Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Appreciating Palermo: A Real Estate Tale

Nearly a decade ago, my wife and I purchased an apartment in the Buenos Aires barrio of Palermo, near the botanical gardens and the city zoo. It was then, and still is, an area of high-rise residences that only vaguely resembles what it was half a century ago, when the Argentine elite occupied handsome mansions known here as petit hotels. Only a handful of those survive, one of them now housing the Museo Evita (pictured above).

The other major landmark is La Colorada, the red brick building that, at the time of its construction in 1911, housed the directors and managers of Argentina’s British-owned railroads. Designed by architect Regis Pigeon, its raw materials arrived as ballast on the boats that then carried grains from the Pampas back to Europe. With its original exterior exposed – most city apartment buildings are covered with concrete, stucco or some other smooth surface – La Colorada still stands out today.

Our own modest property, a second-story apartment in a utilitarian building that dates from the mid-1970s, has some handsome details like parquet floors, but it hardly matches the elegance of La Colorada’s marble staircases and central skylight. Directly across the street, though, the Palacio Bellini is a better indicator of trends in a neighborhood that, according to the daily Clarín, is now one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods for its access to green spaces such as Parque Las Heras.

When we bought our property, we knew it was a desirable location, for its access to parks, public transportation, restaurants and other amenities, but we never imagined it would become this desirable. We are just three short blocks from the Museo Evita, and barely a block from La Colorada and the Palacio Bellini. And we wonder whether, at some point, our simple but comfortable pied-à-terre will become the target of developers who want to buy us out.

Moon Handbooks Patagonia on the Road

Continuing tonight, my promotion tour for the new third edition of Moon Handbooks Patagonia will feature a series of digital slide presentations on southernmost South America. In addition to covering the capitals of Buenos Aires and Santiago, the gateway cities to Patagonia, I will offer a visual tour of the Chilean and Argentine lakes districts, Argentina's wildlife-rich coastline and Chile's forested fjords, the magnificent Andean peaks of the Fitz Roy range and Torres del Paine, and the uttermost part of the Earth in Tierra del Fuego. I will also include the Falkland Islands, with their abundant sub-Antarctic wildlife.

The next event will take place tonight, October 26, at REI San Francisco, 840 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, tel. 415/934-1938. On Saturday October 29, at 2 p.m., I will speak at the San Mateo County Library, 1110 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont, CA 94002, tel. 650/591-8286.

There will be two events on Monday, October 31. At 2 p.m., I will be at the Santa Clara County Library, 13650 Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga, CA 95070, tel. 408/867-6126. At 7 p.m., I will be at REI Saratoga, 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose, CA 95130, tel. 408/871-8765. The following evening, also at 7 p.m., I will be at REI Fremont, 43962 Fremont Blvd., Fremont, CA 94538, tel. 510/651-0305.

The season’s last event will take place Thursday November 3, at 7 p.m., at the Lafayette Library, 3941 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 94549, tel. 510/385-2280. Under the auspices of the World Affairs Council East Bay Chapter, this is the only event that will charge admission - $15 for WAC members, $17 for all others. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a wine tasting and tango demonstration, both included in the admission charge.

For those planning trips to the south, there be will be ample time for questions and answers. Books, including my other titles on Argentina, Chile and Buenos Aires, will be on sale at all the events.

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