
Canadian banks are at a crossroads. Faced with tougher regulatory rules, a difficult economy and a host of other challenges, players are scrutinizing their crystal balls as they plot their way forward in an environment quite unlike anything they have experienced.

According to UBS analyst Peter Rozenberg, the best way to pick winners of the coming decade is with traditional yardsticks of past performance.

After reviewing 10 years of historical data, Mr. Rozenberg found that while its helpful to look at measures such as provisions for credit losses and product mix, more important contributors to future performance are likely to be growth in earnings per share and return on equity.

“We also used ‘reported’ data as opposed to our usual convention of ‘core’ data, which excludes one-time items,” he said in a note to clients. “While core data is better for establishing trend earnings and valuation, we think reported data provides a better measure of real returns and capital management, over a long period of time.”

The winners? Bank of Nova Scotia and Royal Bank of Canada are best positioned to come out on top, Mr. Rozenberg said.

BNS is at the top of the list because of its geographic diversification and focus on emerging markets in Asia and South America, providing “the best opportunities for capital deployment.”

The Royal comes a close second due to its track record of “superior organic growth,” lower costs and dominant business position.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Calgary Stampede Park moves ahead with $400-million expansion
Several projects to be completed by 2014
By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
November 9, 2010

CALGARY - With the economic recession behind us, Calgary's Stampede Park is moving forward with its $400-million expansion and redevelopment that will be completed within the next three years or so, the Herald has learned.

"By 2014, this will be a uniquely different place," said Warren Connell, vice-president of park development and operations for the Calgary Stampede.

The multi-million dollar construction includes Stampede Trail (a mainstreet retail and entertainment development), a new agriculture arena and exhibit hall, the River Park area along the Elbow River, and a youth campus part of Stampede Park.

"When the economic downturn hit, the Stampede was obviously right in the midst of a number of projects," said Connell. "We were in the process of completing the (BMO) Centre.

"We were dealing with a major sponsor on the River Park (area). Luckily for us we were close enough to being completed that the (BMO) Centre didn't suffer financially. It was sponsored to a large part by the government of Alberta. However the River Park sponsor did walk away and say at least for the immediate future they would not be launching into any new projects. That was disheartening to us."

In June 2008, the Stampede expected its major expansion and redevelopment to be completed by 2011. In June 2009, it expected completion by 2012-2013.

But the downturn in the economy delayed the process. Now, the Stampede is back on track to move ahead with its plans.

Connell said the Stampede is 70 per cent complete on relocating infrastructure pieces to a back of house area. Construction of the River Park area in the northeast quadrant of the park will begin after the Stampede in July.

"We do not have all the funding in place but the one advantage to having a green park is you can start doing chunks as the funding is available. We're still working on everything from sponsorship to grants and fundraising," said Connell.

He said the Stampede has just received development permit approval for a new agriculture arena and exhibit hall which it is calling the Western Event Centre. It has a $25-million grant from the federal government plus private donations and fundraising for more money to go ahead with the project.

Construction of the arena will start following the 2012 Stampede to be completed in 2014 prior to the Stampede.

Public space is being developed near the agriculture building as access to the River Park area which will house Indian Village in the future.

Alberta Development Partners, based in Denver, is working on the mainstreet retail development along the current Olympic Way which leads into Stampede Park and will include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant.

A spokesperson for ADP would not comment on the project when contacted on Tuesday. But the company's website says the project includes 150,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel, and public gathering places.

Connell said it is currently in the development permit process.

"They are hoping to do utility work this spring and start construction on their project post-Stampede this year - the actual buildings," said Connell. "That will be a two-year process. So they would be open in June of 2013."

The proposed Stampede Trail restaurant cluster and associated retail shops will be in perfect synergy with the constant stream of traffic generating attractions at Stampede Park, said Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc.

"This type of themed development in the shadow of major draws like the Saddledome is prevalent across North America as major league sports teams and their owners capitalize on consumers seeking a unique food service and shopping experience."

A 1,000-stall parkade near the Stampede Park entrance will be completed prior to the 2012 Stampede. The Stampede will relocate its current headquarters some time in 2012 further up the street to allow the current building to be demolished and to allow the remaining phase of mainstreet to be constructed between 2012 and 2013.

There is also a youth campus area in the northeast part of the Park that will be developed in the coming years and host several groups. Stampede Park is currently working on the first phase of the area.

By the Banks of the Bow sculpture - the largest bronze sculpture in Western Canada if not all of Canada - will be set up in the middle of the Park by 2012 and include 15 large horses.

