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The Daily Ten – Japanese Heated Tables, Blackstone $1.2 billion bid for Simple Self Storage, Repurposed Churches, Manhattan Rents hit record low…

October 26, 2020by Steve NsonNews

The Daily Ten – Japanese Heated Tables, Blackstone $1.2 billion bid for Simple Self Storage, Repurposed Churches, Manhattan Rents hit record low…

October 26, 2020 by Steve Nson
Monday, October 26th, 2020

The Daily Ten

1. Blackstone Group to buy Simply Self Storage in deal worth $1.2B | Fox Business Network

Storage units remained strong during coronavirus pandemic, report says

Blackstone Group Inc. BX -0.24% has struck a deal to buy Simply Self Storage from Brookfield Asset Management Inc., BAM 0.06% making a bet on a sector that has remained strong throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The private-equity firm’s nontraded real-estate investment trust, known as BREIT, is buying the 8 million square-foot portfolio of self-storage facilities for about $1.2 billion, the two firms said. The deal is expected to be announced Monday.

In an industry dominated by publicly traded giants such as Public Storage, PSA 0.26% Simply’s more than 120 locations across 23 states make it one of the largest private players.

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2. New Spirits Rise in Old, Repurposed Churches | The New York Times

For years, attendance rates have dropped and congregations have closed nationwide. But many reused religious spaces are still sanctuaries.

Paddy Burke, 19, in the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. The building used to be a Catholic church.

The pandemic has thrown religious worship into turmoil. Some congregations spent months meeting over Zoom, uncertain if in-person worship could be safe. Others struggled to keep the doors open as contributions declined. A few have closed their doors.

But even before the coronavirus hit, many of the same issues were afflicting religious institutions; the most faithful worshipers have aged and church attendance has fallen in recent decades. Often, congregations have sold their buildings to eager developers, who might tear them down or partition the cavernous spaces into pricey condos.

But not every flock-less church faces an afterlife as living spaces stuffed full of “exceptional quirks around every corner” for hipsters. Many have become different kinds of creative spaces and communal gathering spots, often providing what might be considered “secular ministry.”

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3. Pandemic Fatigue Is Real—And It’s Spreading | WSJ

Collective exhaustion with coronavirus restrictions has emerged as a formidable adversary for governments

From the corridors of Washington to the cobblestones of Paris, the coronavirus is roaring back and authorities are ramping up restrictions again. This time around, however, everyone is tired.

Hospital staff world-wide are demoralized after seven months of virus-fighting triage. The wartime rhetoric that world leaders initially used to rally support is gone. Family members who willingly sealed themselves off during spring lockdowns are suddenly finding it hard to resist the urge to reunite.

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4. Lufthansa Abandons Offices, Parks Planes to Cut Costs in Winter | Bloomberg

Deutsche Lufthansa AG told staff that winter schedule cutbacks announced last week will cause it to bench an additional 125 aircraft and temporarily close large parts of its administrative operations.

The reduction will cut the carrier’s active fleet back to the level it operated in the 1970s, with the impact filtering through its operations, it said in a letter to employees seen by Bloomberg. Lufthansa had previously intended to use the planes in an already reduced schedule for the coming months, it said in the letter.

“Winter will be an even bigger challenge,” according to the letter, signed by Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr and his fellow board members. “We managed to reduce cash burn from 1 million euros every hour when the pandemic started to ‘only’ 1 million euros every two hours now. Still, that hasn’t changed the drama of the situation.”

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5. Banks may have to brace for heavy losses as commercial property prices plunge | CNBC

SINGAPORE — Commercial real estate prices have plunged this year as people stopped going into offices, and retail businesses were disrupted. That could lead to a significant amount of losses for banks, according to a recent report.

In previous downturns, commercial property loan losses were “heavy” and there are worrying signs that such a trend could be repeated this time during the coronavirus-induced slowdown, Oxford Economics’ Adam Slater said in a report.

In a worst-case scenario, Slater said these loan losses would “materially erode” bank capital.

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6. Manhattan rents hit record lows, report finds | New York Post

Rents for sky-high buildings have fallen to decade lows.

