Archive | Property trends

Words from the bank economist on what first-homebuyers should look for

While a few spokespeople pushed in the last fortnight for Reserve Bank restrictions on home loans to be eased, in the vain hope of maintaining overall sales in a declining market, Bank of NZ chief economist Tony Alexander took a different course.

Mr Alexander suggested first-homebuyers look closely at the wording of ads for clues on how to pitch their offer.

Words such as “bargain”, “take advantage” & “motivated” sprang to mind.

He said a flick through the www.realestate.co.nz website the night before he wrote his BNZ weekly overview column showed 11,195 Auckland homes on the market, and 2766 of them – 25% – carried agents’ words warning of some distress.

What to do about it? “The time is ripe for you, first-homebuyer, to start taking advantage of their pain. Relax. Take a few breaths. Take your time. Look at a number of properties. Start throwing in lowball offers in case you catch a truly panicked fish. Alternatively, simply make an offer for what you think a place is really worth – and stick with it. Don’t let the agent work you. They know that at this point in the housing cycle the effort they need to put in is on the vendor – convincing them that the days of stupid prices have ended.”

Mr Alexander said the chances weren’t high that the Reserve Bank would ease loan:value ratio restrictions soon: “The rules were announced in August 2013. Comparing now with then, although house price inflation has slowed nationwide from 6.3% to 5%, (Auckland 11% to 2%), lending growth is higher at 7.7% from 5.2%, and imbalances clearly persist between demand & supply growth in Auckland.

“The next 12 months will bring pain for late-cycle investors hit by the 40% minimum deposit requirement for new investors, tighter bank lending rules and an oversupply now of developable land in Auckland. Many will be looking to offload an asset they now see falling in price. This then becomes the best market facing first-homebuyers for many years.”

Link: 17 August 2017, Tony Alexander, full BNZ weekly overview

Attribution: Alexander column.

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Masterplan for an eco-city: Dongtan

Published 26 April 2007


International design & professional services firm Ove Arup began explaining in mid-2005 how different the Shanghai project it was entering would be: “We are working as a strategic partner with Shanghai Industrial Investment Corp (SIIC) on the integrated masterplanning for the world’s first sustainable city.


“At three-quarters the size of Manhattan and located on the third-largest island (Chongming) in China at the mouth of the Yangtse river, Dongtan will be developed on 630ha of land as a sustainable city to attract a range of commercial & leisure investments.


“Ecologically sensitive design will be a key element of the masterplan. The site is mostly agricultural land adjacent to a huge wetland of global importance. This will be a significant opportunity to apply our integrated sustainability & urban planning expertise to the benefit of the eco-city.”


Ove Arup said priority projects in the first stage included:

capturing & purifying water
waste management recycling
reducing landfills that damage the environment, and
creating combined heat & power systems, linked to the use of renewables, that will provide the technology to source clean & reliable energy.

One of the developments keys is a high quality road infrastructure connecting Dongtan to the Shanghai mainland. “Dongtan will eventually become a key Changjiang River Delta link between the North Jiangsu Plain and the Shandong Peninsula after construction of the Shanghai-Chongming-Suzhou passageway,” the development corporation said.


Because the island has been made from alluvial sand, it rises to a maximum of only 4.2m and is expanding towards the sea at a rate of 140m/year. The Dongtan wetland was included on China’s list of protected wetland in 1992, and in 1998 the Shanghai government began building a natural protection zone for birds. In 2002, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands listed Dongtan on its world wetland list, as one of East Asia’s largest protection zones for migratory birds.


But despite worthy intentions, a statement on the Shanghai Chongming Dongtan Investment & Development Co Ltd website about Dongtan sounded like a compromised environment would be a likely outcome: “As Shanghai residents are getting wealthier and as their work pace is being too strenuous, it is certain that Dongtan will be highly valuable for developing tourism, from which it will become a tourist attraction & vocational sight.”


