Sunday, May 31, 2009

Open Houses Past And Present

This past week has been dominated by houses and homes of all sizes and shapes.

On Tuesday The Wife, Mom, and I went on the second Durham Museum River City Tour - Millionaires and Mansions. The bus tour took us past some 40 old homes and mansions built and owned by a rather eclectic group of, what would be referred to today as, entreprenours. Bankers, Mexican silver mine owners, and the preeminent supplier of cowboy boots in the country at the time, among others. The tour was interesting taking us through some of the older areas of Omaha. When the tour guide pulled out her notebook and started to read, I was concerned that she would be a boring drone but she happened to be a very good reader and the notes were very well written. He fed us enough details, information, and humorous anecdotes to keep me quite interested. The views from the bus were okay but we all had the urge to actually go through the houses.

On Saturday, as a part of her birthday celebration, I took Mom on one of her favorite pastimes - walking through open houses. The annual Omaha Downtown Living Tour takes you through twelve condo and town home complexes scattered around the downtown Omaha area. The buildings varied from the renovated hotel (The Paxton), department store (the Brandeis), and warehouse (Beebe & Runyan Luxury Lofts) to newer row houses and condos. There was an interesting contrast of the old style exteriors and the undated, sometime modern inside renovations.

Here's a question. Many of the newer row houses were three stories. They had more steps than the Great Wall of China. They also were rather small having only two bedrooms. Who are they making these for? Empty nesters? Most seniors wouldn't want to tackle the stairs every day. Young families? Stairs are not young kid friendly and they were a little overpriced for the younger crowd. To me the stairs, size, and price really limits their desireability. Several people agreed.

A free shuttle bus (a full size bus full of passengers) took you from one property to another. We were grateful for this as it was in the upper 80s most of the day and walking it all would have killed us. We ended up skipping two of the properties. One of them is a high rise that hasn't been built yet (only models exist). It was originally supposed to be 20-30 stories high but now, thanks to the economy, it has shrunk to about half that size. This prompted me to suggest that it should be renamed from its current name, the Wallstreet Towers, to the 401k Towers. That made the bus chuckle.

Despite skipping two of the properties, our tour took almost 5 1/2 hours. We both had a great time and saw a lot of interesting places. If I were rich, I would love to live in some of the places. Prices ranged from the $250,000 to $500,000 range. Too rich for my blood but I do like the downtown Omaha area. (One interesting factoid: many of the mansions we toured on Tuesday were build for less than $20,000.)

After the last property, we got in the car and headed to get some ice cream at Maggie Moos. Unfortunately there wasn't a open parking spot within a mile of the place so we gave up. I owe Mom ice cream. I'm sure the summer will offer many more ice cream opportunities.

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