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Pop-ups may look weird, but they're OK

This 5 story pop-up rowhouse at 11th and V Streets, NW has gotten a lot of negative press. DCist and PoPville had nothing kind to say about it. And while it's undeniably a silly-looking thing, it's not actually bad. In fact, from an urbanist perspective, it's good for the city.

11th and V pop-up. Photo by the author.

First, a bigger building will allow more people to live in a core city neighborhood. That will help the neighborhood support more stores and services, and reduce car traffic everywhere. Density in the core of the city is a good thing, and a 5 story building is a very reasonable amount of density.

Second, this preserves the narrow lot pattern of its block, versus having one developer buy up multiple row houses and then put in a much wider building.

All other things being equal, a street with several narrow buildings is preferable to a street with a single long building of the same square footage. A streetscape with constantly-changing narrow buildings is more interesting to look at than one with a single long building. Small local property owners, instead of big development chains, are also more likely to own narrower buildings.

Yes, this property looks silly now. But think about the future. Assuming we can't (and don't want to) freeze the city in time, densifying infill on small properties is exactly the kind of development we want. If it's eventually going to be 5 stories anyway, it's better that this block redevelop property-by-property than all at once.

Pop-ups are the first step towards a street like this one in Amsterdam, which really isn't such a bad thing.

Amsterdam. Photo by Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits on Flickr.

Will this particular building look as good as that picture? It's hard to tell at this point. It might, but it could just as easily become the ugliest building in DC. Buildings that size aren't inherently pretty or ugly. There are lots of good ones, and lots of bad ones. What it looks like is not ultimately the same issue as its mass and scale.

The point is, narrow 5-story buildings are a great physical form for city streets. That's the form of some of the best parts of Paris, London, and New York. Although this will look weird with 2-story neighbors, it pushes the evolution of the block in a good direction.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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One thing I noticed about that particular building was the cantilevered overhang that the architect added to the front of the building.

Does the building code actually allow this on that street? Most rowhouses in DC don't actually own their own front lawns (and accordingly, their owners can't build anything permanent on them).

by andrew on Apr 2, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

ru serious?

Maybe if the entire block agreed to go 4-5 stories like your Amsterdam example it would look less ridiculous. I feel bad for the houses adjoining this monstrosity. Maybe they can't afford to expand up and they just have to suck on it.

by anon_1 on Apr 2, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Disagree. It won't look like the photo from Amsterdam one day. The architecture is worse, the materials and workmanship are worse. So while it may allow a few additional people to live in the city, this is, in my opinion, a worse solution that others that might have been possible.

by William on Apr 2, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

... it used to be higher property taxes which strained affordability. Now it's absurd neighboring development. And this isn't just keeping up with the Joneses -- it's keeping up by necessity.

by anon_1 on Apr 2, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport


Someone from DCRA posted on the Prince of Petworth thread and said that yes, the overhang was approved.

by MLD on Apr 2, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

I'm all for increasing density, five-story buildings and rows of smaller buildings, but does it really have to be a mere 10' wide? I've been in narrow row houses like that before, and it feels like a very awkward use of space. Couldn't they have just maybe taken two rowhouses or something and build a larger, more comfortable building?

by SJ on Apr 2, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

I have a question, I undrstand why the pop can't have windows on the side because the other houses could potentially share the wall if they popped up as well, but why does that condo building on teh end get to have windows on the side.

by nathaniel on Apr 2, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

To me, a pop-up says that the house's owner really values the neighborhood--loving it so much that it makes more sense to spend big $ on an addition rather than buying someplace further out that has more space already.

(That said, I've seen really ugly pop-ups and really well-done ones. Here's hoping this is one of the latter.)

by ZetteZelle on Apr 2, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

I'm torn. At two stories the existing housing stock is short by downtown DC standards. The popup is higher than I would go for and structurally does not seem ideal though that's out of my knowledge base. Would have loved to see maybe 3.5 stories there. Right now it looks a bit ridiculous.

by Alan B. on Apr 2, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure there would have to be an alley between the condo building and the townhouse. The windows are probably required by the building code.

by Alan B. on Apr 2, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

It looks dumb, yes. However until we have a form based code then I at least have to stick by my principles and say that a property owner should be able to build what's allowable anyway.

