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.
“Zoning reform isn’t magical, but it’s crucial.” So said Mayor Steve Schewel of Durham, NC in a stirring speech given earlier this month before he voted to support Durham’s landmark zoning reform, Expanding Housing Choices (EHC). After a two-year long community process, the city has voted to approve updates to their Unified Development Ordinance that will enable more housing choices in their most walkable neighborhoods.
Come see us on Sunday at Streets Alive! We’ll be stationed on Dekalb Ave, right in front of Lloyd’s Lounge, showing off a demonstration of what a Complete Dekalb Ave could look like and talkin’ urbanism. Before you head over, take a look at our post from February about improvements to Dekalb Ave, and don’t miss the PDF presentation on tactical improvements to Dekalb Ave.
Finally, if you (like us) feel strongly that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements to Dekalb Ave should be a top priority for city investment in 2020, head to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s website and join their support campaign. Go the extra mile and send a letter of support to your councilperson – ABC has a template on their campaign page.
If you haven’t yet heard (you must live under a rock), CSX has officially vacated Hulsey Yard, a former intermodal freight terminal and our across-the-street neighbor. They have moved the operations of Hulsey to another yard in Fairburn, leaving the 70-acre site that divides four neighborhoods largely empty. Serendipitously, those same neighborhoods have recently kicked off a master planning process to develop a “cohesive, community-supported vision” for the future of this giant property.
We’ve attended the pop-up, we’ve submitted our comments online, but we also want to spread the word about what we think should be done with this site. We are proud residents of Reynoldstown, and our office sits right on the edge of Hulsey. What we want, more than anything, is MORE. More connectivity, more neighbors, more density. There are a few things we want less of, too. Namely, less parking. We’ve outlined some guiding principles below:
Last Friday, the Atlanta City Studio asked us to present our ideas on housing choice at Design Over Donuts. Or, as Eric Kronberg preferred to call it, Design Over Missing Middle Pastries. Dad joke!
The conversation that ensued was passionate, and understandably so. We see concerns about change in our existing communities as legitimate. We also view passion as a legitimate emotion in these conversations, because we ourselves feel very passionately about it. We want the city that we live in and the neighborhoods where we work to be the best possible versions of themselves. This doesn’t just mean beautiful, this means equitable. And we firmly believe that it’s possible to have both in Atlanta. We are proud to live in a city that has a City Design Studio: that not only believes these conversations are important, but that has created a forum for them to take place.
We had the honor of being part of a symposium for Atlanta’s Historic Westside yesterday, which was put on by the Westside Future Fund, CNU and the Chick-fil-A Foundation. The symposium focused on bringing together an array of stakeholders involved in the Westside to have honest discussions around community wealth creation, equitable development and historic preservation.
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.
At Kronberg Wall, we view incremental development as a key path to equitable and meaningful neighborhood revitalization. Robert Stueteville of the CNU Public Square blog recently spoke with KWA’s Eric Kronberg and John Anderson of the Incremental Development Alliance about how they define incremental development and why they feel it should play a central role in the ongoing conversation on neighborhood development. Read the full interview – and many other great posts – at the CNU Public Square blog.
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.