October 20th, 2010
I grew up in a small town outside of Boston known for its good schools, proximity to tons of amenities, museums, great professional sports teams, green spaces, classic old colonial & Victorian houses, and its family-friendly reputation. Now that I am heavily involved with lifestyles and neighborhoods in my business role here at Onboard, I can look back with new found knowledge on the subject knowing that my home town was a great place for families to live. I grew up in the same town in two houses (we moved once) and then went off to college and never lived in the Bay State area again. Now, when my family and I go up to visit my parents, we are able to stay in the house I grew up in for holidays and long weekends.
For all of my adult life I knew this town was a great place to grow up, but over the years (mostly in the mid to late 90’s) a strange thing started to occur in the town. Newcomers to the neighborhood started to buy the beautiful classic old homes on tree lined streets, and literally demolished them in order to put up houses two to three times the size of the original house with no expansion to the lot.
This “development” in suburban areas is not news to anyone, but the end result was excessive, pretentious houses with no particular style or classification other than maybe the catch-all phrase of McMansions.
I’m writing about this now because according to my research, the era of the McMansion is deemed over in 2010, in part due to the recession. I can only say good riddance since I really, really liked the houses that got demolished in this town, and in no way do I feel that the replacement homes were more attractive, more elegant or more stately. More indoor space, yes, but certainly not necessary, since most of these homes became occupied by a couple or a family of three to four people. Meanwhile, families of four to seven had once occupied the “smaller” houses that had been demolished!
More importantly, the McMansion detracted from the neighborhood in the following ways:
- Parks, Playgrounds, and Green spaces were no longer full of families with children- the swings and ball fields were vacated for large wide screen TVs and video games in large living rooms.
- The social aspect of meeting at the local ice cream shop, diner, arcade or pizza place replaced by meeting at the ice cream parlor within the McMansion. This only makes the town seem less social and less family friendly.
- Literally taking away green space, not to mention trees, from lots and being replaced with oversized footprints of cheap building material – further detracting from kids playing in the yards and neighborhoods and spending more time indoors.
This was once an outdoor town. Every time I go back I don’t see many people outside anymore, except maybe shopping. Where did everyone go? Are they having grand parties at these enormous houses, drinking champagne out of the 20 foot chandeliers in their front foyers? Can’t be, since I don’t see 30 cars parked outside these homes. In fact, I rarely see any cars parked outside these homes. Maybe all their cars are parked in their three or four car garages. That must be it. Perhaps they are at their second houses where people spend 6 months of the year, further detracting from the neighborhood with no commitment to community. There is nothing worse than a street full of empty houses – whether the houses are in foreclosure or fully paid off!
The McMansion detracted from both the lifestyle of the people within the town as well as the good characteristics of the neighborhood. So good riddance and hello good, old neighborhood!
Now these people may have had the right idea since they certainly found a great neighborhood when they purchased their existing home (at least in my hometown), but then they ruined it by taking away a part of the neighborhood by destroying the house and making it and the good old neighborhood partially disappear. Remember the movie Back to the Future, a great 80’s classic I watched at the local theatre (now replaced by several useless shops) when Marty’s hand and arm started to disappear? Well, that’s how I felt whenever I saw a McMansion replace an already decent sized and beautiful house in the neighborhood.
If you are looking for a home and whether you are single, married or have kids, the right idea is to find that great neighborhood that fits your lifestyle first and foremost in your home selection process. Then look at beds, baths and square footage. Just please don’t ruin the neighborhood by demolishing and rebuilding in a style and size that has no rhyme or reason being there. Maybe you should just check your square footage requirement before you go down that road or better yet, learn how the Japanese “love life” in their 300 square foot machiyas.