We had the pleasure of visiting Portland, Maine this week to help launch the development advocacy organization YIMBY Portland. YIMBY (Yes In My BackYard) is a nationwide movement of people coming together to support development, often to specifically advocate for the expansion of housing options in our cities. (And yes, we think “YIMBY” should also be a verb.) The event saw concerned citizens and advocates come together from a wide range of backgrounds to learn about and discuss the challenges facing this great city. In addition to some place-specific challenges, many of the barriers standing in the way of a vibrant, equitable, and prosperous Portland also plague many other cities across the US. Using Portland as a lens, we were brought in to illuminate these issues and discuss strategies for overcoming regulatory and development obstacles.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts on housing challenges facing communities across the state and nation. Georgia Power did a great job bringing people in from across the state to listen to a range of thoughts and ideas. Housing challenges are present in both the largest cities and the smallest towns. At first glance, the housing challenges faced by these communities seems exceedingly unique. Rather than focusing on the differences, however, we see the commonality between each community’s individual struggles.
We’ve been working on multiple projects lately that are dependent on Historic Renovation Tax Credits (HTC) to help cover the increased cost of historically compatible renovations. Currently, there is a federal tax credit, and Georgia is one of the states that also offers a state tax credit. Combining state and federal credits becomes a powerful financial tool to help make difficult projects possible. Through our experience with HTC’s over the years – and some recent changes – we’ve developed some thoughts on how the system could be adjusted to work for projects that have different scales and available resources.
The City of Atlanta is working hard on another update to our zoning ordinance. It’s another round of Quick Fixes to address smaller tweaks to areas that should not be overly controversial. However, you never know what is going to trigger resistance and outrage when discussing modifications to property rights.
One of the surprising areas of contention is a push to strike the provision allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the R-4 zoning category. A lot of the resistance to this change is coming from various groups that think this new provision will result in the clear cutting of a lot of Atlanta’s amazing tree canopy.
We are going to break down some of these zoning terms to hopefully shed some light on things…
There are a lot of reasons to build an ADU, and a lot of reasons to do this sooner than later. There is one time that is less than ideal though- when you don’t have an income.
This may seem obvious, but it matters for folks thinking through Aging in Place strategies. An ADU is a great way to be able to afford to stay in your neighborhood as you consider retirement, offering several options. The first stage could be having supplemental rental income while you stay in your house, helping to defray property taxes and other costs. Later, it offers the chance for you to rent out your main house, while downsizing into your ADU. This allows you to keep a foothold in your community, greatly reducing or eliminating your housing costs, and providing freedom to travel the world.
If you plan to finance your ADU, your bank or mortgage broker will have a much easier time getting the loan approved if you still have an income. Loan appraisers often struggle to properly value a proposed ADU, which means they may significantly undervalue it, or give it no value at all. An undervalued appraisal can easily sink a loan approval.
Getting your ADU financed and constructed before retiring is exceedingly important for folks that don’t have easy access to all the cash necessary to pay for their ADU out of pocket. Food for thought.
We just had the chance to participate in an amazing roundtable discussing ADU policy in Washington, DC hosted by AARP. Why is AARP bringing people to DC to talk about ADUs? AARP has spent a solid 20 plus years advocating for housing choice as an important way for people to age in place in their communities, and realizes that ADU play a really important role in providing this choice. Their website has a wealth of resources for folks interested in learning more.
We spend a lot of time working with the Incremental Development Alliance training folks to be small developers. One of our many goals is to help build community wealth through infill housing at a scale compatible with traditional neighborhoods, also known as Missing Middle Housing. This is housing that fits within a single-family neighborhood, but with more units than a single family home. This might be a home with an accessory dwelling unit, a duplex, fourplex, maybe even a six or eight plex.
We’ve had a lot of time to think through housing challenges and opportunities facing Atlanta. La France Walk is a unique chance to explore this issue firsthand. From the beginning, the core question for La France Walk has been, “How do you create a place, and what type of housing would that place include?” – or from a technical standpoint, “What is the most appropriate type of housing to build on a site adjacent to a heavy rail transit station and surrounded by a two-family zoned neighborhood with a single-family feel?”
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a young, hopeful person who has decided to run for city council. This candidate has focused on issues of inclusion and equity as cornerstone principles. While I fully support these principles in the abstract, I want to know immediately what specific policies would be rolled out to promote these goals. I treasure these opportunities to change minds and dismantle perceptions and expectations. It also gives me a chance to work through theories bouncing around in my head in real time as well.
