Posts about Infill
It's commonly accepted that we should build up around public transit, but how can you do it in a way that respects existing neighborhoods? Yesterday, I visited Mission Meridian Village in South Pasadena, California, a project that shows how to do just that.
Designed by New Urbanist architects Moule & Polyzoides and developed in a public-private partnership between the city and Creative Housing Associates, Mission Meridian Village opened in 2003 across from the then-new South Pasadena Gold Line station, which connects to downtown Los Angeles.
The project is located next just off of Mission Street, a quaint shopping district like Old Town Takoma Park where light-rail trains glide past coffeehouses and bakeries. Closer to Mission Street is a larger commercial building with shops and loft apartments, while behind it are a mix of apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes that seem to blend into the surrounding neighborhood of humble Craftsman bungalows. An underground parking garage, with spaces for residents and commuters, runs under the entire site.
From the street, you see a row of duplexes, each of which has a similar scale and uses the same materials as existing homes. The only hint that these aren't ordinary houses are the little paths that lead into 3 lush courtyards, where you'll find entrances to the other homes.
All of this happens on 1.65 acres, about a fourth bigger than a football field. With about 67 homes, Mission Meridian Village has a density of 40 homes per acre, but it doesn't feel crowded. Each house has its own private outdoor space, be it a porch, a patio or a balcony. Meanwhile, residents have eagerly embraced the shared courtyards. Chairs and tables spill out from patios into the space, while kids' toys lie on the ground, waiting for the next game.
Mission Meridian Village is a great example of how to provide much-needed housing in a way that gives residents open space and a feeling of community. It's also an example for how to build better suburban neighborhoods where a car isn't mandatory. Most importantly, however, it's an example of how to add to a community while respecting what's already there.
Check out this slideshow of Mission Meridian Village.
Forward-thinking New Orleanians started putting stickers on abandoned buildings and other places they wish were more than they are.
Borrowing the idea, minus the physical tagging of properties, we bring you the first installment of "I Wish This Were...", where GGW contributors imagine a better use for vacant properties and poorly-conceived public spaces in the DC area.
This one focuses on the Bloomingdale, Eckington and Truxton Circle neighborhoods of Northwest and Northeast DC. All photos by the author, who is a Bloomingdale resident.
Local developer Brian Brown almost came to agreement with two restauranteurs to turn this lovely late 19th-century firehouse, at the northwest corner of North Capitol St and Quincy Pl NW, into a 2-story bar and restaurant. Both deals fell through due to lack of financing. Let us hope that a committed investor comes forward.
This site of a former Esso service station at the northwest corner of Florida Ave and North Capitol St NW, behind "Truxton Park," has been vacant for many years as developers have been unwilling to pay to decontaminate the site. A 3 or 4-story affordable apartment building with a neighborhood grocery or shop on the ground floor would be ideally suited for this prime real estate at the junction of two heavily-used Metrobus lines.
The DC government owns this lot at Florida Avenue and Q Street NW and condemned the boarded-up building (which appears to have had retail space) in August 2009. OECD reports that 'affordable housing' is planned here. Homes here should be architecturally similar to the rowhouses to the right (west), perhaps with retail or office space mixed in. The rooftop of a 2-story building here would afford a view of the Capitol and Washington Monument.
The District or a developer should transform this "L'Enfant wedge" at Florida Avenue & R Street NW into a welcoming space similar to the one with the LeDroit Park gate at Florida & T Street NW.
As I recently suggested, imagine this mini-highway decked over to become a tree-lined plaza framing the view of the Capitol dome.
Bloomingdale already boasts some fine examples of smart urban design:
N Street NW, between Connecticut Avenue and North Capitol Street, has horrible pavement. It's rutted, full of potholes, and patched so poorly that it's a stretch in places to call it a paved street. But N Street NW has other holes as well.
Gaps in its urban fabric. Small lots big enough for a rowhouse and nothing more. These lots don't lend to exciting speculation, like the large developments including City Center DC or The Yards, but small infill development projects are having an easier time getting financing in the current sour economy. Progress is happening here, things are moving forward, unlike those large projects.
Here are pictures of a couple of them (the photos are already a few weeks old, so progress has made things look different from what you see here):
Left: 907 N Street, NW before. The lot is full of Ailanthus trees. Image from Google Street View. Right: 907 N Street, NW after.
Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.
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