I agree with Dan's greater point that this is evidence of a transition anyway. It's good to have these things in this neighborhood.

by drumz on Apr 2, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

I bet you wouldn't be too happy living up there on the 5th floor. I seriously doubt they're going to install an elevator.

by Ron on Apr 2, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

Dan +1

by Jasper on Apr 2, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

why does that condo building on teh end get to have windows on the side.

Because there's an alley next to it instead of another building.

by BeyondDC on Apr 2, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

I completely support infill development but buildings like this are hideous: .

If enough of these are built, it will limit neighbors' support of infill development, leading some to oppose both good development as well as the bad development.

by Glover Parker on Apr 2, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

"First, a bigger building will allow more people to live in a core city neighborhood."

But is this really the case? From my understanding, this house being transformed into three luxury condos. Assuming that they each of have two people, then potentially there may be a very slight gain in residents.

This is the same phenomenon that happened in Columbia Heights when people couldn't understand why houses were being renovated but the population wasn't increasing. Simple answer is subdividing a house with five residents into a couple of condos with two people each = fewer residents and less density.

by Adam L on Apr 2, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

Excellent point, Dan. I see no reason why the owner of that property can't do what he or she wants to do with it, as long as it conforms to existing law.

It's better that the larger house is in a central neighborhood in walking distance of everything including transit than out in Olney.

by Cavan on Apr 2, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

I agree with @Adam L

You may create more households but not necessarily more density. It's not like 3 families will be moving in. It could be more like three single occupants rather than a small familiy.

What continues to elude me about this development is the stairwell placement and front/rear egress. At 10' wide to begin with there's not much floor space to give up. Maybe they're adding a rear stairwell and long 1st floor hallway?

by anon_1 on Apr 2, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

Looks unsafe - block walls? Also, just looks STUPID.

by crescent on Apr 2, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

The big difference between your Amsterdam photo and this particular example is that the entire block in Amsterdam is roughly the same height.

It's possible to mix 3-6 story buildings on even rowhouse blocks, but you need a few buildings in a row at that height for it to work harmoniously and aesthetically. Were I mathematically inclined, I could probably come up with a formula, but likely there is one in the architecture world.

These photos: Logan Circle and Capitol Hill are examples of what I am talking about.

CH -- 200 block of C St. SE

Here, you have a 5 story apartment building, mixed in with 2 story, but raised rowhouses, sitting on an English basement (so they are 2.5 stories tall)

Logan Circle -- 1300 block of Rhode Island Ave. NW

Here you have a 5 story apartment building mixed with tall 3 story rowhouses, which are likely sitting on a half basement too.

Both examples show that varying heights within a block by groupings of buildings at different heights works aesthetically, whereas single discordant examples do not.

The problem with this discussion is that there are really three different issues:

1. adding floors to 2-3 story buildings that are 100+ years old -- in theory I am not against this, but it's almost impossible to do it in a way that respects historic architecture

2. whether or not additions are reasonable or "too tall" -- I argue that 5 story neighborhoods aren't unreasonable, but they are atypical in DC

3. aesthetic wholeness and balance, e.g., one building sticks out and doesn't work, a bunch of contiguous buildings works, even if seemingly discordant in terms of height.

I'd argue you're only discussing point #2, so the discussion is signficantly incomplete.

by Richard Layman on Apr 2, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

My Cap. Hill photo isn't the greatest. This image is looking west (the other was looking east) and shows a greater variety of heights on the block.

In any case, I don't think this kind of height mixing is unreasonable, as I said in the previous comment. It's just about doing each height at an amount of critical mass where the overall massing makes sense.

the logan circle block had something like 17-20 "bays" and the 5 story apartment building is about 3.5 bays wide.

by Richard Layman on Apr 2, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

What the heck does this have to do with density???

It only has 3 (maybe 4) units, which could have been put in the old building. Except it caters to the pigish.