And another from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors China chairman David Pitcher in early 2006: “This island located in the heart of the Yangtse River delta is home to many numbers of migrating birds, many endangered, yet at the same time provides a huge potential land bank for development of new towns, industrial & residential areas to rehouse overcrowded, impoverished inner-city areas. Development of such a resource is essential, as is sound environmental management of that development.”


The bigger plan involves developing thousands of square kilometres of the mouth of the Yangtse, including a deep-sea harbour for Shanghai – 30km out in the East China Sea.


“To meet the development of the island, the Shanghai government is planning to build the cross-river Shanghai-Chongming expressway, which will involve construction of one of the country’s longest & largest tunnels, according to the city’s urban planning authority. Under the government plan, the expressway, running for 25.5km, will include an 8.95km tunnel connecting Shanghai’s Pudong District with Changxing Island and a 10.29km cable-stayed bridge between Changxing & Chongming islands. The expressway will have 6 lanes, designed for speeds of 100km/hour.”


In Shanghai Expo 2010 news, the development corporation said: “A highlight in the island’s general development plan is that its northern part, close to Jiangsu Province, will be the site of largescale theme parks & stadiums. The northern part of the island would be divided into another 4 areas, with a special function for each.”


The island’s central forest, Chongming Dongping Forest Park, will be expanded and the park turned into Shanghai’s largest public recreational area. The southern area of the island will be for residence, administration & pollution-free industries and the western part, which includes the 200ha Mingzhu Lake (or Bright Pearl Lake), will be built into an international exhibition & convention area.


The China Economic Review cast a more jaundiced eye on the Dongtan project this month, noting the poor environmental state of Shanghai wasn’t about to change anytime soon.


Websites: Arup, Dongtan start date


Arup unveils Dongtan plans


Dongtan development strategy


Guardian Unlimited, Eco-metropolis


Confucianism v economic growth


Shanghai Industrial Investment Co


Shanghai Expo 2010


China Economic Review, the editor’s journal: Dongtan: eco-Potemkin


Wired, Pop-up cities: China builds a bright green metropolis


New America Foundation


 


Related story: Wired article gets closer to the heart of super-green Shanghai project


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Arup, Chinese official sources, Shanghai Industrial Investment Corp, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Wired article gets closer to the heart of super-green Shanghai project

Published 29 April 2007


Late in 2005 & early in 2006, stories appeared about plans to create a green city on Chongming Island – a hard-to-reach “suburb” of Shanghai with a major habitat for migratory birds in its eastern marshes.


I was highly sceptical about Chinese plans to turn this island into a repository for yet more of Shanghai’s growing population – 130 million people within 2½ hours of the Bund, according to the Wired article which is the subject of this story – without destroying the bird habitat.


But it proved hard to pin down information backing serious environmental intent by the Chinese corporation which had become owner of the island, or to suggest the migratory station’s days would soon be over.


The stories I read in foreign media were glowing about the proposal, very short on inquiry about how it might be done and likely outcomes. What I suppose I was looking for was something written from the perspective of the birds: If a city is plonked on the doorstep, will I be happy stopping or nesting here? Do I have somewhere else to go, or can we co-exist? What does it matter to humans, or to ecology, if several species of bird are decimated?


Now, another Chongming story, this time capturing much of the thinking that went into planning a city now proposed to be 10 times the original scheme, building up to 500,000 residents over 4 decades.


The Wired article, by New America Foundation fellow Douglas McGray, does far more than unveil the thinking that secured Ove Arup the job of creating a green city on the front door of the world’s biggest metropolis. It’s full of ideas on doing growth better.


Below, I highlight some of the points Mr McGray has made in his article. And in a separate story, mostly put together in early 2006 but not run on this website at the time, I give details of the Dongtan city project on Chongming Island. It’s an inspiring story and it contains lessons for us in Auckland.

