Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 8.13.47 PM

A reader writes:

I see we’re going back to harder contests after the hundreds of winners in the previous weeks. The street light, no standing sign, and fire lane tell me that this view is definitely somewhere in the US. The haze in the distance kind of reminds me of the exurban areas of Los Angeles. So I’ll guess Riverside, California, and leave it at that. I don’t think 10 hours of internet searching would get me any closer. Perhaps this is one of those construction projects that stopped mid-recession and never got started again?

Another:

Has to be Las Vegas! All the tells are there: the American “no parking” sign and lamppost; flat barren landscape, the big city buildings in the distance.  This must be some of the construction that surrounds Las Vegas, started in the boom times and stopped suddenly when everything crashed.  As you fly into Las Vegas you can see how the outskirts of the city were once being developed, housing subdivisions that have streets and sidewalks, but no houses (or even worse, one or two houses in an otherwise empty development).  I’d give 10:1 odds that I’m correct!

Another:

Tough one. I was going to guess Fargo, North Dakota, because the land is dead-flat and there’s so much new construction going on there, but there’s no snow. That skyline in the background looks a little like Tulsa, and that’s what I’m going with.

Another:

Just a wild guess mostly, but it is obviously a picture next to a decent, but not overly large, city.  The skyscrapers are tall enough to give a good view from ~5-10 miles away.  The signs are English, and the climate seems to be similar to that of Texas, warm and relatively dry.  Since it doesn’t seem the downtown is either dense, or large, enough for Houston or Dallas that leaves San Antonio.  Now to see the e-mail from someone who picks the exact window.

Another:

SXSW started this week, and as I have no clue where in the world this is, why not guess Austin, Texas?

Another:

This picture feels like the Meadowlands area.  The long expanse of undeveloped. swampy-looking land leading up to a series of nondescript urban buildings.  A Google image search suggested this hunch might be correct (e.g. see attached – source here).  Other clues: the “fire lane” marking puts us in an English-speaking country, and that no parking sign looks like the ones in the NYT metro area.  the town that the Meadowlands are in is called East Rutherford, and a Google Maps search of it shows certain sections that appear isolated and with long windy roads.

Another:

I would rate this one as nearly impossible. A flat area in the US.  It’s a new office park, or something similar, so perhaps a growing area. A few medium sized buildings in the background. I’ll take a wild stab and guess Lincoln, Nebraska, somewhere near I-80 and Hwy 77.

A reader nails the right city:

I immediately thought “Sacramento, CA” when I saw this photo. Unlike most of America at this time of year, California’s Central Valley is green. My wife and I lived in Sacramento for two years, and we would visit Davis, CA as often as we could (they have a great Farmer’s Market). From the east side of Davis, you can often see Sacramento in the distance; so I’m going with Davis, CA, near El Macero Estates.

Another:

For the first time ever, I think I recognize the location. It looks like it was taken in Elk Grove, California, a suburb south of Sacramento. That looks remarkably like the half-finished, abandoned mall at the south end of the city limits. But I don’t recall there being any buildings near that lovely wasteland that are actually occupied as residences or businesses. Still, it does look like Sacramento’s petite skyline in the background. Unfortunately, there are probably several places around here that would allow a view such as this, and around the country as well. At least I finally have a guess based on more than intuition.

Another:

Around Sacramento stalled developments were a common site. Though many of the housing projects have started up again, check out this similar pre-ruin south east of Natomas in Elk Grove:

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 10.18.24 AM

Neither project has moved an inch since the financial crisis.

Another gets the right part of Sacramento:

This area is called Natomas and the hotels serve the Sacramento International airport near by. Two doors down is a hot dog place with late night drive through. For years these building skeletons have waited for real estate to turn around. The blocks are sketched out and the cement sides raised but there hasn’t been the money to finish them. I’ve stopped there at dusk before to look at them. To the north are the rice fields of the Sacramento valley. Natomas grew from the fields in a few decades and the effect, along with the half constructed buildings has always brought Caffa to mind- the outpost remade by Venice and then the first to collapse under the plague.

