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FlexHouz is a home built for multi-generational living




When Mark Rittinger began dating his wife, Ana, she was clear: at some point her parents would be living with them.

“As long as I was cool with that, the relationship could continue. But if I wasn’t cool, she wanted me to know that up front,” said Rittinger, 49.

Isabela Rittinger (from left), Carla Quiroz, Cecilia Conceicao, Ana Rittinger, Mark Rittinger and Sofia Quiroz all huddle around Lourenco Conceicao at the Conceicao’s home in Pickering, Ont. The Rittingers have bought a FlexHouz, which will consist of basically two homes in one to accommodate Ana’s parents.
Isabela Rittinger (from left), Carla Quiroz, Cecilia Conceicao, Ana Rittinger, Mark Rittinger and Sofia Quiroz all huddle around Lourenco Conceicao at the Conceicao’s home in Pickering, Ont. The Rittingers have bought a FlexHouz, which will consist of basically two homes in one to accommodate Ana’s parents.  (Cole Burston / Toronto Star)

His in-laws are from Macau, a former Portuguese colony off Hong Kong. Intergenerational living is common in both those cultures, Rittinger said. Ana’s grandparents had moved in with her family when she was young.

So when his father-in-law, now 84, began having mobility issues a couple of years ago, “My wife sat them down and said, ‘Look, I’m just opening the door. It doesn’t have to be today, it doesn’t have to be tomorrow, I just want you to know this is something I’m prepared to have the conversation about,’ ” Rittinger recalled.

Their journey to find a suitable home for themselves, their daughters and Rittinger’s in-laws has led them to become the first buyers of a new design called FlexHouz by Marshall Homes in Pickering.

It is that rare home designed specifically to accommodate multi-generational living. FlexHouz combines two separate homes under a single-roof — a bungalow for grandparents or adult children inside a two-storey family house — two residences that operate completely independently.

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It is based on a concept by American homebuilder Lennar, said builder Craig Marshall. It made so much sense, he set about adapting it to the smaller lot sizes in the Toronto area, where his company has built about 800 homes.

“We do custom homes and we get a lot of people looking to have their parents live with them. Quite often they’ll finish the basement,” he said. But that’s a short-term solution because, eventually, the stairs are probably going to become challenging.

FlexHouz takes into account the realities of modern living, said Marshall. The study is increasingly obsolete. Most people sit at a counter with their laptop. Ditto, the formal dining room in a home that already has a large eat-in kitchen or great room.

When the Rittingers decided it was time to share a roof with Ana’s parents, they called a real estate agent, but the houses they viewed needed a lot of adaptation.

“I don’t claim to be prescient, but I clearly recall saying to the agent, ‘I don’t understand why homebuilders haven’t clued in to the fact that this is a scenario people are going to have to face,’ ” Rittinger said.

He considered the idea of a custom home — probably a bungalow.

“I kept thinking it has to have a long, low house where everything is on one floor,” he said.

They even considered renovating their in-laws’ nearby five-bedroom house.

“We had a contractor come in and we were looking at the backyard and he was walking things out, trying to figure out if there was enough space to put an addition on the back,” Rittinger said.

But it didn’t feel right. No one said anything, but moving his in-laws out of their home and into an annex, while the younger generations took over the main space, just didn’t sit well.

“The contractor quoted us roughly from $300,000 to $500,000 to do a nicely finished unit on the back, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Rittinger said.

Then in September, he got an email from Marshall Homes launching the FlexHouz among the potential designs for seven lots in Pickering. The lots sold out in six minutes and the Rittingers bought the last one. Their FlexHouz, which costs about $1.6 million, is scheduled for occupancy at the end of next year.

It’s an expensive house to build in part because 50-foot building lots are tough to find in Pickering, Marshall said. But if someone wants to rebuild on an existing lot, his company will construct the same house for $858,000.

The home features a two-car garage for the principle occupants and a single-car garage perpendicular to the house that could act as the main entry for the secondary suite.

There is a locking, fire-graded door between the two units. The bungalow is bigger than many condos at about 875 square feet, with a kitchen, dining and living area, master bedroom and ensuite. The main house is 3,352 square feet with four bedrooms on the second floor. All the bedrooms have ensuites.

“As opposed to a pool or some kind of crazy addition, this struck me as being a sound investment in the future because of its versatility and flexibility,” Rittinger said.

The FlexHouz design from Marshall Homes lives like two houses in one: a bungalow and a two-storey home. The two residences can function completely independently from one another to accommodate multi-generational family living.
The FlexHouz design from Marshall Homes lives like two houses in one: a bungalow and a two-storey home. The two residences can function completely independently from one another to accommodate multi-generational family living.  (FlexHouz)

Homes designed specifically to accommodate multi-generational familes are scarce, even though by 2030, nearly a quarter of Canadians will be 65 or older, say experts such as Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge, an association of not-for-profit long-term care, housing and services for seniors.

There are examples of extended families buying sprawling suburban homes in B.C., co-housing arrangements where seniors share homes together and programs that match students with senior homeowners.

But, said Levin, “multi-generational living is something that has been more common among newer Canadians.”

As people get further away from that experience, they also get further away from the idea of multi-generational living, she said.

“The concept of living together with family, for me, dates back to my childhood. When I was a young child, I had my maternal grandmother staying with me … and then while I was raising my own family, I had my parents with me, until they passed away. We were in a traditional, detached, four-bedroom house in Markham,” said Cecilia Conceiao, 77.

Although it will be a big task to downsize from their five-bedroom home, she said the couple doesn’t need so much entertaining space anymore.

“We can still manage right now independently. But at our age you never know,” she said. “We have friends from our age group, from one moment to another, they encounter a big health issue and life is turned upside down.”’

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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