“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.
Urbanists in Atlanta and around the country are tearing their hair out after discovering the Northside Drive pedestrian bridge at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium came with a $33 million price tag – a figure the City has since disputed. Coinciding with budget shortfalls in the Renew Atlanta bond program, this prioritization illustrates the disparity between public funding for flashy projects and basic city infrastructure like sidewalks and multimodal streets. The shiny new bridge, a twisting collection of concrete and metal meant to funnel walkers over a six-lane car sewer, appears to some as a beacon of progress. For us, it is a glaring reminder that the Atlanta is often not built to foster equity.
Some will recognize the image above as a still from the film “A Trip Down Market Street”, shot in 1906 in San Francisco by Harry Miles. Notable for capturing images of San Francisco only days before much of the city was destroyed by earthquake and fire, the film also depicts the American streetscape as it was before the private automobile became the dominant form of transportation.
The freedom of travel and vibrant street life on display is a world apart from today’s urban streetscapes: streetcars, horsedrawn carriages, cars, pedestrians, and cyclists move across an open, shared streetscape, unconstrained by lanes, speed limits, or stoplights. It’s a snapshot of an urban streetscape before private cars became the dominant form of transportation. For today’s urbanists, the democratic design of Market Street contains a lesson that can, and should, be reincorporated into today’s cities: a streetscape that gave each mode of transportation equal claim to the public right of way.
A few months ago we sang the praises of Atlanta’s new parking-related zoning updates, and hinted at a follow-up post. Our feelings on parking requirements aren’t a big secret: we want them gone. But we know that in a city like Atlanta, parking is an important part of most projects. We also know that parking requirements rarely correlate to how much parking a project truly needs to be successful.
Over the last decade (a majority in the last 4 years), we have worked on countless projects where the amount of zoning-required-parking didn’t match up with the proposed uses. In that time, we have pursued over 20 parking variances. To date, we have saved 2,946 unnecessary parking spaces from afflicting our city. Yes, you read that right. Nearly 3,000 parking spaces beyond what these projects needed were required by our zoning code. Note that 2,646 of these spaces were to be located ITB (inside the Beltline – or, in our most walkable, transit-rich core).
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:
It’s 2019. Does your city still have minimum parking requirements? So starts a recent Strong Towns post, and while Atlanta does still have minimum parking requirements, we’ve also recently implemented some changes that will hopefully begin to free us from our parking plagued past.
We’ve talked extensively in previous posts about the problems of parking requirements. Minimum parking requirements are known to induce driving, decrease affordability and decrease walkability. The average cost to build a surface parking space is between $5,000 and $15,000, and structured parking is estimated between $25,000 and $50,000 per space. Those costs are not eaten by the developer, they are passed on to the end user. Buying a condo? You’re paying for parking requirements. Renting an apartment? You’re paying for parking requirements. Looking for an office or retail space? You’re paying for parking requirements. Don’t drive? Doesn’t matter, you’re paying for parking requirements if they exist. Beyond cost, it’s important to understand what parking requirements physically look like when implemented. They look…suburban.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 hear that the City of Duluth is enjoying the ongoing revitalization of their historic downtown, which includes KWA’s work at Parsons Alley (recent recipient of a 2017 ULI Development of Excellence Award and CNU Charter Award). Like a lot of Atlanta suburbs, Duluth is experiencing rapid growth. The City recognized a need to grow and strengthen their core downtown to be an amenity for residents and to establish Duluth as a Place with its own identity – not just another suburb of Atlanta.
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.
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.
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.
We are looking for a curious and dedicated individual to join our team. Applicants with B.Arch and/or M.Arch degree and 0-6 years of experience preferred. Contact email@example.com for more information.
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.
We really enjoyed Kaid Benfield’s latest article on walkability (particularly the part where “Atlanta architect Eric Bethany” was quoted from a previous blog post!) and encourage all of our readers to give it some thought. The good news? Demand for walkability is up. The bad news? Our regulations have not yet caught up. Read on for a recap and commentary. And for more KWA thoughts on walkability and Kaid Benfield, check this article out.
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.
A busy summer has us going full tilt at KWA HQ in Reynoldstown, but we did want to take a moment to recall last month’s Congress of the New Urbanism in Detroit. The very talented individuals at Placemakers did a knock out job summarizing the event on their blog. Click here to see their post – whether you were there or not, an important read for those who care about the development of functional and healthy urban environments. Thanks to Placemakers for the great post and to all CNU 24 speakers! We can’t wait for Seattle.
It’s no secret that we at Kronberg Wall are big on placemaking. We strive to create designs that are conscious of their context and respond sensitively to their surroundings. We also believe that great places, while largely defined by their buildings, are not solely the result of good architecture. Great public places, ones that encourage interactions between people as well as between people and their environment, happen when a collection of disciplines work together. With that being said, it is important to note that ‘bad architecture,’ meaning buildings that are not context-sensitive, can be a huge impediment to placemaking, killing any potential a site might have.
This is a continuation of a previous post on the Transect which you may find helpful to read before this one.
The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market was featured on the cover of the March-April issue of Retrofit Magazine! The issue features a great article by Retrofit staff writer Christina Koch that describes many of the challenges faced and overcome over the course of the project. As a firm with strong New Orleans roots, we at KWA are very proud of our role in making the Jazz Market a reality.
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.
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.
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.