September 7th, 2011

multifamily, Toll Brothers and JW property, all in one

360 Furman used to be a WTBTS facility. Now it's 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park.

That doesn't seem to be a Toll Brothers project, but this one is (which I don't _think_ was ever WTBTS, but who knows):

Here's what DUMBO means, if you care:,_Brooklyn

Predictably, Toll Brothers having only relatively recently gotten into multifamily construction is experiencing some of the same problems everyone else ran into when they first got into multifamily construction.

There's always action in Brooklyn, but I cannot get over the shock of seeing those prices per square foot.


Tom Keene had PK Verleger on talking about structural demand destruction for gasoline, the refining industry, fuel industry companies and a few other odds and ends. Verleger is one of those people who thinks the limiting factor is refining capacity. I'm not sure that I agree with the _the_ part of that idea.

In any case, it got me thinking about a variety of things. The more research I do, the more I conclude that while densification is going to happen (because it is happening, and the easiest prediction in the world is more of the same), and a lot of that means multifamily whether for sale or rent, densification in the form of single family homes and row homes on very small lots in bands a bit out from really dense districts (including, but not limited to, the "downtown" or CBD of yore) are part of the built environment now and will be for a long time. Increasingly, so.

I'm currently reading _The Rise and Fall of Downtown_, which is interesting, if problematic. The bit about subway development (or proposals and bond issuances not actually going anywhere, more like) has me thinking about metropolitan population and transport technology. There is _no_ reason to believe we're going to lose all the personal transport technology that has developed since (roughly) WW1: personal cars probably aren't going away any time soon, car sharing _really_ isn't going away (whether as zipcar or taxis), and smaller incarnations could be around forever (those electric golf carts may yet form our future traffic jams).

Which means anyone who has such things will be storing them, and people who live in single family housing a bit out from the core will _definitely_ own them. Garages are going to be with us for a long while, which makes me think once again about the garage on the alley vs. the garage at the back of the lot _without_ an alley vs. the front facing garage. While some neighborhoods in older city/suburban developments have alley systems and can face garages on them, most neighborhoods do not. Putting a garage at the back of a lot when there is no back-street access carves up a whole bunch of yard with impermeable surface (unless you're prepared to ban paving -- good luck with that). Putting the garage at the front of the lot has a reputation for making a house unwelcoming, not oriented towards the street and the life thereon, blah, blah, bleeping, blah.

Here's where I was headed with this post: we spend an inordinate amount of time with one or more of our two garage doors open, sitting either in the driveway, or just inside the garage, while one or more of the children plays in the general area (on the grass, the walk, the sidewalk, the garage, the driveway, etc.). We see this happening all over our neighborhood. I remember doing this as a child (altho I do not remember my mother sitting outside with us while we played, my oldest sister is 7 years older than us so I wouldn't remember when she was young enough to require that degree of supervision and she was old enough to keep an eye on me when I was old enough to be playing out there). And _our_ garage fronted on a steep driveway down to the street, which had a whole lot of risks associated with small kids and bicycles, especially since we were a corner lot and people turned in from Dayton at a good clip very often.

So why the idea that garages facing the street are inherently anti-social? My husband and I have had dinner out there more than once. I don't see a real difference between that an sidewalk cafes: we strike up conversations with our neighbors who walk around the 1 mile loop and pet their dogs and chit chat about whatever is happening. When the kids in the neighborhood do something inappropriate, we give them what for. What exactly is the difference?

(And _yes_ we do park our cars in those garages.)

ETA: Here's an excellent example of the anti-garage-facing-the-street phenomenon. I've _always_ been mystified by people who say they don't know their neighbors. We knew our neighbors in the suburb that became Shoreline, WA. I did _not_ know my neighbors in the first apartment I lived in, which was a city neighborhood (walkups, too). I chatted with my neighbors when I rented a house in Ballard and I _really_ got to know my neighbors at the condo, and later in New Hampshire (downright rural). But Welch Plaza, not so much -- people were gone a lot. Finally, suburban/small town Acton, I know a ton of my neighbors.

I don't think the overall density of the area OR the local density (apartments vs. single family, car-oriented vs. walkable) has much if anything to do with whether you know your neighbors. I don't think length of time in a place has much to do with whether you know your neighbors (altho _expectation_ of length of time may). I don't think the kind of person you are has much to do with whether you know your neighbors (I've changed, but I haven't waffled in a way that would explain what happened to me). I'd _love_ to know what determines getting-to-know-neighbors, but I don't think it's garages facing the street or not.

Humphreys in Texas, Copyrighted Design Ideas

I stumbled across some jargon, and am trying to figure out what it all means.

The "Big House" (yeah, try googling anything about this phrase -- not helpful) was relatively small, relatively few stories, mostly aimed at convincing communities to tolerate multi-family. I've seen Boston area AvalonBay communities online that incorporate the unit-has-access-to-own-garage idea, and only for some units. A big part of the strategy is to get communities that won't hardly tolerate any multifamily to accept a development because it is visually indistinguishable from single family.

You can't say it isn't dense, tho, at 15 units to the acre: that's twice as dense as eighth acre lots with single family.

Humphreys has a history of putting together Multifamily Design Ideas and registering the copyright for them (and judging by stuff up on the Humphreys website, they fully intend to enforce that copyright protection so don't go ripping off his designs). His second was Home-Rise, in 2002, which is a no-corridor high-rise design (still looking for further information on this). It looks like the elevator lobby has unit doors opening off it on each floor.

The third was e-Urban, which is a mid-rise (5 stories, 100 units per acre if I understand it correctly) with potential for mixed used on the first [correction: I somehow typed third. Blame my neuro-atypicality.] floor. I'll see if I can find more URLs and put links in when I do.

multifamily zoning changes and apodments?

I believe Seattle's DPD redid some of the multifamily rules quite recently (June?). I'm trying to find out whether any of the changes have any impact on Calhoun Properties not-technically-congregate housing? That is, Calhoun Properties does "Apodments". These are townhomes according to the code, with up to 8 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and locks on the doors and shared kitchen facilities (laundry, etc.) and very limited parking. In general, "affordable housing" and "workforce housing" gets built only because zoning compensates developers for including it (make it 20% or 25% affordable and we'll let you override some of the regulatory process, say, or we'll let you build it taller or more dense or whatever). Calhoun Properties is weird because they would appear to be building highly affordable buildings under existing code (they are having to go through design review; details of the Avenida process are available online) without having to be compensated for doing so beyond the ordinary market mechanism.

Naturally, some abutters weren't happy about this (worried about competition for on-street parking, impact on home values, having people next door who, gasp, don't make a lot of money) and were trying to apply some pressure to get changes but I don't think they were successful. For whatever reason, there has been very limited coverage of this that I can find in the press.

If anyone else knows whether changes made to multifamily zoning by Seattle's DPD this summer impacts what Calhoun Properties does, I would _love_ to hear about it.

I'm trying to figure out whether I think "congregate workforce housing" will ever produce interesting results through google. Maybe I'll just check in with that search every few months and see what happens. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that can happen everywhere in mass quantities and _still_ not get covered by anyone, so not being able to find anything is not evidence that it isn't happening.