BILD: Housing Study Tour 2015

By Susan Legge
October 29, 2015

The 2015 BILD Housing Study Tour recently took us to Milan. It was incredibly informative, offering some fascinating insights into several top-notch developments taking shape in this ancient city.

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Since Milan is currently hosting Expo 2015, which 25 million are expected to attend, it was more vibrant than ever. In terms of real estate, this vibrancy can be seen in the rental market where there’s been a 10-per-cent lift since the spring. The property market, which local realtors say offers recessionary discounts and deals of up to 30 per cent, is hopeful that foreign visitors from Britain and Switzerland in particular will be attracted to the food and culture of the city as well as its “bargain” prices.

Large-scale international investors have been drawn to high-value opportunities in the commercial sector market, too. One massive commercial office building we toured appeared to be vacant; buzz from the group was that a company based in Qatar had recently purchased it, but that fact wasn’t confirmed as of press time.

In total, BILD participants managed to pull off three full days of walking and touring, including a high-speed train ride to Torino where we toured a mixed-use retail conversion and revival of the defunct Fiat factory. The former factory, in Lingotto, a district of Turin, turned out 80 different Fiat models during its nearly 60 years of operation. After closing in the early ’80s and after much debate, an architectural competition was held and awarded to architect and engineer Renzo Piano who planned a complex with public spaces that included concert halls, a theatre, a convention centre, a shopping plaza and a hotel. The work was completed in 1989.

This stop included a peek at the Agnelli family’s art gallery where Matisse, Picasso and Renoir hang unguarded, a walk around the rooftop racetrack, and a delightful nosh at the original location of the upscale eatery, Eataly. More gossip from the group – Eataly is eyeing Toronto as a future destination. This is, in fact, true, but where and when remains to be seen.

Of all the projects we visited, Porta Nuova was an example of the city’s innovation and progression, both architecturally and culturally. With the welcoming medieval gates of Porta Nuova sitting in the background, the current site, still under construction, incorporates a temporary 500,000-sq.-ft. urban wheat field into the landscape to align with Expo’s theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The intent of this art installation is to explore how technology and innovation relate to food and diet – food, of course, being an iconic and fundamental part of Italian culture. A harvest festival planned for mid-July exemplifies how this new community has been creative in its efforts to combine the old, the new and the essential. Check out the full-height trees on the balconies, incredible public spaces and parks, and the daring and defiant architectural chances they are taking here. Truly innovative – bravo! Porta Nuova’s current pricing began around $600,000 for 700 sq. ft.

While highrise living in Milan is still expensive by North American standards, priced at averaging around $800-1,000 per square foot for the projects we looked at, it is ultra-refined, contemporary and innovative, too. Have a look at my video slideshow for more highlights of the BILD Housing Study Tour.


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