Shanghai represents the forward edge of the planet’s next urban explosion. These new megacities could evolve into sprawling, polluting megaslums. Or they could define a new species of world city.
With Dongtan, Arup is testing a radical new approach to urban design, one that suggests cities….. can actually get greener as they grow.
The plan was never to pollute forever; it was to chase wealth at any cost and clean up later.
Dongtan’s master plan….. has almost nothing to say about architectural style. Instead, it outlines the world’s first green city….. It’s like the source code for an urban operating system.
He (Ove Arup architect & urban designer Alejandro Gutierrez) & his team imagine a city powered by local, renewable energy, with super-efficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that repurposes 90% of all waste; a network of high-tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2.
Instead of building the (power) plant far away and out of sight, Arup would put it up near the city centre, capture waste heat and pipe it throughout the town. With good insulation & smart design, the plant could heat & cool every building in Dongtan.

Websites: Wired, Pop-up cities: China builds a bright green metropolis


New America Foundation


 


Related story: Masterplan for an eco-city: Dongtan


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Wired article, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Next stage in prefabrication

Published 17 January 2007


 


House framing gets done in the factory these days, and warehouse walls are slabs very likely made offsite. We’re progressing. But try this for innovation: wall panels assembled at the factory, complete with wires & pipes.


                   


Wired magazine runs the story on this house, Plug+Play Construction, plus 6 other innovations in its Wired Home 2007 edition (links at the foot of this story).


 


Writer Andrew Blum began his story on the advanced-assembly home: “Steve Kieran stops briefly to survey the Chesapeake Bay from the living room of his half-built house. It’s a great view, but today he’s most interested in what’s inside the walls of his utility room.


 


Writer Andrew Blum began his story on the advanced-assembly home: “Steve Kieran stops briefly to survey the Chesapeake Bay from the living room of his half-built house. It’s a great view, but today he’s most interested in what’s inside the walls of his utility room.


 


‘Look at that,’ Kieran says, leading me into a small, tidy space filled with neat bundles of flexible orange tubing. Bolted to the wall is a row of black manifold boxes, each the size of a coffee cup. ‘It’s beautiful. It’s like the engine of a car.’….


 


This room & 2 more like it hold the house’s high-tech systems. It arrived at the site as a single unit stuffed with a tankless water heater, pumps & other equipment ready to hook into the air, water, data & power systems.”


 


The 204m² home, known as the Loblolly house for the local Maryland pines, took 3 weeks to assemble once the site had been cleared.  Another feature: It’s been designed to pull apart just as easily as it was built. For the finale at a trade show last October, Mr Kieran and his architectural firm partner, James Timberlake, showed the pieces on screen. After a while the audience realised they were on ebay, being auctioned.


 


Other innovative construction ideas in the Wired Home 2007 collection are:


 


·         Computer-controlled climate analysis harmonises a home’s interior with external weather conditions


·         An industrial building gets a facelift that includes soy foam & recycled steel


·         With refrigerator panels for walls, a beach house acts like a giant icebox by preventing serious energy loss


·         A water-cooled airconditioning system silently cranks up the energy efficiency in the scorching Texas heat


·         A geothermal pump and styrofoam walls bring natural heating to a Manhattan home, and


·         An irrigation system fed by rainwater and an insulating rooftop garden take advantage of the Pacific Northwest weather in Seattle.


 


Websites: Wired


Wired Home 2007


Plug+Play Construction


Kieran Timberlake


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Wired, Kieran Timberlake, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Google to have solar panels in the parking lot

Published 27 December 2006


EI Solutions, the systems integration arm of Energy Innovations Inc, will use shade poles on the parking lot as part of a solar electricity system for Google’s Californian headquarters campus.



The solar scheme will have total capacity of 1.6 megawatts – enough to supply 1000 average California homes. Energy Innovations said it would be the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the US and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world.


Most of the 9212 solar panels will be placed on the rooftops of Google campus buildings but about a third will provide shaded parking as part of solar panel support structures on existing parking lots. Wired News said the project would supply about 30% of the campus’ power demand.


Energy Innovations said the system had a 7½-year payback period.