Curious about owning an ADU? Kronberg Wall Architects has partnered with local designers and builders to create the ATL ADU CO, a complete design/build/deliver service. The ATL ADU CO offers several ADU designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the things that gets us most excited about ADUs is the financial math. Here’s why. Cities across the nation are struggling to find ways to provide more affordable housing to meet growing demand, both little ‘a’ affordable housing and big ‘A’ Affordable Housing. Little ‘a’ housing is often also called workforce housing. This housing is intended to be accessible to people making up to 80% of the area median income (AMI in housing speak). Housing for police, firefighters, teachers, recent college grads with a lot of student debt. For Atlanta, this translates into monthly rents of $764 for an efficiency, $820 for a one bedroom, and $949 for a two bedroom.
Let’s talk about approximate costs for the ADUs we are designing. While we are still working through costing with our builder, we are expecting that the one bedroom version should cost somewhere between $95,000-$115,000 depending on specific site conditions. The two bedroom is expecting to cost somewhere between $125,000-$145,000. These numbers are the all-in cost. Design, permitting, construction, utility hookups, etc. etc. are included in these numbers.
We spend the vast majority of our time at KW working on projects that will make communities better. For us, “better” means more inclusive and more connected, with more access to housing and services. Our efforts typically come through private and/or public investment and development. This means we spend a significant amount of time at community meetings discussing and negotiating approvals for our projects. As a small developer trying to do the right thing (i.e. trying build a project that improves a community and is more than a single-family house), you will inevitably need a variance or rezoning. This typically requires some form of pubic approval.
If we were ever to write a how-to book, it would probably be on the topic of public engagement for architects and developers. Proper community engagement is an art form that requires a significant amount of knowledge. It typically involves having a close understanding of the specific neighborhood: the hopes, dreams, challenges, and realistic assessments as to how our project does or does not fit into this matrix of place. Understanding these dynamics takes a great investment of time on our part.
Affordable housing is now and will continue to be an exceedingly important and challenging need for cities across the nation, and Atlanta is no exception. More and more people are looking to live closer to where they work, live, learn, and play. We have a very limited amount of land that qualifies as walkable urban, and not even all of that has access to MARTA rail. This scarce resource is rapidly becoming more expensive as a large and growing number of people compete for the limited amount of available housing. The Beltline is sparking further demand, speculation, hope, and price appreciation as single-family homes and commercial properties become more desirable within this hoped-for walkability.
We spend a lot of time talking about Missing Middle Housing and its critical role in developing healthy and inclusive neighborhoods. Discussing the theory and design behind Missing Middle Housing is essential, but we also need to consider the hands-on process of making these projects real. One major step in this process is selling Missing Middle Housing to the public – especially those that live near the project site. We are actively rezoning properties in Atlanta to Missing Middle pocket neighborhood development – and this gives us firsthand feedback on how communities perceive the benefits of these housing options, as well as the fears these projects generate.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Boyd Baker from the Good Gracious Show to talk about making better, more connected neighborhoods. My goal is to break down how transportation choices, zoning, parking, and other “under-the-hood” things have an outsized impact on how we live our lives, and the happiness we derive from them. Click here to listen to the conversation.
Urban redevelopment is our bread and butter at KWA, and we’ve come to understand that attempting to renovate a building built 50-100 years ago is full of challenges. Zoning requirements based on suburban development – but applied to urban areas as well – place tough restrictions and requirements on land use, parking requirements, and setbacks. Financing small mixed-use projects can be challenging even to those with deep pockets due to unanticipated obstacles. And if you manage to make it through all those hoops, our current building codes throw up a range of additional hurdles. We often see folks manage to overcome a range of challenges only to get bogged down in figuring out how to meet new building code requirements without breaking their budget. As we’ve navigated these obstacles ourselves we’ve developed a clear understanding of what to expect and how to best get through or around a lot of these issues. We recently put together a roadmap to help folks work through the code hurdles for a typical, two-story main street type building. Follow the link below to find the downloadable presentation file.
I had the absolute pleasure of spending a few days at the Seaside Institute taking a deep dive into what makes urban retail successful. Two of the leaders in town center design, Bob Gibbs and Terry Shook, led the class. An amazing amount of material was shared and much ground was covered. Here’s a quick recap.