The 4th Street underpass will link East Village to Olympic Way and will be completed by 2012.

Connell said the 17th Avenue S.E. crossing which would link the park to 17th Avenue through a roadway is still being pursued but no timeline for that has materialized. Future plans also call for looking at the potential relocation of the Coca-Cola Stage to where Indian Village currently resides. Another hall is also planned for the BMO Centre in the future.

And the Saddledome?

"All I can officially say is that the Calgary Flames have been dealing with us on a potential site for a new arena. The Calgary Flames are working out their own details with respect to the facility itself, fundraising and so on," said Connell. "As far as having agreed to a site, we have not but the two organizations are certainly talking."


Five extreme recession real estate buys 
Megan Mollmann
Published Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 6:00AM EST

Recessions are synonymous with job losses, stock market slumps and loss of equity, but less overall wealth can also mean big real estate bargains. As the prolonged pains of the recession continue, shockingly inexpensive property is available - including hotels without an asking price, $1 homes, and an entire town for sale.

1. The Pontiac Silverdome

In 2009, the former home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome, sold for $538,000 - about 1 per cent of the $55.7-million the developers forked over to build the stadium in 1975. Over the past couple of years, automotive plant closures, massive layoffs and high foreclosure rates have stricken Detroit's economy and eroded property values.

2. Wilderness Camp in Canada

Despite an uncanny similarity to the fictitious camp in 1979's comedy "Meatballs", Northstar Camp is actually located in Manitoba. Set on 185 acres and on a mile of beachfront property, this nature and fishing camp is selling for $299,000. The place was originally built as a personal lodge in 1989 and is a prime fishing spot for lake trout, walleye and northern pike for four months out of the year. One hitch: A float plane is the only way to get to the camp.

3. Texas Golf Course

In Waco, Texas, the price of The Lake Country Club has been reduced almost 30 per cent, from $4.2-million to $3-million. It has two 18-hole golf courses (including one championship green that formerly hosted a LPGA tournament), a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, and a waterfront camp and fishing site.

4. Landmark Home

In Chicago's upscale North Shore neighborhood, a landmark home - built by the nephew of renowned architect Daniel Burnham - is on the market for $1. There's only one catch: The local preservation commission in Glenview, Illinois. is obligating the next owner to move the 1894-era home to a new location. For two years, the local church, which currently owns the property, has been searching for a buyer so that they can expand their facilities onto the home's existing lot.

5. A Small Town

The fad of gobbling up islands has now shifted to small towns. Wauconda, a tiny four-acre township with a post office, gas station, grocery store, restaurant and four-bedroom house, was put up for auction on eBay in 2010. In March, it sold for $370,601 (U.S.), which stands as a significant rollback from the 2008 asking price of $1.1 million.

The Bottom Line

For investors still afloat, recessions tend to be attractive times to take advantage of real estate investment opportunities. And with upbeat news that the commercial real estate market is on the mend, prices may be at their lowest. In the third quarter of 2010, commercial real estate values seem to have stabilized, but buying opportunities still exist all over the United States.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Condominium market heating up: Re/Max
By Derek Abma
Financial Post November 1, 2010

OTTAWA -- Condominiums have become a hot sector of the Canadian real estate market, particularly as an option for first-time homebuyers spooked by the escalating prices for single-family homes, says a report released Monday.

Real estate-services firm Re/Max says affordability, lifestyle, investment opportunities and urban renewal efforts are among the reasons condo sales have spiked over the last year in some Canadian markets.

"As one of few affordable housing options available to first-time buyers, the concept is poised for dramatic growth in years to come," Michael Polzler, executive vice-president for Re/Max's Ontario-Atlantic Canada operations, said in a statement.

Re/Max said condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area are up 10.4 per cent, year-to-date, as of September, and now represent one out of every three homes sold there. In Ottawa, sales are up 11.9 per cent.

"The lifestyle has also gained a foothold with younger, hipper audiences as the definition of home ownership evolves with the changing demographic," Polzler added. "Dreams of the small home with a white picket fence are being replaced by the funky loft apartment in proximity to shops, restaurants and entertainment."

Other factors driving the condo market include urban redevelopment that favours intensification over urban sprawl, empty nesters seeking low-maintenance retirement properties and investors hoping to sell when prices appreciate, the report said.

Re/Max said the "vast majority" of newly built condominiums in Toronto are purchased by long-term investors from Asia and the Middle East, who will rent them until they find the price they want for them.

PHOTO: ACTIVE LISTING - #4, 1935 35 Street SW by Christina Hagerty