Website: Energy Innovations


EI Solutions


EI Solutions’ Google project


Wired news item


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Planetizen, Wired, Energy Innovations, EI Solutions, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Gay retirement villages a new US niche

Published 15 December 2006


The Dallas Morning News ran a story this week on one of several new niche residential markets: retirement villages for gay & lesbian residents.



The article about Rainbow Vision in Santa Fe said there were 21 gay & lesbian retirement communities either under construction or on the drawing board in the US. Other new niche retirement markets cater to Asian-Americans, the deaf, golfers, military veterans & university alumni.


The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force said the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender Americans over 65 would more than double in the next 25 years, from an estimated 3 million to 7 million.


Website: Dallas Morning News, Gay retirement community is a first



 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Dallas Morning News, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Canadian university development introduces highrise granny flats

Published 27 October 2006


A Canadian university is having some success selling homes with granny flats which aren’t out the back of the house – they’re incorporated into highrise apartments.



The “granny flat in a condo” idea has been put into practice in the UniverCity project at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Buyers get a 3-bedroom apartment, with one room designed as a self-contained suite. Measuring 22.5m², they have a bed, bathroom & kitchen and separate entrance.


New zoning allows “legalised secondary suites”, intended for students, guests or relatives, or as “mortgage helpers” for buyers, and they’ve been introduced in up to half the apartments in the new university development area.


UniverCity Highlands is being built on 65ha surrounding the campus on Burnaby Mountain. It has a community corporation owned by the university.


“Through a deep commitment to excellence in every aspect of its design, this vibrant new community is expected to become an international showcase for innovative & creative approaches to sustainable planning & new urban development,” the UniverCity website says.


The developer of UniverCity’s Novo blocks, Intergulf Development Group, has been named best home builder in British Columbia 3 times, has completed more than 50 apartment & townhouse projects and just started building in San Diego in southern California.


Websites: CanWest Vancouver story


UniverCity


Intergulf


Intergulf Novo


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: UniverCity & Intergulf websites, pointer from CanWest story, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Laundry chic & O’Garage

Published 5 January 2006


Springwise, a Trendwatching.com BV company, has started 2006 noting a couple of property-related business trends – one for laundry and the other for DIY car servicing.



In a piece headed Laundry chic, Springwise says laundrettes & drycleaners are often synonymous with sloppy service & harsh chemical treatments, not to mention quit a bit of hassle: “Giving it a spin are New York-based Slate & LaundrySpa, 2 laundrettes/drycleaners offering new-style luxury cleaning and adding a nice dose of convenience & eco-friendliness, too.Slate is an all-inclusive laundry service for New York City residents available through the web. Customers sign up for a weekly flat fee of $US50-60, receive a Slate hamper then choose a pick-up time. “Slate does the sorting and determines which garment needs to be cleaned by which process (anything from hydro-carbon, wet-cleaning, hand washing, to regular laundering). Cleaned clothes come back wrapped, tagged and good as new. The environment also gets a gentler treatment, as the company uses a combination of bio-degradable & organic agents.”In Slate’s own words: “You are dealing with someone who speaks your language. You bought $US250 jeans and you are taking them to be cleaned where? To the run-of-the mill cleaner in his dreary shop down the block, who doesn’t care as much for the clothes as you do? We speak the same language: fashion. When your clothes come back, they are as new as the day you bought them at Barneys. On the surface we are a clothes cleaner, but underneath we are a fashion label.”


Springwise says The Laundry Spa offers a similar, Manhattan-only 48-hour full-service laundry pickup & delivery business, with an even stronger emphasis on pampering valuable threads: “The Laundry Spa is the first service that treats your clothes with the respect, indulgence & pampering they truly deserve”.


Springwise mentions that these services “would work equally well in Sydney, Sao Paulo or any other city with a sizable, moneyed workforce. It also shows that everything can be reinvented: these companies are turning a typically low-cost, last-resort service into a must-have, premium product.”