Median Manhattan rents dropped to $2,990 in the third quarter — marking the first time that figure has dipped below $3,000 since 2011, according to a market report released Friday by real-estate listings portal StreetEasy.

This downward trend is picking up steam from 2020’s second quarter, when StreetEasy reported that Manhattan rents had fallen for the first time since 2010. At that time, the figure slipped nearly 3% from the second quarter of 2019 to $3,300.

Demand remains low for new leases as borough residents continue to skip town due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and as others don’t need to live near the office anymore. StreetEasy also attributed the lower-than-normal median rent in the third quarter to a record-high share of rent discounts offered by landlords.

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7. Researchers design virtual environment to spur development of helpful home robots | Venture Beat

Without much prior experience, kids can recognize other people’s intentions and come up with plans to help them achieve their goals, even in novel scenarios. By contrast, even the most sophisticated AI systems to date still struggle with basic social interactions. That’s why researchers at MIT, Nvidia, and ETH Zurich developed Watch-And-Help (WAH), a challenge in which embodied AI agents need to understand goals by watching a demonstration of a human performing a task and coordinating with the human to solve the task as quickly as possible.

The concept of embodied AI draws on embodied cognition, the theory that many features of psychology — human or otherwise — are shaped by aspects of the entire body of an organism. By applying this logic to AI, researchers hope to improve the performance of AI systems like chatbots, robots, autonomous vehicles, and even smart speakers that interact with their environments, people, and other AI. A truly embodied robot could check to see whether a door is locked, for instance, or retrieve a smartphone that’s ringing in an upstairs bedroom.

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8. Japan’s unique heated tables may be the solution to winter outdoor dining for Chicago restaurants | Business Insider

As temperatures dip and the city’s infamous wind kicks up, Chicago’s restaurants are looking for ways to provide outdoor dining in the face of a harsh winter. An unusual solution from Japan might help solve the city’s outdoor dining woes.

Enter the kotatsu: a special heated table common in Japanese households. In Japan, kotatsu are often coffee-table height and have a heating element underneath. A duvet-like blanket extends from the edges of the table, trapping heat.

The design was chosen from over 600 submissions in a competition held by Chicago this fall to find a creative way for restaurants to continue outdoor dining in the face of colder months ahead. Current COVID-19 policies cap indoor dining capacity at 40%, and some restaurants have already decided to close for the winter.

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9. After the Blast, Beirut Fights to Save Its Architectural Heritage | Bloomberg

The Aug. 4 port explosion decimated neighborhoods filled with historic buildings. Now activists are struggling to keep developers at bay.

It’s been two months since the blast, and Maria Hibri has glued together the splintered filigree from her triple-arched windows. In a bathroom, the broken sink stays broken, a reminder of the day her world blew apart. The folding balcony doors have been refitted or replaced with salvaged lookalikes, but they still look out of place.

Bokja, the Beirut furniture design company Hibri co-founded with Houda Baroudi in 2000, quickly repaired its studio in Basta, a neighborhood crowded with antique shops, following the massive Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port. More than 190 people were killed, 6,000 injured and some 300,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

Their boutique, located in upscale Saifi Village, remains closed as the women focus on mending customers’ furniture free of charge, leveraging Bokja’s knack for refreshing dated pieces with vintage fabric and embroidery.

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10. Builders hoping to get Flushing waterfront plan off the ground | New York Post

Downtown Flushing is one of the city’s most dynamic commercial districts, bustling even during the pandemic and rumbling with new construction.

But one thing it doesn’t have is a useable waterfront, even though its hotels, restaurants and malls are just a few minutes’ walk from Flushing Creek.

Now, three Queens real estate companies — F&T Development, Young Nian Group and United Construction & Development Group — are urging the city to set up a Special Flushing Waterfront District on a mostly derelict, 29-acre site south of the Flushing Bridge and fronting on the creek.

It would smooth the way for large-scale development on what’s now a mostly wasted landscape of bare ground and a few unidentifiable ruins, cut off from the rest of Flushing by iron fences.

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