Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Urban Redesign Vol. 1

I'm pleased to launch a new series of posts today. I suppose they will eventually manifest themselves as quasi-pro bono architecture/urban planning. I hope the process will be somewhat interactive and that some amount of learning takes place on my end. A lot of reality will need to be suspended here in the arenas of zoning, brownfield status, finance, etc. The end result is not to be confused with a real proposal, but an idealist site plan.

The first site I'd like to tackle is the intersection of Humboldt Street and Winton Road at the north end of the North Winton Village. The bulk of the site was previously a gas station and is now a vacant lot. Across Humboldt Street there is additional vacant property due to the demolition of a structurally unsound building adjoining what is now Captain Tony's Pizza and a barbershop (still visible in the Google aerial). Across Winton Road is a Kwik Fill gas station and multifamily residences. All buildings are massed in the model seen to the right (roughly oriented properly with North at the top).

My first thoughts for the site were strictly townhouse development, but as I thought about it further, I decided the corner should have a corner-facing store entryway anchoring it. While I was unable to acquire any official maps, using satellite imagery, I ascertained that the lot is essentially 116 feet by 152 feet from rear property lines to the sidewalk. If the store footprint were 30 x 30, this would leave enough room for four 24 foot-wide townhouses along Winton Road. Along Humboldt Street and above the storefront, I would have proposed apartments in the same style as the rest of the construction for an L-shaped complex structure.

Discussions with a colleague pointed out some amount of backward thinking in this proposal. Walkup townhouses would fit in better with the residential character found west on Humboldt moreso than the main traffic thoroughfare of Winton Road. While this would cut down the number of townhouses to 3 (yes, I could make them narrower, but I currently live in a much narrower townhouse and I don't consider it the proper width for good urban construction, 24 foot is 4 rods, a reasonable platting as discussed on page J3 of The Lexicon of New Urbanism), it allows for additional retail frontage on Winton Road and likely fits in better architecturally with the brick building to the North.

I have not thought much about the land vacated on the Northwest corner, but I'm predisposed to a standard commercial building with an apartment or two on the second floor that would blend in with the existing attached neighbor.

Anyway, I will attempt to mass model my vision in the next few days (and eventually I hope to do some hand sketches of the architectural detail), but I am completely open to suggestions on just about anything including use, scale, sidewalk width, outbuildings, ancillary uses, anything really!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Winton is more residential in nature than your colleague suggests. In between those intersections at Atlantic/Browncroft and Main are a lot of residences and apartments. Your first idea wasn't wrong.

I'm not sure I follow what you mean by townhouse. If I do get it, does it matter that most of local residential architecture, even on Winton, isn't a townhouse model? Even when the city redeveloped the parcels between Atlantic and Main (the old asphalt brownfield), they designed some (not all) of the houses to mirror local patterns--particularly on Woodstock. That's not to say that I'm against townhouses.

I also am not sure that the programming of that corner should be retail. Many of the buildings that follow that model seem to be struggling: look down Humboldt past Henry Hudson. Main & Winton, apart from the strip mall, often seems fragile. I'm well aware of the argument that we need to get the programming in place first, etc. I'm just saying that I think your first instincts might be more right than you allow.