1 person living in 2000s' is not pro-density. No way. No how.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

Density is number of people per square mile. Holding building size constant, larger sq ft per person means lower density. Holding sq ft per person constant, larger floor area ratios mean higher density. Unless pop-ups will mean higher sq ft per person, which is possible but unproven (and will likely be different at different times and places), then they will increase density.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 2, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

@Tom C

I am interested to see how a two story skinny rowhouse would fit four units. Care to elaborate?

by Kyle-W on Apr 2, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

The 1500 block of P Street NW, where #1525 pops up quite a bit above its neighbors on both sides, is the first example that comes to my mind of an older pop-up-esque situation in DC that actually looks pretty good in context when you're walking along P Street:

by iaom on Apr 2, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

Assuming we can't (and don't want to) freeze the city in time, densifying infill on small properties is exactly the kind of development we want.

Was this piece meant to be an April Fool's joke?

Who is this "we" you are referring to? I wonder people who actually live on the block and on the blocks facing it or adjacent to it want this kind of development?

There is nothing wrong with skinny, 5-story buildings so long as they are (as in Amsterdam, Paris and elsewhere) built at roughly the same time to be the same height. Quite a difference from DC, where these sorts of popups are built piecemeal, placing lots of burden on neighbors and adjacent residents to build up or sell to a developer who can. Do you know how much it costs to build up? About $100 per square foot after finishes, often more. Who has the money to build 4 stories, other than developers? Who would want to, other than developers?

by Scoot on Apr 2, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport


So the only alternative is to tear down the block and build the whole thing taller?

Or if thy had originally been built at 5 stories and someone wanted to bump up to 8-9 we'd be having the same discussion?

by Drumz on Apr 2, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

Amen, Dan! If anyone on my block wanted to build up to the zoning limit, I would be cheering them on the whole way.

by Tom Veil on Apr 2, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

As a piece of architerual criticism, this is pretty useless. Oh, there are 5 story buildings in Amsterdam, they are cute, density is great. Wow. Trenchant.

Back in the real world, I don't think U st needs MORE density. And I'm not sure 2 additional households makes any difference. (It will be a 3 unit building)

Really, the most useful thing this building does is indicate the overheated market for condos in DC. I'm not sure where the 40,000 people are coming from....

by charlie on Apr 2, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@Kyle- Yes, 3 units of decent size could fit in the original building. This is just expanding the living units to enormous size which will, if it follows the market in the area, will be for single people.

The whole of depopulation of DC from 900K to 600K has been the demand of newcomers for pigish suburban scale living quarters. Let's not pretend this has anything to do with density.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2013 6:47 pm • linkreport


Here's the Zillow listing for the building in question:

The original house had 1,072 square feet. If you're arguing you could get three decent-size units in there (leaving aside the issues of dividing up floors), they would each average just over 350 square feet. Decent size? I would call that a micro-apartment.

by Alex B. on Apr 2, 2013 7:00 pm • linkreport

And as a former Amsterdamer I can assure you a single person living in 2000s' there is pretty damn rare. My partner and I lived in a 1000s' nice townhouse in suburban Amstelveen and a couple rented the upstairs bedroom. Well-to-do friends in The Hague lived in maybe 600-700s' units while most friends in the center lived in well under 500s'.

Using Amsterdam as support for 2000s' units is comical.

But by all means, let this pop-up be the symbol for what passes as "smart growth" in DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2013 7:05 pm • linkreport

Tom, who is using Amsterdam to support 2,000 square foot units? As far as I can tell you are the only person on the thread to have mentioned 2,000 or any other specific size.

by David Alpert on Apr 2, 2013 7:11 pm • linkreport

And if any fool thought they could add an addition on top of any of those Amsterdam canal houses 150% as tall as the original they would be laughed out of town. Places with any sense of taste don't allow such ridiculous gluttonous monstrosities.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2013 7:16 pm • linkreport

1072 feet means two upstairs units of ~220 sq feet, and a downstairs unit of 450 square feet. That is absurd.

by Kyle-w on Apr 2, 2013 8:31 pm • linkreport

To answer the first post further, bay windows and projections over public space are permitted, depending on the width of the lot and the width of the street.

by ah on Apr 2, 2013 8:46 pm • linkreport

So the only alternative is to tear down the block and build the whole thing taller?

