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Thread: Some New Urbanism In Charlotte [Broadband Recommended]

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Some New Urbanism In Charlotte [Broadband Recommended]

    SOME NEW URBANISM IN CHARLOTTE


    Charlotte is a typical sunbelt metropolis (I hesitate to call it a city): walking outdoors is done mostly in parking lots, or grimly in the morning with a weight in each hand.

    There are pockets of New Urbanism, including a resurgent downtown recovering from a severe attack of parking lots. Elsewhere, developers have built pockets of fabric that physically resemble parts of real cities without connecting to form a greater whole:



    Dilworth Crescent is one such fragment, tucked into a leafy one-time streetcar suburb of detached houses.





    Here, for the well-heeled empty-nester or divorce’, cluster idyllically about fifty single-family town houses. I wish there were a town to go with them; and so probably do those who paid top dollar to live here.









    Dilworth Crescent was under construction in 1993 (that’s 1993, not 1823). Its inspiration, clearly enough, was Boston’s Beacon Hill, with a dollop of Seaside thrown in. It predates Poundbury by a year or two, though clearly it shares some traits with Prince Charles’ Utopia.









    Quirkily for its single-family surroundings, the land was zoned for high-density multi-family: great enough density that a slender high-rise was briefly contemplated as the centerpiece among the town houses. This was, however, soon abandoned for fear of the NIMBYs. Parenthetically, the first design was collegiate gothic, to match a big church across the street:



    The design brief was to design the largest possible house on the smallest possible lot, with garage parking for each unit. (Does this sound like Poundbury?) Because the streets were private, as in Seaside or Poundbury, highway-department design standards could be avoided. The streets are barely wide enough for two cars to pass, speed bumps and traffic signs are unnecessary, and sidewalks are purely token. How could you possibly speed in a place like this?









    There are no side yards, front yards are as deep as the stoops, and the back yards are walled: roofless rooms, full of outdoor living and horticultural inventiveness. Each house is different in elevation and in plan. Though built speculatively, these might as well be custom homes in their idiosyncrasy and diversity: one house even has a three-story space corkscrewing to a rooftop skylight. You can probably imagine the persona of the person who bought that one.









    These photos were taken when almost no-one was home. On a Saturday morning the streets would have been lined with parked cars and chatting neighbors unloading groceries, two wheels up on the make-believe sidewalk.









    The photographs make this project seem walking distance from the splendid Cesar Pelli Bank of America skyscraper that marks the heart of downtown. In fact, the distance is around a mile and a half, walking distance in New York but not in Charlotte, with its intervening parking lots and freeway ramps.

    When this project was built, the houses sold for more per square foot than any houses ever built in Charlotte, even those on acre lots.

    Go figure.


  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    If I was a developer, Dillworth Crescent is the exactly type of development I would do. I love it!

    It may be rather derivative/pastiche, but at least the style was duplicated well. The urban form is more important anyhow.

    I appreciate how they did the garage. Since cars are an unfortunate necessity in most places in the US, the designer(s) incorporated the garage nicely.

    Thank, God they didn't do this:


    The above pic is hideous. I hate this kind of design.

    The designers of the Dilworth Crescent successfully created a more detached look, but still achieved a high density (I assume). What is the density of this project - 8-10 units per acre?

    One thing that struck me as funny. In the collegiate gothic rendering, the car in the lower left-hand corner is an old-school Volvo (240 series-ish), which as everyone knows is the stereotypical "collegiate-class" car. Very humorous.

    As for the high sale price for this development - HAH, bankers/investors need to know that this form of development will sell easily, and the NIMBYS need to back-the-hell-off.
    Last edited by mendelman; 18 May 2004 at 10:56 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    What is the density of this project - 8-10 units per acre?

    As for the high sale price for this development - HAH, bankers/investors need to know that this form of development will sell easily, and the NIMBYS need to back-the-hell-off.
    mendelman: pretty close. Here are the statistics:

    There are 39 units on 3.61 acres of total land, of which 1.43 acres is open/planted area. Impervious area (building footprints and paved areas) comprise 2.18 acres.

    39 divided by 3.61 is 10.80 units per acre. This includes all public facilities: roadways, alleys, mail center and a small public park.

    Overall density is 640 x 10.80 = 6914 units per square mile. If the average unit contains 2.4 people this yields a population density of 16,594 per square mile. This is a third more than the density of Boston and a sixth more than the density of San Francisco. At 2.0 persons per unit, the density is 13,828, a bit more than the density of Boston and a bit less than the density of San Francisco.

    The money statistics are dazzling; this project really sucked in the moola, and the houses sold while under construction. Obviously this project had no competition.

    Thank you for your kind words.
    Last edited by ablarc; 18 May 2004 at 12:06 PM.

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Thank you for your kind words.
    Hmmmmm....cryptic.

    Were you, by chance, part of the development design team???

    If so, good job.

    ________________

    Do you have a pic of the site plan?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc

    The money statistics are dazzling; this project really sucked in the moola, and the houses sold while under construction. Obviously this project had no competition.

    Thank you for your kind words.
    Do you have info on what the median income is for that area? I would love to live there once I win the Lotery...