Over the past year we have been exposed to a barrage of extremely interesting and eye opening reports, presentations, and books on demographics. These reports all indicate that the majority of Millennials and Baby Boomers want the same type of housing option – something located within a walkable community – and are increasingly willing to accept smaller, connected units to accomplish this.
I had the chance to listen to the Strong Towns podcast about a failed mixed use redevelopment attempt via a 203k loan with Ian Rasmussen. Listening to the story, I felt Ian’s pain. I’ve made a few previous warning comments regarding 203k loans to folks in the Small Builder/Developer Facebook Group. I’m going to take this opportunity to share as much as I can regarding this loan product so folks can make as educated a decision as possible regarding funding source for mixed-use projects.
This is a post on reflections and lessons learned, and an effort to provide insight and guidance to the Reynoldstown community as they negotiate with Jeff Fuqua on the rezoning of the Leggett and Platt site. It is also a chance for me to collect and organize my thoughts on one of the most transformative urban redevelopment projects in my neighborhood (Edgewood) fifteen years in.
I enjoyed a very wet drive dropping my daughters off at school this morning. The ground was already fully saturated before the current rainstorm, so there was significant runoff in the streets and creeks on the East side of Atlanta and South Decatur. One road was impassible from an overflowing creek, others just very, very wet. All of this lead me to mull on our current stormwater policies in for Atlanta and Decatur.
In case you missed it…
Check out a video of Eric’s presentation on Placemaking v. Parking, given at CNU’s T3 Event on April 16th.
For more information check out our series on Placemaking v. Parking.
A major part of maintaining and promoting healthy communities is finding ways to maximize the existing housing stock. Many neighborhoods in Atlanta have an abundance of post-WWII housing. These houses tend to be small, and efficient. Often they have two bedrooms and only a single bathroom. There is nothing inherently wrong with this layout, but progress demands that the housing stock be upgraded to keep up with contemporary society. We have helped many families brainstorm how to re-configure these houses over the years. One couple wanted to stay in their neighborhood and start a family, another owner wanted to expand so that he and his partner could stay in a neighborhood they love, while increasing their overall level of comfort.
Recently, some close friends approached us about downsizing. They no longer need their 5 bedroom house in Decatur. They cashed out and purchased one of these post-war houses. It’s an admirable exercise in “right-sizing,” as they try to determine the best way to alter their new home to fit their family of four.
As an office based in Atlanta, we’ve often daydreamed about what we could build, if only we weren’t so preoccupied with parking requirements. Recently, work in New Orleans gave us the opportunity, to reflect on the nature of parking in Atlanta. The New Orleans Jazz Market is the conversion of an historic 11,000 SF urban market into a purpose-built Jazz performance hall. Originally built in 1849 as a market, the building went through a major renovation at the turn of the last century. It was eventually sold to private owners after World War II, who proceeded to overhaul the facades in a gauche 1960s style. In 2013, when we were brought on to convert the building. It stood as an empty, beaten down, blighted building, most recently serving as a retail store. The newly renovated building now serves as a cultural anchor for the neighborhood.
There are significant differences in the built environment of our neighborhoods planned before World War II, and those developed after. Before the war, and the Great Depression, neighborhoods were designed to focus on walkability — sidewalks, smaller streets, and on-street parking were the norm. After the war, planners were confronted with the twin challenges of the increasingly prevalent automobile, and new zoning ordinances which eschewed earlier priorities and had a significant negative impact on the quality of walkable communities. Today, there has been a shift in desires and priorities towards redeveloping more historic neighborhoods. Still, zoning requirements have a tremendous impact on the viability and adaptability of these neighborhoods.
Current zoning takes the approach of requiring each landowner to provide enough parking within their parcel to satisfy the parking needs of any buildings on that land. Every parcel must be self-sufficient. Zoning mandated parking requirements, often poorly conceived, are like a cancer in otherwise healthy neighborhoods. Parking occupies a significant amount of space, increases development costs, and kills walkability by forcing buildings, separated by parking lots, to be spread across greater areas. The more distance between important neighborhood destinations, the less walkable the neighborhood becomes. This trend forces more people to drive, setting in motion the self-sustaining cycle of off street parking.
We are proud to present the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market.