O’garage Springwise: “Plenty of consumers around the world enjoy tinkering with their cars, preferably surrounded by professional-looking tools & equipment, in a state-of-the-art garage/auto shop. But few urbanites actually own a garage, and suburbanites who do often don’t invest tens of thousands of dollars in garage equipment like bench lifts, transmission jacks & wheel balancers.”The French O’garage has come to the rescue, offering professionally equipped auto repair shops for rent by the hour, or even half an hour, including a bridge, if needed and starting as low as €10/hour. O’garage offers courses, sandwiches & shower facilities to clean up after particularly messy jobs.


Websites:


Laundry chic


Slate


The Laundry Spa


Springwise O’garage article


O’garage


If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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US real estate trend is “more global, more public”

Published 4 November 2005


Respondents to the US Emerging trends in real estate 2006 survey expect property markets in the next cycle (beyond 2010) to be more global & more public.



Emerging trends, released this week at the Urban Land Institute’s conference in Los Angeles, is produced by the institute & PricewaterhouseCoopers.


Among predictions:

Growth over the next year is likely to be more moderate compared to the robust levels of recent months, with much depending on what happens with a variety of factors such as consumer spending, energy prices, housing demand, job growth, corporate productivity gains & inflation
Despite improving market fundamentals & continuing capital infatuation with real estate, respondents signalled caution over a looming transition to a period of more measured, possibly lacklustre, performance – but nothing dire
The consensus forecast suggests real estate will hold a value edge over stocks & bonds, at least in the near future.

Among the current investment patterns noted by respondents:

a steady supply of buyers paying premium prices without seeming regard to the possibility of a market slowdown
a tendency by owners of well leased, income-generating core portfolios to hang on to their properties
a decline in the availability of “value-add bargains,” (fixer-uppers), and
increasing interest in investment in Asia.

Among the current development patterns:

a steady demand for urban infill projects due to continuous downtown migration by empty nesters & young professionals, and
growing interest in age-restricted & unique resort development, catering to affluent active baby boomers.

Investment tips include:

hold full-service hotels
sell or hold apartments
hold warehouses
sell commodity office, and
sell retail.

Looking to 2010 & beyond respondents said US real estate markets would sustain interest from myriad capital sources and predicted that concerns over sprawl, traffic congestion & the likelihood of higher energy prices would accentuate the desirability of both suburban town centres & more convenient urban living environments.


In its “markets to watch” category, San Diego took the top ranking from Washington, with greater Los Angles 3rd: “Southern California parlays extraordinary climate, geographic barriers, deepwater Pacific ports & an extremely diversified economy. Dynamic demand & constricted supply translate into the nation’s best place to invest.”


Other Emerging Trends highlights:


Hotels:

Strength: With occupancy rates approaching 70%, hotels are making a “roaring comeback.” This is by far the market sector with the most potential
Weakness: Higher airline fares & gas prices could curtail some business & tourist travel, or at least decelerate growth trends
Best bet: Resorts & destination cities show the most punch. While New York & Los Angeles appear constrained, Boston & San Francisco should improve, while warm-weather cities in Florida & Hawaii should excel
Outlook: Hotels have legs as long as the economy expands. All forecasts need to concentrate on the direction of fuel prices.

Retail:

Strength: Retail property performance “cannot get any better,” due to steady jolts from continued consumer spending. Fortress malls and infill neighborhood centres in upscale suburban markets look unassailable
Weakness: Rising energy costs, higher property taxes, higher consumer credit interest rates and increasing medical expenses could start to slow consumer spending
Best bet: Given capital demand, owners have an excellent opportunity to winnow portfolios, holding their best infill properties
Outlook: Temperamental energy prices hold the key. Sustained high (oil, gas & electricity) costs could finally break consumer backs. If oil markets relax and the economy produces more high-paying jobs, shoppers get another life.

Industrial:

Strength: “Rents don’t move much,” but exceptional institutional appetites for this classic core sector ensure ready exit strategies & excellent liquidity
Weakness: In some major industrial hubs, developers step up construction of higher-quality, more flexible, big box distribution facilities. They can offer lower rents, undercutting existing product. Just-in-time manufacturing continues to cut demand
Best bet: Own big box warehouse in the small number of airport & seaport markets serving global transport routes
Outlook: The industrial warehouse sector should “plug along as usual”…expect steady improvement across most markets.