Or if thy had originally been built at 5 stories and someone wanted to bump up to 8-9 we'd be having the same discussion?

Well, there are a few alternatives. How about adding one story popups to each home? That's at least a somewhat realistic option for the homeowners to take on. Or, how about just leaving the homes as is? Population density is already about 25,000/sqmi.

I don't know if we'd be having the same discussion if the size of the building were increased from 5 stories to 9, but this popup is tripling or quadrupling the size of the building, not just doubling it. The difference in scale of the present popup is significant.

by Scoot on Apr 2, 2013 9:03 pm • linkreport

Kyle- If you go to an Ikea you'll see that <250 s' units are possible and functional. And DC needs more small affordable living units. If the developer were doing a modest enlargement for a little more footage or were doing the maximum number of units I might have some sympathy. But even if these new units will only be 1500s' that's still wasteful for an urban location and panders to the "I've got money and can do what I want" attitude. And you can bet someone would be dumped in a canal in Amsterdam before this ridiculousness would be allowed. Preservation and smart growth are very serious matters there.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2013 9:09 pm • linkreport

@Andrew and MLD

Building code says:

"3202.10.3 Bay windows

3202.10.3.1 Width. The width of bay windows at each building line shall be limited as follows:

a. A bay window projection shall not be allowed on buildings less than 16 feet (4877 mm) wide at the building line"

That building is not 16 feet wide.

by crin on Apr 2, 2013 10:03 pm • linkreport

The square footage thing is a red herring anyway. If you want lots of square footage and live in the US then you can go pretty much anywhere. Housing area has increased in rural communities too. There are a lot of things that need to be fixed wrt to housing before we get to how much space we need.


I don't really see what policy could come up with the solutions you give. Outside if a historic district to preserve the homes as-is.

Anyway, it's not as if there aren't examples of buildings that are three times as tall as their neighbors already.

Personally, I think it's jarring and not in a good way. However, that's a problem with the design not the height necessarily. If we want to make sure the design is good from a policy standpoint there are solutions for that but people keep advocating and going on about the height which isn't the real issue.

by Drumz on Apr 2, 2013 10:55 pm • linkreport

It looks a little odd to me at the moment, but if a couple other row houses on that same side of the street added a few floors as well, I'd cheer on this development for pioneering higher building heights. Until that happens, I think it will continue to be a bit of an oddball. Here's to hoping some of the neighbors are also able to build up (and do so with a design that respects the original row house)!

by Aaron on Apr 2, 2013 10:55 pm • linkreport

Plus there is my general conviction that we want people to move in to DC and that property owners should be allowed to tap into that potential.

Even when it comes up with something weird.

by Drumz on Apr 2, 2013 10:58 pm • linkreport

There is not a singular "real" issue. There are a lot of issues. The design is certainly one issue; the height another; the scale another still. The size of the units themselves is an issue as well.

These types of developments should make us think harder about supporting creative policy decisions; they should be held up as an example of "what not to do" rather than settled on as "ok" for partly satisfying the insatiable need to build up at literally any cost.

Does anyone have information on who is developing this property? Is the person or group of people responsible for this developement willing to actuslly live here? If not, that should tell you a lot of what you need to know.

by Scoot on Apr 3, 2013 1:20 am • linkreport

I think Scoot hits the nail on the head.

There ought to be more to "urbanism" than wanting to stuff as many people as possible into little boxes. Aesthetics, design, consideration for neighbors' quality of life - all of this should matter also.

