PORTLAND YIMBYs, AND SO CAN YOU

Bayside Variety, Portland Maine (credit: John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Read more

Making Affordable Housing Cute Again

English Ave Site Strategies

Atlanta has many charming historic Missing Middle Housing types, and we even have a new Missing Middle Housing zoning category to encourage more of it (more on MR-MU later). Atlanta also has many abandoned not-so-charming apartment buildings. While their lack of architectural charm leaves them overlooked, these are important to our city’s housing supply. Why? They, too, are Missing Middle Housing. They, too, are historic. And most importantly: they already exist, making them more affordable to renovate than to build new.

Read more

Durham Leads the Way for Housing Choice and Zoning Reform

The mayor of Durham acts on his promises and paves the way for city leadership.

“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.

Read more

10 Thoughts for Hulsey Yard

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:

Read more

Calling All Ideas For a Better Atlanta! Housing Choice Edition

Atlanta is changing demographically, but our housing stock isn’t keeping up.

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.

Read more

Georgia Power’s Housing Conversation

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.

Read more

Unpacking the Pilot Project’s Prototype Pieces

In our previous post, we provided an example of how small-scale infill could work within a few house lots to provide a dynamic range of housing choices.  We are now going to break down the components parts of this design.

Read more

When Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Importance of Pilot Projects

 

Atlanta is facing an affordable housing crisis, as are most cities and towns around the state of Georgia, and the rest of the country. “Affordable housing” is a loaded term, as it means different things to different people. But one thing is evident: communities can’t grow if they can’t provide housing that is affordable to a variety of people, and they certainly can’t grow equitably. At KW, we believe that “housing choice” is a great start to combat the affordable housing crisis. What do we mean by housing choice? We mean that our communities should provide housing options that a variety of people – in all stages of life, of all sorts of family structures, in all income brackets – can afford. More importantly, communities need to provide housing choice in walkable (or transit accessible) places near goods and services. We’ve been saying this for a long time, but we’re tired of talking. We’re ready to do it already.

Read more

ABCs of ADUs Recap + Presentation Download

A packed house at KWA HQ! photo credit: Terry Kearns

Last night’s ABCs of ADUs event was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who came out to learn more about ADUs and Tiny Homes, and a special thanks to Will and the Microlife Institute for co-hosting the event with us.

Read more

Housing, Trees and Zoning Changes

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…

Read more

When Not to ADU?

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.

AARP, ADUs and You

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.

What do we mean by housing choice?  Read more

Thoughts on Incremental Infill: How to Get More of What We Love

Recently, we have had the pleasure of presenting at a number of forums including the annual GPA conference, a ULI/CNU Small Summit, and the MicroLife Institute’s Innovative Housing Summit. We have used these great opportunities to dig into some concepts we’ve been contemplating for a long time, focusing specifically on the need for more housing in our most beloved communities. Read more

Cultivating Your Farm

One of many blighted homes returned to working order as part of the award-winning Renewal Homes project in New Orleans.

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.

Read more

Decatur Tiny House Festival

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 info@atladuco.com.

We enjoyed the opportunity to share our thoughts on ADUs at the Decatur Tiny House Festival this past weekend. For those who couldn’t make it and are interested in learning more about why we give a hoot and what we’re doing about it, click below to download our presentation.

Link to KWA Tiny House Presentation

Read more

La France Walk: Looking Back and Thinking Forward

La France Walk is a new walkable pocket community in the intown Atlanta neighborhood of Edgewood. Learn more at www.lafrancewalk.com or on Facebook.

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?”

Read more

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.

Read more

ADU Update + Call to Action!

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 info@atladuco.com.

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.

Read more

ADU Math

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 info@atladuco.com.

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.

Read more

ADUs: Looking for Good Homes

UPDATE: The ATL ADU CO now has its own website! A complete design/build/deliver service, the ATL ADU CO offers several 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 info@atladuco.com.

If our last cliffhanger post didn’t get you pumped about ADUs, let’s hope this one can deliver. As mentioned in the previous post, we are excited to announce our very own ADU design / build /deliver service. We have designed two prototypes (floor plans and renderings shown above) and have done our due diligence on codes, constraints, financing and delivery methods. All of that to say, if you like what you see, you could have one of these in your backyard very soon!

Interested to know more?

Read more

A Market Solution for Affordable Housing: ADUs

UPDATE: The ATL ADU CO now has its own website! A complete design/build/deliver service, the ATL ADU CO offers several 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 info@atladuco.com.

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.

Read more

IOR IN FULL SWING

KWA is back at it in New Orleans, with the latest Iberville Offsite Rehabilitation development underway. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, check out this previous post and this video for some background information.

The hard-at-work lady in the before and after photographs (yours truly) went from sweaty summer as-built visits in 2015 to mild winter construction administration visits in 2016/2017 (shout out to global warming). In the time period between these visits, the IOR team has dedicated their various skills to the rehabilitation of 16 historic single family homes in the Treme neighborhood into 30 new affordable housing units. The transformation that has taken place in these houses over the past year and a half is tremendous, and we are so excited to see them become homes very soon. We are very proud to be doing this important work in New Orleans, and we can’t wait to see these houses finished later this year!

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.

Read more

On Selling Missing Middle Housing to Communities

candler-park

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.

Read more

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!?

Read more

“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 Wins Southface Fulcrum Award!

Iberville-offsites-Kronberg-Wall-Architects-Fulcrum-award-7011

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

Generational-Overlap-Slide-ZVA

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.

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Big Reflections on Small Development

1Q4A7403 1Q4A7466

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Let's Make Our Cities Better Places