When you don’t like a teardown home, call it a McMansion

A local official in the Philadelphia suburbs writes about a Lower Merion site where a notable older home was torn down and now a home home is being constructed. What is interesting here is how the official describes how preservationists are using the term “McMansion” as part of their criticism of the new house:

Those who criticize the Kestenbaum residence built in La Ronda’s place are trying to deflect blame for their own failure over many years. Their use of terms such as “McMansion,” “McMonstrosity,” and “cookie cutter” demonstrates ignorance of what Kestenbaum is actually building.

I have toured the construction site and can report that Kestenbaum is building a home befitting the historic traditions of craftsmanship and old-world elegance that are hallmarks of the Main Line estates of yesteryear. The home is made of hand-chiseled stone, with extensive masonry work and important architectural details throughout.

The home bears no resemblance to the cookie-cutter McMansions found in expensive tract housing elsewhere in the Philadelphia region. To so characterize the Kestenbaum residence is insulting, incendiary, and ignorant.

I have met the neighbors of the new Kestenbaum home. I have spoken to property owners with a real interest in what happens in their community and their neighborhood. Their reaction to the new construction is consistent with what I have reported. The responses of so-called neighbors described recently in The Inquirer are in fact those of a few preservationists who are continuing to pursue their one-sided agenda, regardless of whom they hurt in the process or what falsehoods they promote.

It seems that the use of the term “McMansion” is quite effective here, hence the response from this local official. The term suggests that the new home is a “cookie-cutter” home lacking in appropriate architecture. Compared to the older home that was on the site (and you can read a bit more about it here), preservationists see the new home as a travesty (see an example here). Overall, this new home is likely quite different than the suburban McMansions that one might expect to find not too far away. But by using this pejorative term in a teardown situation (an older home replaced with a newer home), preservationists have tied this new home, however nice it may be, to negative images of the exurbs.

This story also provides an example of questions that pop up in communities throughout the United States: what exactly should be done with older homes, particularly well-designed estates?

2 thoughts on “When you don’t like a teardown home, call it a McMansion

  1. As a real estate professional with an expertise in teardowns, I can say that the term “McMansion” almost always seems to go hand in hand with teardowns and new construction, whether the project is done for profit or not. Here in Greenwich, CT, teardowns are a fact of life. The demolition of the older housing stock continues in spite of the overall slowdown in the market. However, I do think that when many people say the word “McMansion”, most of us think more in terms of size, rather than style. It’s a shame that not all new homes being built are necessarily being executed with quality or taste, even in multi-million dollar neighborhoods like ours. But then, I realize that not all of us will have the same opinion of quality and taste. No matter who has an opinion, at the end of the day the one that matters most is the one of the homeowner, who is free to construct whatever his heart desires within the legal limits of the local zoning laws. Whether anyone likes teardowns or hates them, there will always be controversy. The fact is that much of the older housing stock is functionally obsolete and architecturally out of favor. But let us not forget the principal of progression in these areas of redevelopment; which in simple terms means that real estate of lower value will always be enhanced by the proximity of higher-end properties.


  2. Pingback: McMansion defender claims to be fighting against “green jihadists” | Legally Sociable

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