Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Housing at Metro Stations, Rhode Island Row, and the New Urban Transect

Ad from the Express, Rhode Island Row apartments at Rhode Island Metro Station, Open House
Rhode Island Row, apartment built to look like rowhouses, is having its grand opening tomorrow.

EYA, a regional homebuilder, specializes in new rowhouse projects on infill and subway station properties, and they built a number of buildings near the Silver Spring Metro station. While I think the company does good work, I often believe that their rowhouse "product" isn't the right one for locations on Metro sites, and within 0.25 to 0.5 miles of subway stations.

Now, to me, the idea of capturing the value of proximity to transit, what is called transit oriented development, especially right at Metro Stations, means that the buildings should be denser, and more traditionally like apartment buildings rather than rowhouses.

This makes sense, based on the increases in the value of the land that derives from transit proximity and access to the network, as well as it being in the city.

What is Transit-Oriented Development?

New Urban Transect rendition by Topografis PC, on Flickr.

Something like this, although this building, to be constructed next to the Wardman Park Hotel in Woodley Park, is much grander maybe than what would be typical at a Metro station _in the city_ makes more sense, and would better leverage the value of the land.
Rendering, David Schwartz Associates, new Wardman Park apartment building, Woodley Park, Washington, DC
Rendering from the DC MUD article, "JBG's Woodley Park Residential Tower Reborn as 2700 Woodley."

But these types of "products"--rowhouses and small-scale apartments built to look like rowhouses--are much cheaper to build than taller apartment buildings--because beyond 5 stories, building and fire protection codes require concrete protection for safety reasons--and there are plenty of examples of so-called stick built projects going up in flames, including Santana Row in San Jose, California, and apartments being constructed for Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

This article, "Explaining Residential Density," from Places Journal, discusses the construction cost of various forms of residential construction.

The one advantage of rental housing at Metro sites is that it isn't necessarily permanent, unlike owner-occupied housing, so if the building type, over time, isn't right for the site, it can be replaced.

But that is a longer process for sites not directly within the core of the city, where perception of value is much more of a longer term proposition and takes longer to realize.

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