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Brooklyn firm designs planned community in China to welcome a diverse population travelling through life and learning

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An hour’s drive west of Shanghai, China stands Sangha — a 46-acre community built as a global model for diverse, holistic neighbourhoods.

Sangha includes everything from single-family homes and apartments, to hotels and wellness facilities. It was designed by Brooklyn-based architects Tsao McCown, in collaboration with the Shanghai-based developer Octave.

Located on Yangcheng Lake, on the edge of UNESCO world heritage site Suzhou, the 109-single-family homes include three- to four-bedroom residences and two-bedroom townhomes. Eighty-seven village apartments (one, 1-1/2, two-bedroom), can be purchased or rented, and many are created to accommodate disabled residents

As well, Sangha has two hotels: the One Hotel, a 72-room wellness retreat offering body treatments, Japanese-style hot springs, nutritionists, yoga teachers and fitness coaches. The Fellow Traveler Hotel is for those who wish to participate in the Life Learning Centre’s programs, located below in a 40,000-square-ft. facility.

Sangha also boasts an Early Childhood Learning Centre in a sunken quadrangle and surrounded by a food hall, markets, the hotels and town hall which acts as the heart of Sangha’s village activities. The Sanctuary is used for weddings, concerts and meditative assemblies.

Architects strived to “deflect attention away from design and back to nature,” with buildings, streets and pathways scaled to human needs and pedestrians’ strides.

Buildings have been situated to maximize air flow, passive solar heating and sun angles. Architects have integrated natural shading and ventilation into all buildings. Recycled building materials, wood, recycled stones and concrete have been used throughout the project.

Sangha, completed in 2017 for $300 million, took 10 years to design and build in collaboration with the Chinese government, non-profit and for-profit organizations in China, the U.S. and Singapore.

Calvin Tsao, of Tsao & McKown Architects, in Brooklyn, N.Y., answers a few questions about the community:

How did Sangha come about?

My partner, Zach, and I believe the most important thing about any design is to create a holistic environment for whomever is there. We did an urban mass plan for Singapore and later one for Berlin — both with a private and public component to them. That’s when we realized the private sector and the government have to blend their agenda to make a proper society.

Being a Chinese-American I’ve been observing China for a long time. It’s evolved from a very backward place to a superior country both politically and economically. We started investigating how to create a sustainable, vibrant, culturally rich, socially healthy community in the rapidly growing, rapidly urbanizing, economically turbulent, politically complex culture that is China.

Why does it have so many purposes?

We believe a properly built environment housing and serving the population is one of the important steps to a healthy environment. We wanted a diversity of economic class and age groups in this community. We mostly want to show there are transient populations in the form of retreats and hotels, to rental apartments to service apartments.

Explain the health and wellness aspects.

We wanted to find a sustainable cultural and healthy environment, so we created this community focused on mind-body wellness. We have the wellness retreat and the learning hotel — a series of life-learning programs with a housing component, which means you can stay for a week or a month. You can rent a room and go to school. That’s for what are called fellow travellers.

You describe Sangha as people-friendly. What does that involve?

We want to generate really great experiences for people, not only serving what they expect but giving them more than that. It’s friendly-plus. We did it by looking at the phenomena of human perception, movement, environmental integrity, psychological comfort. We designed from how people perceive and how they use an emotional aspect of the space, as well as the functional aspect.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her at binksgeorgie@gmail.com



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Affordability driving demand for condos in Toronto

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The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) saw higher sales and demand for condominium units due to increasingly affordable prices.

Data from RE/MAX revealed that the GTA accounted for nearly 37% of the total residential sales on the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). Market share for this segment has been tracking higher since 2013, when the transfer of condominiums covered 30% of total sales.

Seen as the only property segment that rose above the 2017 market correction, the average price of a condominium apartment hiked almost 8% to $551,761 between January and October 2018, up from $512,552 during the same period in the previous year. Townhomes prices were at $571,058, compared to $568,165 in 2017. Meanwhile, prices of freehold properties, including single-detached, semi-detached, attached/row/townhouse, and linked townhomes fell year-over-year.

Despite the rising values, these home types are well-received because most Canadians still found it affordable and a sound choice for investment.

On the other hand, it was pointed out that the increased demand for condo apartments and townhomes was driven by immigration, population growth, and lifestyle choices. 

