"The case for unremarkable buildings": low-rise density made great places for 100s of years

IMG_0394From the New Urbanism blog: "Redevelopment of neighborhoods lot-by-lot is indicative of a mature development market.  The primary problem we have in 2013 is that most of us have no reference point for what a mature urban real estate market looks like.  One hundred years ago it would be a completely ordinary day when a residential lot was subdivided so that two more homes could be built upon it.  Ho-hum, that’s how cities grow and progress. "But for much of urban America, it’s been fifty years since these seemingly-unremarkable things have taken place.  And so we have strange things that happen.  Urban NIMBY’s fight new development even though they clamor for more neighborhood retail, more transit, and better city services.  Zoning codes and city processes make it difficult to build what was ordinary.  And architects and developers feel the need to reinvent the wheel.

"I’d like to make the case for everyone to take a deep breath, and just embrace the building of unremarkable buildings.  The building below in Kansas City replaced a shabby one-story building surrounded by parking.  It won’t win any architectural awards, nor will it be highlighted in tourist bureau marketing.  Yet it’s the kind of building I wish we were seeing by the dozens.  It brings over 70 new apartments and some ground-floor retail to a busy corner.

"Many of my architect friends will snicker at this building.  But by and large it does what a good urban building is supposed to do, and it does it in a simple, unremarkable manner.

"It’s telling also that some neighbors object to the size of the building. Again, this is revealing as to how little experience we have with redevelopment. Some say that it’s too tall compared to the neighboring buildings that are one and two story. Others object to the number of units. But honestly, our cities need density, much more of it, in order to thrive in the 21st century. Urban residents need to find ways to learn to love more people."