    Great pic's!
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    no pics of downtown? there is some great (new) urban stuff in the 1st and 2nd wards.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Mendelman, here’s the site plan. Sorry, it took a while to get it internet-ready.

    This site plan is not completely definitive, but is nearly as-built. The houses are more varied than they appear on the plan; no two are identical or even similar.



    Click here for a larger version of this image. If you place your cursor in the lower right, the expand button will eventually appear.

    Residents are a mix of empty nesters, couples, small families and single yuppies. The latter can stagger home on foot from the bars a short walk away.

    The Crescent always had gateposts; the Homeowners Association recently added iron gates, but fortunately they don’t close.

    Every house has space for two cars: one indoors, one in the drive. The sidewalk is token; you no more need one here than you do at Seaside, Poundbury or any of hundreds of Italian towns.

    Gardens are all walled; they are like outdoor rooms.

    ”One thing that struck me as funny. In the collegiate gothic rendering, the car in the lower left-hand corner is an old-school Volvo (240 series-ish), which as everyone knows is the stereotypical "collegiate-class" car. Very humorous.”--Mendelman



    I liked the Volvo too; the Gothic architecture is loosely based on the pedestrian street that runs between Branford and Jonathan Edwards colleges at Yale, but it is mirrored. It would have been stucco with discreet eruptions of fieldstone, unlike the gigabucks all stone original:

    Last edited by ablarc; 01 Jun 2004 at 5:33 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    jresta, downtown Charlotte shows much progress, but it still doesn't function as a city; that will have to wait maybe a quarter-century until the connections are made between the little promising fragments. Let's hope the urban revival holds up until then.

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    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    [QUOTE=ablarc]



    sorry to revive a thread that's more or less dead, but i just noticed... does dilworth crescent turn its back on what looks like the more major Dilworth Road on the right? How does it look when seen from the wider neighbourhood? Is it isolated, or integrated?

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    Cyburbian
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    Very Nice!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chukky
    ...does dilworth crescent turn its back on what looks like the more major Dilworth Road on the right? How does it look when seen from the wider neighbourhood?
    Nomenclature in Britain's much more rigorous when applied to rights-of-way. Thus in London, use of the word "Road" indicates a configuration designed to carry vehicular traffic, while a street's something more for the pedestrian. Here the nomenclature follows the British model; Dilworth is indeed a road in general design, but it carries hardly any traffic. It's lined with stately homes and even statelier trees that make an arch over even this broad roadway.

    Across Dilworth Road lies a splendid English Gothic stone church; hence the first design for this project, which aped the church and actually included a miniature skyscraper (though allowed by the zoning, the NIMBYs would have killed this):



    You’re looking at the first Dilworth Road treatment. Then as now, those were walled yards and the backs of the houses. You can see that the garden (or "rear") elevations were as highly-designed as the fronts from the get-go. They still are; the style’s now a kind of hybrid of Federal and Adam; and the high garden walls are still there, all with garden gates that you could use to enter your unit if you were coming back from the quaint little shopping center across the street, cooked up by the same developer. The garden walls are now brick to go with the revised architecture. When I have some pics of the Dilworth Road view, I’ll post them.

    So: the fronts face Dilworth Crescent and project somewhat formal facades, and the “rears” are just as carefully composed; there are no ugly--because undesigned, circumstantial, and utilitarian--rears, such as the kind you regularly find defacing state highways—exactly as though these "rears" weren’t more visible to more people than the fronts, which you have to enter the subdivision to see.

    Since they’re row houses, only corner units have three elevations, and the third elevation is as considered as the other two.

    They’re all custom houses and all different because they’re built for different segments of this or that niche market. So there are places that appeal to retired couples, and others for playboy singles; one house even has a three-story space that corkscrews all the way to a skylight, like a miniature Hyatt.

    Quote Originally posted by chukky
    Is it isolated, or integrated?
    Depends what you mean by isolated, chukky. It’s in the suburbs, and in Charlotte even an “inner-city” ‘hood like Third Ward’s isolated; you can’t get much of anywhere except by car. Charlotte and places like it are all about isolation.

    If you look at the site plan, you’ll see two little public footpaths that lead to Dilworth Road, where arrows on the site plan point toward a little shopping center across Dilworth Road, past a tiny square with a Holocaust Memorial, and across a somewhat busier but tree-lined road, Morehead Street. That’s a ninety-second walk, and in the shopping center you’ll find a seafood market, some hipster shops and a couple of restaurants with bars, where you can meet people and get drunk. Then you can stagger home without risking death in your car. So I don’t know: is that maybe isolated and a little integrated?

    The zoning was multi-family in a neighborhood of single-family homes, so Dilworth Crescent doesn’t conform to the prevailing pattern. I guess that makes it isolated as a non-conforming building type, but it also makes it a bit more urban; building types aren't as sorted out in cities as they are in the suburbs.

    That zoning was already in place, so this wasn’t done with a PUD or a variance. That zoning category usually produces the familiar frantically-styled, zig-zaggedy, wood-frame, three-story apartment building flanking a parking lot that you can find in every American city wherever it’s zoned “multi-family.”

    The developer wanted to do something better; he reckoned it would pay off. And he reckoned right.

    Just a fluke; most places you couldn't pull this off.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    Thanks for the clarification... am now impressed with the development all over again.

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