Apartments:

Strength: Stratospheric home prices, higher home building costs, rising mortgage rates & rising numbers of echo-boomer renters will boost occupancy &d rents throughout 2006 and into 2007
Weakness: The condo craze could come back to haunt some high-end apartment markets in which speculative buying has driven demand
Best bet: Dispose of weaker holdings and sell into the continuing buyer wave as long as it lasts. Look for units that can be rehabilitated inexpensively into “B-plus” apartments
Outlook: For 2006, multifamily will be the bellwether for other sectors. If development imbalances can be controlled, increasing numbers of renters should bolster occupancies and increase cashflows, creating a landlord’s market.

Office:

Strength: Recovery gains momentum…vacancies will continue to decline nationally. Development activity bears watching – new construction has been restrained
Weakness: Although the sector looks better, it is “no house of fire.” Given job losses, downsizing & outsourcing, investors “need to accept stabilised vacancy at (a rate of) about 10%”
Best bet: Well located prime assets should make decent holds. Coveted properties feature more flexible floorplates to accommodate changing tenant & technology requirements
Outlook: Office looks risky compared to other traditional core investment categories – except trophy buildings in high barrier-to-entry 24-hour high-growth markets. “Then, buyers should just back up the Brinks truck at closing.”

Housing:

Strength: As long as interest rates stay low and lenders pursue “forgiving” credit standards, buyer demand can be sustained. Any corrections should be confined to local areas
Weakness: Middling wage hikes promise to “put a lid” on prices
Best bet: Demand by baby boomers for second homes in resort & retiree areas will gain momentum, without regard to the interest-rate picture
Outlook: Mortgage rate movements may not shock most markets, but a “levelling off” in appreciation is inevitable. Over time, home ownership will endure as a solid investment for users, but late investors will fare poorly.

Websites: Urban Land Institute


PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


 


If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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Stand in the road against carvertising will be short-lived

Published 18 September 2005


Auckland City councillors agonised in July over an application from an Australian company to have 3 small vehicles to work as a mobile ad fleet round the city, which council staff had recommended declining.



The cars, it seemed, “would lead to unnecessary visual clutter”, the advertising wouldn’t give the public safety or directional information, “introducing a commercial element on the carriageway will change the character of the road” and the ads could “give rise to potential adverse traffic effects, given the mobility of such signage & their close proximity to the motorist”.


After the councillors adjourned to make a decision, I lost track of it. But, whether the councillors ended up for or against the Design Driven Ltd application, they can be assured change is coming anyway.


The Springwise trend-spotting website has run a story on new twists in carvertising, which has been helped by the advent of cute little new cars.


In Austria, Springwise said, CoolCar offers long-term (12-48 months) rental cars decked out in ads, including the Mini One and the Citroen C4. In France, LibertyDrive offers a similar long-term rental service and another programme that rewards existing Smart car owners for participating in carvertising campaigns, paying them up to €100/month if they turn their cars into driving billboards.


In Australia, KahDo offers a similar service in Sydney & Melbourne, in Brisbane soon, with advertising changed at least once/quarter at a KahDo depot. Drivers also get access to free quarterly Club KahDo parties, as well as events & promotions cosponsored by KahDo & its advertisers.


“KahDo actively hand-picks drivers (from age & lifestyle to the neighbourhoods they tend to frequent), so it can pair its 100 branded cars with the appropriate representatives on behalf of their advertisers. The latter can also equip the drivers with other goodies & samples of their products, turning them into mobile & human billboards,” Springwise said.


Is it any different from company cars dressed in company livery? No. Will signs & billboard bylaws stop it? No.


Websites: Springwise


CoolCar


LibertyDrive


Kahdo


 


Earlier story:


10 July 2005: Mobile ad fleet parks on orange light for a fortnight


 


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