But of course I also question the central thesis - that somehow U Street lacks density. Seems like it's one of the denser parts of the city already.

by Pworth on Apr 3, 2013 3:57 am • linkreport

The real question is not the height, it's the ridiculous contortion the developer went through to only keep essentially the front door. Why didn't he just tear down the whole thing and build from scratch? What loophole is he taking advantage of or what did a convoluted code make him do? It's one or the other and neither is very efficient.

by crin on Apr 3, 2013 6:41 am • linkreport

Back in the real world, I don't think U st needs MORE density

Clearly demand to live near U Street exceeds supply, and that row of small two-story houses seems "underdeveloped" compared with the nearby neighborhood. What's the problem with adding density, in general?

by Tyro on Apr 3, 2013 7:29 am • linkreport

"But even if these new units will only be 1500s' that's still wasteful for an urban location and panders to the "I've got money and can do what I want" attitude. "

You're assuming what so many assume about urban space - that it's for one or two people, no kids, etc.

Try having a spouse and two or three kids, and then come back and tell me how 1500 sf is wasteful and elitist.

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:19 am • linkreport


It must not be a "bay window projection," because it was approved by DCRA:

You could email them and ask but I'll trust their spokesperson here rather than someone playing armchair building code inspector.

by MLD on Apr 3, 2013 8:20 am • linkreport

@Tyro, there are probably close to 400 units on order within a few blocks. As I said, buildings like these are more sympotms of a real estate craze. Do you really want to walk up 5 stories?

And how do you define neighborhood? Across the street on 11th it is all small two stories. In fact the the entire area behind U is pretty low level.

by charlie on Apr 3, 2013 8:21 am • linkreport

I suppor this guy's right to do what he wants with his property (I assume it's a guy, for some reason).

Anyone claiming those very bland two story buildings need to all be preserved is ignoring the fact that there are thousands of those in DC.

If you really miss gazing longingly at this block I can point you to countless other very similar blocks.

As for the architecture itself, we haven't seen the final end product.

But regardless of what it will be it's going to be more interesting than the majority of absolutely bland residential and commercial structures we've put up in this city in the past couple of decades.

by Hillman on Apr 3, 2013 8:22 am • linkreport

There ought to be more to "urbanism" than wanting to stuff as many people as possible into little boxes. Aesthetics, design, consideration for neighbors' quality of life - all of this should matter also.

There is. But with regards to this house in question you have to figure out what specific policies to acheive these things.

It's no one's explicit desire to stuff people into boxes but that's what people themselves are apparently willing to do in order to live in that area. So the law should allow for that.

This house is not an example of the market run amok. It's an example of what happens in a constrained (by regulation) environment.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

I have no problem with updating DC's urban housing stock to larger units that accommodate multiple families. However, what is jarring about this example is that the proportion of width to height is way off. If you look at the Amsterdam picture - the buildings are much wider. If this building were wider not only would the architecture be less offensive it actually would increase sustainable density. Right now it would be difficult for a household of more than two to occupy each unit, maybe a small child for a short period of time. If we want to create a lively urban environment we need not just single folks but a range of populations. This is what keeps urban neighborhoods busy from the first cup of coffee in the morning all the way till that last drink at night.

by andy2 on Apr 3, 2013 9:23 am • linkreport

A couple policy solutions that would prevent this in the future would be:

A form based code (but that won't necessarily do anything about the height).
A strict historic distric (but then people who just want to add 1 floor may be SOL).
Automatic design review (that adds a ton of cost and would prohibit a lot of smaller stuff as well).

I'm open to others but you need to be careful about what you're asking for in response to one building in one neighborhood.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

I agree with almost everything in the article.

I'll have to wait to see what it looks like when it is done but there is a good chance it will look better than that fake stone building two to the right of it.

by Chris on Apr 3, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

Some of the people commenting on here need to stop being so nieve. The Amsterdam buildings are attractive buildings. The pop-up building on V Street and the one in Glover Park that I posted the link to are built with no architecture and the cheapest materials. There needs to be at least some consideration of the immediate neighbors and the context of the neighborhood or support for smart growth and infill development will erode. Buildings like the V Street project will give ANCs another excuse to oppose growth, with the good projects as well as the bad. Is that worth perhaps five new residents that these buildings will accommodate. While this might marginally increase density, there are other objectives and goals of good urbanism.