“Aging infrastructure, combined with a lack of transportation alternatives, longer commute times and the environmental component — with efforts to reduce carbon footprint — have all played a role in buyers choosing condominiums in Toronto proper that are close to both work and play,” RE/MAX noted in a statement.

The most popular area for condominium sales was still the downtown core, with 21.9% sold in the area bordered by Bloor Street to the north, the Lakeshore to the south, the Don Valley Parkway to the east and just past Dovercourt Road in the west.

However, supply remained low, which pushes prices higher.

“Limited inventory continues to place substantial upward pressure on prices, with fewer affordable housing options available — and that includes condominium rentals,” said

Christopher Alexander, executive vice president and regional director at RE/MAX of the Ontario-Atlantic Canada Region.

As a result, buyers tend to avoid the higher prices in the core and turn to condominium communities farther afield instead.

Currently, almost 51% of condominium sales in the GTA are below the $500,000 price point, but it is worth noting that builders and developers are currently facing skyrocketing construction costs and a land crunch within the GTA.

 

Related stories:
Revival of investor immigrant program stirs academic discussion
BC enters $1B deal to provide affordable homes

 

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. Click here to get help choosing the best mortgage rate




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App matches you with the perfect real estate professional

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Real estate matchmaking platform Mortgage Sandbox recently beta launched a free web-based app called Match Finder in the Vancouver market. The app was conceived as a way for buyers to connect with suitable professionals that can help them find their perfect home.

“The beta program is dedicated to gathering feedback from users so that we can improve the product while rewarding participating home buyers and real estate professionals with better working relationships at no cost,” said David Stroud, founder and CEO of Mortgage Sandbox.

Similar to an eHarmony questionnaire, Match Maker asks 10 simple questions to match home buyers with three trusted, pre-screened real estate agents and mortgage brokers. Users can then make their selection to start their home-buying process.

The app was envisioned to provide a better home buying experience for all parties involved. Match Maker is a secure, cloud-based application that also provides real-time interest rates and property forecasts. It has advanced home buying calculators and can be used on a laptop or a smartphone.

“The tools are part of Mortgage Sandbox’s ongoing commitment to build the most complete home buying advice platform on the market,” said Stroud.

Stroud emphasized that Mortgage Sandbox tapped into the real experiences of Canadian homebuyers and real estate professionals to properly address issues that are encountered when purchasing homes.

“We’ve designed an easy to use, data-driven, matching tool that connects you with local, pre-screened real estate professionals who share your interests, values, and have a complementary work style,” said Stroud.

“We believe aligned values lead to better working relationships and a more successful home buying experience.”

 

Related stories:
Revival of investor immigrant program stirs academic discussion
BC enters $1B deal to provide affordable homes

 

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. Click here to get help choosing the best mortgage rate




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App matches you with the perfect real estate professional

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Real estate matchmaking platform Mortgage Sandbox recently beta launched a free web-based app called Match Finder in the Vancouver market. The app was conceived as a way for buyers to connect with suitable professionals that can help them find their perfect home.

“The beta program is dedicated to gathering feedback from users so that we can improve the product while rewarding participating home buyers and real estate professionals with better working relationships at no cost,” said David Stroud, founder and CEO of Mortgage Sandbox.

Similar to an eHarmony questionnaire, Match Maker asks 10 simple questions to match home buyers with three trusted, pre-screened real estate agents and mortgage brokers. Users can then make their selection to start their home-buying process.

The app was envisioned to provide a better home buying experience for all parties involved. Match Maker is a secure, cloud-based application that also provides real-time interest rates and property forecasts. It has advanced home buying calculators and can be used on a laptop or a smartphone.

“The tools are part of Mortgage Sandbox’s ongoing commitment to build the most complete home buying advice platform on the market,” said Stroud.

Stroud emphasized that Mortgage Sandbox tapped into the real experiences of Canadian homebuyers and real estate professionals to properly address issues that are encountered when purchasing homes.

“We’ve designed an easy to use, data-driven, matching tool that connects you with local, pre-screened real estate professionals who share your interests, values, and have a complementary work style,” said Stroud.

“We believe aligned values lead to better working relationships and a more successful home buying experience.”

 

Related stories:
Revival of investor immigrant program stirs academic discussion
BC enters $1B deal to provide affordable homes

 

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. Click here to get help choosing the best mortgage rate




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