Simanaitis Says

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THE LONDON UNDERGROUND—REDEFINED

THE TERM London Underground used to mean only this city’s subterranean transportation system. But cost of development has prompted some super wealthy Londoners to enhance their residences downward. In Hyde Park, Chelsea and Kensington, these underground expansions give the name “iceberg homes” to residences with most of their living space below ground level.

One reason for this is the extremely high value of property topside. According to BBC One’s “Millionaire Basement Wars,” exclusive Hyde Park land can go for £8500 ($12,000) per sq. ft. Rather than buying up the lot next door, it’s less costly to put the cinema, swimming pool, squash court, wine cellar and servants’ quarters below the existing residence, often extending things to the limits of the property under the back garden and the like.

However, as reported in The Orange County Register, March 5, 2016, “Their neighbors hate them.” One resident of Kensington Palace Gardens submitted plans for a five-story basement, complete with tennis court, swimming pool and a car museum, this last element to be fitted with a rotating Ferris wheel for displaying vehicles.

Wouldn’t you know, the French, Indian, Japanese, Lebanese, Saudi Arabian and Russian Ambassadors bristled at the potential upset of their neighborhood. Noted the Embassy of Japan, the proposed work would have “adverse impact on our diplomatic activities which require tranquility and privacy.”

The property owner then submitted a revised plan, toned down a bit—no Ferris wheel, for example. Matters are still under study.

Another homeowner took rejection rather more actively. Told not to proceed with her two-story basement expansion, she then painted her home’s exterior in red and white stripes.

Crikey.

Since these brouhahas, new restrictions in Kensington and Chelsea limit owners to single-story basements that extend over no more than 50 percent of the property.

Anonymity is another reason for iceberg homes: Once they’re built, outsiders need not know of their exuberant existence. Needless to say, photographic evidence of these subterranean properties is rare.

m

A mega-basement, as envisioned in the Frankfurt Allgemeine.

I can attest firsthand, however, to one such property. It was years ago and not in London. I visited a sweet little farmhouse located amidst other properties of farmers, some of them of the gentleman variety, on the outskirts of a major European city.

The place had a one-car garage, the first giveaway being a weathered wooden door that was heavy to slide open or closed; this, in retrospect, because it was lined with sturdy steel plate. On an interior wall was an electrical panel with a few more buttons than simply for illumination.

Two buttons operated the floor, in actuality an elevator. Below ground was a fully equipped garage extending to the limits of the property. It held perhaps eight cars, classics and race cars with plenty of room to move them around and work on them.

When you wanted to take one of the cars for a drive, you simply maneuvered it onto the designated portion of the floor and pressed the Up button. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

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