Another adds, “The empty development is locally known as “Stonehenge,” or sometimes, “Natomas Stonehenge.” Another:

First-time participant here, I never thought I would be able to correctly guess a VFYW contest. The picture was taken at the Homewood Suites in Sacramento, CA. I will try to be as specific as possible since I am sure anybody who stayed there might remember the location: the second floor, on the southeast side of the hotel indicated by the arrow in the attached picture:

SMF

I stayed there a couple of years ago on a business trip and I remember jogging around the area.

So very close – it’s actually the third floor. About a half-dozen readers correctly guessed that floor, but none of them have guessed a difficult window view in the past (“difficult” defined by only ten or less correct answers), so breaking the tie is tough again this week. But the following entry was the most detailed and proactive of all:

Since I live in an eastern suburb of Sacramento, my first reaction was, “Wow, there are dozens of these abandoned developments all over the Sac region; there’s even an entire mall.” Then I noticed that the city skyline looked familiar, the tree was budding, grass/weeds growing; plus the No Parking sign eliminated a large chunk of the world. So Sacramento in early March seemed like a possibility.

A quick scan of Google Earth and a comparison to various skyline images confirmed that the image must have been shot from the north toward downtown (sunset shadows and open space were clues). After a few more minutes map-scanning, I was confident I had it thanks to the sidewalk design, driveway arrows and landscaping. So it’s Homewood Suites (a hotel) at 3001 Advantage Way in Sacramento, CA. And my hunch was that it was taken from a window on the 3rd floor:

VtoYW Sacramento

You might find it interesting that the commercial structures mask a view of one of our many housing failures in the region. An entire neighborhood of streets, utilities, house foundations overgrown by weeds, and most striking – a small community center and swimming pool that’s abandoned and deteriorating. Looks like the developer sold five townhomes before shutting down; they appear occupied, so I hope the owners aren’t paying HOA fees for that pool.

By the way, my 3- and 6-year-old daughters and I (ok, mostly me) decided to make an adventure of it and attempt to see “The View TO Your Window.” We didn’t expect to replicate the view FROM, but fortunately, this is a window in an open-space hallway on the 3rd floor, just outside of room 301 (and the hotel staff were very friendly):

VFYW Sacramento recreated

My 6 year old, comparing the original image on my phone to the actual view, thought it was amazing that “we found the match.” Then she immediately asked, “What will we do if the next picture is in China? Will we go there?”

Thanks for spawning a fun excursion for the three of us. (Mom thought we were crazy.)

Congrats, we’ll get a book prize to you soon. One of the contest’s most consistent winners adds:

The site is probably familiar to local basketball fans, as Arco Arena, home court of the Sacramento Kings, is visible rising behind the unfinished buildings on the left. Because the Kings will likely be sold this year, the city is actively working on development plans for the surrounding area. As for the unfinished buildings, they were originally supposed to house a TGI Friday’s, a Sonic Drive In and healthcare buildings, but the recession drove the developer into bankruptcy.

VFYW Sacramento Recession Marked - Copy(1)

Could there be a better monument to the last decade than the half completed shells of suburban chain restaurants and medical offices? The street in front of your viewer’s hotel is named Advantage Way, but it’s really the high-water mark of an entire era.

The photo submitter’s entry, for the record:

Sacramento, California, 5pm on 2/13. Looking from 3rd floor of the Homewood Suites in Natomas. Someone had great plans for a development in this area – foundations are laid, streets have names, but it apparently came to a crashing halt. I’ve been coming here on business for 7 months and it’s been like this since then. You can see the slightest sliver of the (hilariously named) Sleep Train Arena, home of the threatening-to-move-to-Seattle Sacramento Kings.

Update from the submitter:

The guy who won was exactly on target: I took that photo from the hallway window near room 301 of the Homewood Suites. I’m delighted to hear that he went there with his daughters. I’ll be back in that hotel on Monday and will let the staff (who know me by now) know how this all came about. Extra fun – thanks!

(Archive)