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The Renovation Nightmare Next Door; Paying for Public Parks

Welcome to Curbed's weekly roundup of architecture, real estate, and urban planning-related feature stories. Please be in touch if you have a story to recommend.

1. Jim and Allison Pantaleo spent $340,000 on their house, doing renovations before they moved in. At the same time, the neighbors were doing renovations, too. And the neighbors' renovations, according to the retelling in Toronto's National Post, destroyed the Pantaleo's home:

In August 2009, not long before the Pantaleos signed their mortgage, a city inspector showed up to examine 31 Dunkirk, the home next to theirs. According to City records, the inspector found a host of troubles on the building site. The inspector ordered the contractor on the job, Ironwood Construction Ltd., to "stop work immediately" and retain the services of a structural engineer to fix the issues.

That order was eventually lifted, though, and work on the house carried on in the fall. In early October, Allison says their own contractor called. He told them he was worried about the work going on next door. "The site's not secure," Allison remembers him saying. " I don't think this guy knows what he's doing." A few days later, he called again. You have to see the basement, he said. "Essentially they had removed part of the foundation wall," Allison says. "I could see through to the neighbours. I could pass a coffee cup through for sure." 2. Chicago's Lathrop Homes, a public housing complex on the National Register of Historic Places, is facing a revamp as Chicago considers replacing it with mixed-income housing. NPR investigates the pros and cons of turning existing low-income housing into mixed-income housing.

3. Part of Detroit is in the middle of a boom, but the rest is struggling. Is it possible for these two sectors to come together, or for the boom neighborhoods to "rescue the city"? The Guardian explores the question:

Boomtown and icon of ruinous decline – to say these two Detroits co-exist would be too optimistic. Separated by as little as a city block, the new Detroit and the rest of Detroit feel like two completely different cities – physically close, far apart in everything else: education, income, outlook on their future. The recent news that a racial blockade was erected between a predominantly black outer neighbourhood and the more opulent white suburb of Grosse Point is disturbing but somehow not surprising. Detroiters may hate being a symbol for the US, but in this way they really are: where there's been a confluence of public incentives and private investment, Detroit – like Manhattan and north Brooklyn – is booming. In the rest of Detroit – like in the rest of New York – the chasm between rich and poor is growing. 4. The creation or redesign of public parks is increasingly funded by the super wealthy, like billionaire Barry Diller, who had given a major donation to New York City's Pier 55. Architecture critic Inga Saffron wonders what the involvement of the wealthy means for public parks:

The group gave Dilworth an extravagant $55 million makeover (using significant public funds). Now it is so regularly programmed with corporate-sponsored activities and money-making concessions that there is almost no space to hold a demonstration. When Philadelphians gathered last November to protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, they were funneled into a wedge of space between the new skating rink and the lawn. Chanting was drowned out by a Zamboni that continued to circle the rink. It was almost as if it were designed to forestall another Occupy-style takeover. Yet, except for grumbling from a few pesky design critics, most have raved about the changes, especially the cleanliness and the programmed events. · Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]