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Monday, August 08, 2005

Micro space

Recent trends in urban residential development point the way to a curious side bar for living green the micro-condo or personal space as one reviewer called it; smaller living spaces aimed at the new city hippy generation who comprise today's urban drift, moving out of the suburbs and returning to city central.

This new architecture places emphasis on location and intensely personal design options to attract the single or young couple just starting out. Often with few belongings other than a fresh diploma and a job offer these new home owner candidates eschew the long trek from suburb to office each day opting rather for a short stroll past the local coffee shop in route to their jobs.

Building management professionals and developers are scrambling to subdivide 2000 and 3000 square foot lofts and condos into 3 or 4, sometimes even 5, micro dwellings of 500 square feet or less. The key to doing this successfully is of course in providing luxury options like state of the art security, on site health club facilities, pools and surprisingly, often without major appliances. It seems the new hot consumer commodity is high end appliances and eurostyle kitchen cabinetry that comes with the owner as part of the furnishing. Subzero refrigerators and gas cook tops are now as much personal belongings as electronics or underwear. Your new condo is 500 square feet of empty space, plumbed, wired and ready to personalize with removable walls, your choice of flooring, wall finishes and cable providers. The new owner does the rest from bathroom fixtures to night lights and all at their own expense. The result is affordable space in a prime downtown location with, in most cases, a spectacular view and your own private balcony with bike storage.

For comparison sake because, if you're like me, square footage makes about as much sense as the rules of soccer, picture your last double at the Ramada and that is about 500 square feet or just about the amount of floor space in a 727 or, in most cases that dorm room you recently shared with what's their name.

Do the math and you quickly see why property owners are jumping on the bandwagon with 4 condos subdivide in the space formerly occupied by one the profit potential for sellers is golden. 500 square feet may seem a trifle but when outfitted as a luxury space with a view and close to work these mini habitats usually command 80% of their former 2000 sq. ft price. The reason for this real estate brokers acknowledge is that value is typically determined by location. If the location is excellent for the market then value becomes relative and for a young professional just starting out the value of ownership as opposed to renting early in their career is significant. They like the fact that the smaller space reflects their need for economy but with style and by living close to down town and work they save time as well as transportation costs and enjoy the benefits of city life and down town culture.

We also think that it is an appealing 'green' life style for a generation which recognizes the value in low impact living and who are not yet ready to put down permanent roots much less opt to purchasing that half acre of lawn in the suburbs with all its attendant weekend warrior obligations. Micro dwelling may be the newest trend but we suspect it will remain the province of young unmarrieds or newly weds and the occasional adventurous empty nesters. The rest of us will just have to survive with the 2 car garage and closets full of "stuff" we never use.

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