Additionally, how is this any different from a couple that wants to build a River Road-style McMansion two or three times the size of all the existing homes in a neighborhood such as Capital Hill or Cleveland Park. I could easily imagine the couple saying that they need this huge McMansion to accommodate the two kids and a nanny they plan on having or otherwise they'll move out to McLean where they can have more room. In both cases, density will increase but is this good urbanism either?

by Glover Parker on Apr 3, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

What a joke to suggest that modern DC developers would bother to come up with anything even half as attractive and classy as that Amsterdam streetscape. Stylish and timeless design is not among their key concerns.

by Chris S. on Apr 3, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

I'm not completely against "pop-ups," but it does appear that this article argues both sides. It's almost like those examples from Amsterdam were built as buildings of varying levels and elevations initially and none of them decided to add levels later on.

by selxic on Apr 3, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

1. There's no legal basis in the USA for regulating taste.

2. Since when is 25,000, or even 40,000 people per square mile, "high enough" density? I keep hearing anti-high-rise pleas that "Paris is beautiful and mid-rise," and it's at 54,000 per square mile -- never mind Park Slope at 68,000. Those figures, and the high per-capita incomes that come with small households, are what you need to get continuous retail frontage within walking distance.

3. Most form-based codes require a minimum lot area for construction of different building types. Conventional zoning ordinances, like DC's, usually do not, since they don't discriminate between building types.

4. @Tom Coumaris: "pigish suburban scale living quarters"? Are you aware of the extreme overcrowding that plagued the city in the postwar years? No one can force people to live in smaller quarters, or require larger households. To do so would be an incredible, and troubling, invasion of personal privacy.

by Payton on Apr 3, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

(To amend my #1: outside of historic districts. Or outside of the CFA review process.)

by Payton on Apr 3, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

regulating "taste" is legal in terms of historic preservation by defining the architectural styles that are from the period that is defined as the era of significance for the historic district.

it's legal too in this context in terms of the materials used.

The point is define aesthetics in terms of objective criteria.

People in lower stages of ethical and cognitive reasoning (see Stage 4 of Lawrence Kohlberg's theories, and "multiplistic thinking" as part of the work by William Perry, from _Intellectual and Ethical Development During the College Years_) think that "taste" is relative and all forms are equally justifiable. It ain't so...

Again, another illustration of the importance of design review in pre-1930 housing districts.

by Richard Layman on Apr 3, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Oh, and Payton, since you amended your #1, I can too, I think you could make a legal argument based on urban design and the economic value that design contributes to neighborhood and individual property values, and neighborhood revitalization overall.

There is good research on the economic loss to property value on the basis of poorly designed and/or altered adjacent properties.

I am not a constitutional law person, but I think it would be possible to lay out the argument successfully, even in this period of extreme property rights.

by Richard Layman on Apr 3, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

even in this period of extreme property rights.

Wait - was this a reference to this pop-up?

I don't see why you're arguing for the merits of a historic district. There already is a HD across the street from this place. It would seem that they had the chance to include this block into the HD when it was formed and decided not to.

by Alex B. on Apr 3, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

so, it seems like no one is arguing that it would be better to tear down ALL the 2 story THs and build one big building. So folks agree with Dan on that. Whether more "density" on this block is a good thing, is the usual mix of views. Some think it will look ugly, others want to wait till its finished to judge.

But the most interesting point is that it would look better if it were wider, but not a big building. Best would be to have pairs of THs combined, to make buildings like in the Amsterdam picture. How hard would that be to actually do?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

It's really hard to do if you don't own the properties. It's not hard to do if you do own the properties. But this stuff is mostly done by bottom feeder developers, monetizing to the best extant possible the exchange value of place.

by Richard Layman on Apr 3, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

The Amsterdam example shows wider proportions but in Vietnam they have thin lot lines and it's often very beautiful and good urbanism.

It also sometimes looks like crap if the buildings aren't well designed/built. Which gets to the point of the article that there is nothing inherently wrong with pop-ups, any more than there is an inherent problem with 2 story row houses, but some still look like crap.

by Chris on Apr 3, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

Another Vietnam Example.

by Chris on Apr 3, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

I'm still not sure how any of the examples are relevant since they aren't "pop-ups."

by selxic on Apr 3, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

so, it seems like no one is arguing that it would be better to tear down ALL the 2 story THs and build one big building. So folks agree with Dan on that.

