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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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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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