So You’re Running for Office…

Dignified Missing Middle housing and single family housing coexisting peacefully in Candler Park, Atlanta, a stone’s throw from a thriving commercial node and a 10-minute walk from a heavy rail station.

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.

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ADU Update + Call to Action!

If you’re wondering what happened to our ADU dreams, you’ll be happy to hear that we have been working diligently over the past few months to make them a reality. First, we are wrapping up construction document sets for our two ADU prototypes and hope to have final pricing on these in the next few weeks. Stay tuned! Second, we have been working with the city to revise the R-5 zoning legislation to allow ADUs as-of-right, in addition to the already allowed Guest Houses (check out the map or the City of Atlanta website to see where R-5 zoning exists). The proposed zoning changes passed ZRB last night and will now move on to the City Council Zoning Committee for review. Read on to find out the specifics of the zoning changes and how you can help make sure they happen! And if you’re still unclear on the benefits of ADUs / why we think this is important legislation, check out our previous post.

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A Market Solution for Affordable Housing: ADUs

We have some exciting developments taking place at Kronberg Wall, and I mean that literally. We are flexing our development muscles as we aim to launch our newest branch of design expertise: Accessory Dwelling Units. What does it all mean? Well, the short of it is: we see a problem, and instead of waiting around for a solution, we are going to create one.

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Affordable Housing: Not If, but How

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.

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On Selling Missing Middle Housing to Communities

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The Candler Park neighborhood in Atlanta features a popular one-block commercial node surrounded by mostly pre-WWII residential development. Many Missing Middle buildings that blend seamlessly with single family homes can be found within a five or ten minute walk from the restaurants and shops. (photos: Kronberg Wall)

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.

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Good Gracious! we sure do love the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

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Rebecca Serna, Executive Director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, was featured on the latest Good Gracious Podcast. We are lucky enough to be within one flight of stairs of the great crew at ABC and are so glad for their energy here and around the city. Rebecca talks about challenges, goals, upcoming projects (30+ miles of bike lanes in the pipeline!), events (Atlanta Streets Alive in September!), tips (biking and MARTA! fix-it stations!) and more. Give it a listen!

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Code Hack: Tiny Houses in Atlanta

 

Midtown Carriage House

There’s a lot of buzz about tiny houses right now, and as advocates for increased housing diversity and affordability, we thought it only right to jump into the conversation. Because we are based in Atlanta, and because tiny houses are not allowed under current zoning in Atlanta, we decided to search for a quick solution to get tiny houses in the mix right now. Why would we wait for our ordinances to be amended if we could find an interim code hack!?

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“Missing Middle” Housing is the Topic for July’s CNU T3 Event

An example of a cottage court in Berkeley, CA.

An example of a cottage court in Berkeley, CA.

The topic for this month’s CNU T3 event, happening Thursday, July 21, at 5:30pm in the KWA office, is “Tiny Houses & The Missing Middle: What’s the Big Deal?” With a host of other excellent speakers, our own Eric Kronberg will take an in-depth look at what Daniel Parolek calls America’s “missing middle” housing, the benefits of implementing this type of housing in urban areas like Atlanta, and the specific challenges to doing so in local neighborhoods. For now, take a look at the brief overview below, and get stoked for next week. Read more

KWA Residential Renovation Featured in Kitchen & Bath Business

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Kitchen and Bath Business featured a recent KWA residential renovation project in their May/June 2016 issue. Located in Decatur, the project entailed the renewal of the kitchen of the main house and the design of an accessory dwelling unit on the property complete with full kitchen and bathroom. Click here to read more. Thanks to Carrie Whitney of Pennhouse Productions for the great writeup and Fredrik Brauer for the excellent photography!

KWA Welcomes the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to Bearden Temple AME Church!

ABC_Logo_Horizontal-01We are very excited to announce that the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will soon be our downstairs neighbors in the decommissioned Bearden Temple AME Church in Reynoldstown! As reported by the Saporta Report, the ABC outgrew its current space in Cabbagetown and has been seeking a larger office to house their growing staff. We couldn’t be more excited to share the building with an organization that also champions the use of alternative means of transportation and the improvement of Atlanta’s non-auto transportation infrastructure. Learn more about the building here, and be sure to keep an eye out for future KWA and ABC events!