Without more information on the hypothetical single large building, it would be pretty tough to make an argument for or against it.

I think the reality - given the new Lima Condos on the corner and the present popup - is that the only place for these lots to go is up. So unless each owner has ~250k to spend and wants to triple the size of his or her home, the most probable outcome is that one single developer (or perhaps a small group of developers) will buy them all up to convert them for more units. Whether that development will emerge as a series of popups or a single building remains to be seen, but it seems inevitable. Whether good or bad, the era of this neighborhood being dominated by small single family homes is most likely over.

The developer (and owner of the construction LLC that built it) is located out in Leesburg VA about 40 miles from the present popup. I think in the near future you'll start seeing more of these types of homes being sold off to suburban or exurban developers and repackaged as 1 or 2-bedroom condos for city dwellers who live alone or maybe with one other person.

by Scoot on Apr 3, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

I wonder if the fans of this ugly thing would happily live next door.

by Rich on Apr 3, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

In a heartbeat.

I don't think I can afford it though.

by EmptyNester on Apr 3, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

"The developer (and owner of the construction LLC that built it) is located out in Leesburg VA about 40 miles from the present popup. I think in the near future you'll start seeing more of these types of homes being sold off to suburban or exurban developers and repackaged as 1 or 2-bedroom condos for city dwellers who live alone or maybe with one other person."

clearly a mark of someone who loves the neighboorhood.

by charlie on Apr 3, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

I would love to live next door. You could do the same thing and sell the extra 2+ units for a huge profit.

by Chris on Apr 3, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Reality on Apr 3, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

This is a true disaster and blight on the neighborhood. I live behind this monstrosity and can tell you: the crew is rude, they break laws frequently, and not one person on the block is happy about it. I cannot imagine what the interiors will be like - since obviously the Leesburger has no sense of style or taste based on the outside. But I see these units languishing for months upon months when they hit the market.

by Ell on Apr 3, 2013 7:52 pm • linkreport


I too would love to live on this block.


Care to wager? These things will sell very quickly if priced appropriately. Just because you hope it won't sell, doesn't mean it won't.

Also, crew being rude, and "breaking laws" whatever that means, doesn't make it a monstrosity. Just because the loud majority on your street doesn't like it, doesn't mean everyone is unhappy about it.

by Kyle-W on Apr 4, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Kyle - sure I can wager. A similar building just one block away was built with poor layouts and it took more than 6 months for the last unit to sell and it was below cost.

And to be honest, I have yet to hear of anyone in the neighborhood who likes it. Not one.

by Ell on Apr 4, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

What makes this better than someone buying the whole block; i would rather see stuff that matches in terms of size, materials used and colour. How much you want to bet the houses top portion wont be brick or if it is wont match the current brick.

Everything stated here is a opinion and not based on facts; anything built on the basis of looks and not function is bad period. If someone really wanted space they could buy many empty lots in DC or two row houses then remodeled to be one larger house.

by kk on Apr 5, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
-- Edward Abbey

This would be a good submission for James Kunstler's architectural "eyesore of the month" contest at

by mark on Apr 7, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

If you make enough attractive parts of the city ugly, like this, people won't be as drawn to the area. Many parts of DC are attractive because they look like real neighborhoods, with the architecture of similar style. People like to be proud of where they live.

by Tom on Apr 15, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

I live in the neighborhood - 3 blocks away in a small two story 1,300 foot home. The other 55 neighbors on the block(!!)live in 11 foot wide even smaller houses. This is the best, most friendly block I've ever lived on, and Scoot - it's not going away. That small part on 11th was not included in the U Street Historic District. The rest of the small homes were and are not going anywhere. These small footprint houses make up most of the houses from 9th to 12th Place, and U Street to Florida. It's a great urban neighborhood.

There won't be double or triple pop-ups because people love living here and won't sell.

by SharD on May 15, 2013 12:12 am • linkreport

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