An amazingly special thanks to:
- Irvin Mayfield and the great folks at the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
- Redmellon Restoration & Development
- Landis Construction
- Studio ARB ARCH
- Kirkegaard Associates
- Stability Engineering
- Leppard Johnson & Associates
- Spiker Baldwin Associates
- Grenald Waldron Associates
- All the team members from KWA who worked so hard on this project.
Past a two-story wall of windows, up a wide set of wooden stairs, and set back from the concert stage at Irvin Mayfield’s newly christened New Orleans Jazz Market sits a room the trumpet player identifies as his office. There’s no desk in this office. No computer, no phone and no trumpet—just two places to sit and a chessboard. This is fitting enough, given the amount of strategizing that went into transforming an old Gator’s discount store into what Mayfield hopes will become a shining new beacon for jazz…
[Read the full post at offBEAT.com]
How does a neighborhood node like Candler Park manage to function with such a greatly reduced amount of parking below the legal requirements? How does the world not end there from a daily influx of cars? Several reasons. First, by being compact and situated in the middle of the neighborhood, it is easily walkable and bikable to many who live in the surrounding blocks. Good sidewalk connectivity is part of this. This reduces the amount of people that have to drive to the location. There is also the ability to park once and visit multiple stores. If our family chooses to drive instead of walk, we often park, have dinner, walk next door for a cup of hot chocolate for one daughter, and across the street for an ice cream cone for the other daughter. While only using one parking space.
As a firm that solves redevelopment challenges on a daily basis, we have had time to reflect on one of the repeated biggest redevelopment hurdles we face in Atlanta- on site parking requirements. What’s the big deal with requiring parking you may ask? Everything. Our goal for Atlanta is to have it be chock full of thriving, walkable, car-optional neighborhoods ideally connected by some form of transit- bike, light rail, MARTA, or bus. The single biggest roadblock we encounter when aiming to make this happen is a very simple and insidious zoning requirement that says every site should provide adequate parking for its use on its own property. Here is the thing, if you want to have a vibrant, walkable neighborhood center, it needs to have significantly less parking provided than zoning currently requires, there has to be some form of shared parking, and in some places, that shared parking should have some cost based upon the market demand.
You know that an architecture trend is starting when Rem Koolhaas is talking about it. He is turning away from cities now and focusing on preservation and the countryside, even though our focus is not the countryside just yet, we couldn’t agree more with Mr. Koolhaas about Preservation and it seems like Architectural Record is on the same boat, their February 2015 issue was all about renovation, restoration and adaptation.
Our New Orleans Jazz Market, home of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) has been honored with a 2015 Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation by the Louisiana Landmarks Society that recognizes projects completed in Orleans Parish (outside of the French Quarter) that represent outstanding examples of restoration or rehabilitation of historic buildings.
Kronberg Wall is in search of a bright and dynamic professional; we are looking for a team member who combines talent, experience and interest in urban placemaking to redefine what’s possible through the power of design.
For more details visit our LinkedIn post or send us an email to email@example.com
*Riding your bike to work, using MARTA and/or being passionate about making awesome communities is not required but highly recommended.
images by brandt photography
We have had a wonderful year at Kronberg Wall and we would like to share the joy. The New Orleans Jazz Market, home of New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) is opening in January. We are proud to be part of this project because it embodies the core principles of our firm, an adaptive reuse project in an urban infill site that is empowering people and translating New Orleans culture into design, but we did not do it alone and we would like give a shout out to our team of consultants.
We are truly honored to be the recipients of the National Trust/ HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation with Redmellon for our efforts restoring 46 blighted homes in New Orleans’ Treme and 7th Ward neighborhoods. This project provides low-income housing for historically under-served areas of the city, creating innovative solutions for sensible rehabilitation and social change.
We believe in cities and we believe in neighborhoods that preserve their past and maintain their culture. New Orleans is at the stage of development where a conscious urban infill approach is essential in both preserving and promoting its neighborhood cultures. More than 200,000 residents have returned to the city after Katrina and have struggled with re-establishing their communities. Nonetheless, New Orleans is a resilient city. Architectural Record named New Orleans as one of their In-Demand Cities in their October issue.
As communities change and evolve, gentrification becomes a challenge and we have found that committing our resources in the service of public interest is an effective method for balancing historically under-served neighborhoods. We work closely with non-profits in order to translate their mission and identify and solve their practical problems through design. We create spaces that encourage interaction and that allow members to act and participate, empowering diverse communities.