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Zoning Codes 101: Form-Based Codes

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Walkable neighborhoods with diverse uses like this one in Newport, Rhode Island are impossible to cultivate under typical zoning codes; form-based codes and the Existing Building Code help to combat sprawl by preserving historic nodes and removing suburban development limitations like parking requirements (image credit: Center for Applied Transect Studies)

This is a continuation of a previous post on the Transect which you may find helpful to read before this one.

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KWA Wins Southface Fulcrum Award!

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Laura Daniel of KWA was on hand to accept the award, which is made from Forest Free wood from within the perimeter of Atlanta.

We’re happy to announce that KWA was recently selected as a recipient of a 2016 Fulcrum Award from Atlanta-based environmental advocacy and consultant group Southface! The Iberville Offsites in New Orleans were identified as a project that promotes Southface’s vision of a regenerative economy, responsible resource use, social equity and a healthy built environment for all. Read more

Demographics Matters

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According to market analysts Todd Zimmerman and Laurie Volk, the majority of these demographic groups wants to live in a walkable community – that’s around half the country’s population; at the same time, only 0.55% of developed land in Atlanta qualifies as a walkable urban place (Leinberger; image: ZVA)

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.

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The Siren Call of the 203k Loan

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.

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Atlanta Zoning Maps

1929 Atlanta Zoning Map

Thanks to Caleb Racicot from TSW and Kyle Kessler from the Center for Civic Innovation we now have access to digital versions of several original Atlanta zoning maps. While working hard on our Atlanta Zoning rewrite, Caleb had a chance to spend some time analyzing an original copy of our 1929 Atlanta zoning map. He took the time to photograph and stitch it all together so there is a high resolution version available for sharing.

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ZONING CODES 101: THE TRANSECT

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Dallas, TX: can you identify the transect zones visible in this picture? image: wikipedia

If you’ve ever driven fifty or miles in any direction away from downtown Atlanta, then you’ve experienced firsthand the central concept behind the form-based codes devised and promoted by the New Urbanist school of planning: the Transect. The concept is so central to New Urbanism that it’s rarely discussed in detail at meetings and in presentations, preventing the uninitiated from reaching a critical level of understanding. Let’s take a moment to dive into the Transect so you can do more than nod your head and smile at the next CNU meeting.

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SEE KWA’S DESIGNS FOR DULUTH’S DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT

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Site plan and perspective drawings showing several new buildings designed by Kronberg Wall Architects for the redevelopment of downtown Duluth, Georgia.

Located in Gwinett County, Duluth is a popular developed suburb of Atlanta with a diverse population of around 30,000. KWA, working with local developers Vantage Realty Partners and Fabric Developers, recently completed exterior designs for a multi-building redevelopment of Duluth’s downtown area. The project, which includes two 60-year old granite buildings, aims to incorporate twelve new commercial tenant spaces into Duluth’s existing downtown commercial district. Special attention was paid to site elements designed to promote walkability and enhance pedestrian experience.

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Thoughts from a Great Community Zoning Outreach Meeting

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I had the pleasure of attending one of the City of Atlanta Zoning outreach meetings this past Tuesday.  It really was a pleasure, and very encouraging to see the various political faces in the room, both elected officials and community volunteers.  This is generally the happy time of outreach, when big ideas are discussed in broad brush strokes.  This type of outreach is critical, but it does not guarantee that things won’t devolve into a complete turf war when it comes time to talk details about things like parking or specific locations on the zoning map. Read more

Popcorn Time: Placemaking 101

We spend a lot of time talking about the specifics of placemaking – parking regulations, zoning ordinances, code clauses – but these are all pieces of a bigger picture. We find that before diving into the details, it is critical to understand the macro concepts behind placemaking. If you’re interested in creating great urban places, grab some popcorn (or a turkey sandwich) and take a look the videos below, the first of which are from our friends at Strong Towns, who do an excellent job of summing up these big ideas behind successful placemaking endeavors.

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Big Picture Zoning Thoughts

The City of Atlanta has engaged consultants to tackle a re-writing of our zoning ordinance.  This is a highly political process for any city.  Most current zoning ordinances are a combination of good intentions producing bad outcomes for most places, and Atlanta’s ordinance is no exception.  It is important to think about positive examples of places that we love, and work backwards to allow those places to be legally built without special hurdles.  It is also important to be aware that there are a range of these seemingly innocent under the hood items that result in bad outcomes for our neighborhoods.  In an effort of transparency and sharing information, we’ve put together this blog post to outline our current thinking on a range of issues.  This will be somewhat policy heavy, so you’ve been warned.

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ICYMI: Eric Kronberg Interview in Curbed Atlanta

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Eric Kronberg (left) and Adam Wall of Kronberg Wall architects during the open house event celebrating the opening of KWA’s new office in a renovated church in Reynoldstown.

In a profile published last week by Curbed Atlanta, KWA’s Eric Kronberg discussed where he got his start as a designer, his thoughts on the creation of enjoyable urban spaces, and how he sees Atlanta’s urban evolution. Great read for anyone concerned about Atlanta’s design future, adaptive reuse architecture, or the development of walkable, bikeable, affordable and enjoyable urban spaces. You can find the article on the Curbed Atlanta site here.

Big Reflections on Small Development

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On October 14th, more than one hundred architects, engineers, developers, and community leaders gathered at the Center for Civic Innovation in downtown Atlanta for the Small Developer’s Bootcamp, hosted by the Atlanta Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, the Georgia Conservancy, and Kronberg Wall Architects. This diverse group of individuals was on hand to hear two small-scale development experts – R. John Anderson and Jim Kumon – discuss the practicalities of development that fall within the “missing middle” spectrum: buildings in between the single family home and the looming apartment multiplex. Throughout the day-long workshop, topics ranged from efficient floor plans and building design to loan types and financial negotiation tactics.

The room was full of seasoned developers and designers well-versed in the vocabulary and methods of real estate development, but also present were a large number of newcomers for whom the Bootcamp was a whiplash introduction to the development world.
Three of those newcomers just starting their careers as professional designers at Kronberg Wall – Eric Bethany, Sanaa Shaikh, and Elizabeth Ward – took some time to reflect on the concepts and ideas from the Bootcamp that resonated most with them.

Read more for Eric Bethany’s thoughts on the demystification of the development process – check back later this week for more reflections.

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Small builder/developer bootcamp

Missing Middle 2

While these photos include buildings probably dating from the 1920s, we are not necessarily promoting a historic style. Moreso that apartments built in the 1960s are usually so amazingly ugly, and that zoning laws from that general time period made buildings like these illegal in most communities from that point forward.

I’ve been spending a lot of time mulling on both the small developer/builder Facebook group and the upcoming small builder/developer bootcamp coming to Atlanta. Part of the conundrum I have been trying to get my head around is this: what is a reasonable combination of experience, scale, and location that fits a small developer? We work primarily in Atlanta, with most of our clients being seasoned developers. We tackle really messy, hard projects, and we see countless ways that a newbie can get put through the buzzsaw, and quickly. However, we are seeing that there are folks involved in the industry – architects that design these projects, residential and commercial property brokers, and builders – that have experience with some, but not all, of the pieces needed to do their own deal.

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LISTEN: Eric Kronberg Interviewed on Atlanta’s Business

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Over the weekend Eric Kronberg sat down with Jeff Davis, host of 1160 AM’s Atlanta’s Business, to discuss how parking regulations effect endeavors in placemaking by making it more difficult to foster walkability, bikeability, and affordability. For those who didn’t hear the original broadcast, the interview is available here.

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First Steps in Commercial Redevelopment:
Baseline Site Study

ELC4_Site PlanWhen meeting with new clients, we are often asked what the first step is in our design process.  We are typically called on to investigate repurposing old buildings in urban environments.  For the vast majority of these projects, our initial task is a baseline site study.  This study is an examination of a site to determine several key items: how much space is required for streetscape (sidewalks, street trees, street furniture), how much parking can fit, and how the building engages the site and street.

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VIDEO: PLACEMAKING V. PARKING

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.

Special thanks to co-presenter Heather Alhadeff of Center Forward, and to Ground Game Media for the video coverage.

For more information check out our series on Placemaking v. Parking.

[Part 1 – Perceptions and Expectations]
[Part 2 – New Orleans and Atlanta]

SMALL HOUSES NEED LOVE TOO

Small House

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.

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PLACEMAKING v. PARKING (PART 2)
NEW ORLEANS AND ATLANTA

On-Street Parking

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.

[Check out PART 1 in this series.]

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PLACEMAKING v. PARKING (PART 1)
PERCEPTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS

Universal Joint - Oakhurst, Atlanta, GA

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.

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