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Thread: Teardowns... happening in Denver...

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Teardowns... happening in Denver...

    Denver Post Article

    Caught this one this morning with my first coffee. Pretty interesting, I have heard of teardowns happening in the East, but have only seen isolated instances in Denver. Now I guess it is getting pretty prevalent.
    The article raises some good points about neighborhood revitalization and attracting people to urban areas (some cool Denver areas to boot!), but the cost of some is greater size of the homes, a change in the neighborhood character, and a potential polarization between new and existing demographics.

    This will be one to watch for me, as Denver is beginning a retool of their Zoning codes: hopefully with a nod in the direction of regulating teardowns.

    What say the Throbbing Brain?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    Denver Post Article

    Caught this one this morning with my first coffee. Pretty interesting, I have heard of teardowns happening in the East, but have only seen isolated instances in Denver. Now I guess it is getting pretty prevalent.
    The article raises some good points about neighborhood revitalization and attracting people to urban areas (some cool Denver areas to boot!), but the cost of some is greater size of the homes, a change in the neighborhood character, and a potential polarization between new and existing demographics.

    This will be one to watch for me, as Denver is beginning a retool of their Zoning codes: hopefully with a nod in the direction of regulating teardowns.

    What say the Throbbing Brain?
    Infill development is a sticky issue. On one side is the neighborhood character people who want everything to stay the same and planning consultants who want you to hire them to assist with the issue. On the other side is the market economy, I am only following the rules and regulations established by the zoning code people who want to be able to get rid of a house that no longer meets society's needs and build something that does.

    I am in the middle but lean towards the market perspective. I am afraid that denying people the ability to tear down and rebuild many of these homes (which has a 30 max life span anyways) will only lead to neighborhood degradation. There comes a time where the land is more valuable than the structure (especially in urban areas). This is when the market economy can adequately bear the burden of replacing the structure for one that meets current market demands and desires.
    Satellite City Enabler

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    Denver obviously needs some new tools to address tear-downs, pop-ups and scrape-offs. However, the only thing worse than this trend of redevelopment is when you have perfectly serviceable homes that are decaying because people don’t want to invest in the neighborhood. At least people want to invest in these neighborhoods in Denver. Not every neighborhood is worthy of historic preservation protection either. If we really want more people to in live in cities there has to be other methods available that allow investment to occur but still protect the neighborhood from over-development. Cities need a diverse mix of population and that includes people with money that want to live in a home larger than 900 to 1,200 square feet which were the norm when they were built more than 50 years ago. I have witnessed other communities where homes are slowly decaying because no one wants to invest the $40K to replace the roof, up-date the electrical service, replace the furnace, up-date the kitchen and baths, paint it and then live in the place. Whole neighborhoods then become rental properties with only lower income residents. That trend is not good for any community.

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Senior Jefe
    Denver obviously needs some new tools to address tear-downs, pop-ups and scrape-offs. However, the only thing worse than this trend of redevelopment is when you have perfectly serviceable homes that are decaying because people don’t want to invest in the neighborhood...[snip]...Whole neighborhoods then become rental properties with only lower income residents. That trend is not good for any community.
    But that's not really the issue in teardown locations. Places you describe above are not the type of locations that teardowns occur. The places you mention are not desireable for teardowns and others anyway.

    On teardowns, I am firmly in the camp that this is a good development phenomenon, in general. The pros are improved housing stock, increased tax base, check on potential blight, check on more subdivisions on the periphery, extra value for owners, etc. The cons are reduced 'lower" cost housing stock, impact on renters, and least important - poor architectural aesthetics.

    The "changing the character of the neighborhood' argument in overused and least defined. Defining 'character' is going to be very narrow.

    Where I work, we have been getting about 200 teardowns each year for the last couple years. We did reduce the allowable Floor-Area-Ratios, added Maximum Impervious Surface Coverage, and the design guidelines for the Design Commission (most teardowns and large additions reauire Design Commission review) were tightened. We have been getting much better/context sensitive designs than in years past, but we didn't get crazy with the reduction to the zoning allowances.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    It's really nothing new. When I lived in Denver in the late 1990s, teardowns were rampant, especially in Washington Park, Cherry Creek, and Hilltop. I lived in West Highlands, one of the neighborhoods featured in the article. Teardowns there weren't as common as in neighborhoods east of the Platte, but they still happened; mostly very small houses that were around 600 to 700 square feet on side streets; and newer loft-style buildings on some properties that were zoned for more intensive development, but only occupiued by smaller bungalows.

    When I bought it in 1998, my friends and co-workers responded as if I was moving into a slum. When I sold my house, the new owner intended to "pop the top" -- add a second story -- and "punch out" an addition in the back. The dot-com bust happened, and none of their plans came to fruition. When you look at the current price of my house, it's frightening. I could never afford to move back there.



    Here in Cleveland, teardowns are nonexistent except in Beachwood, where smaller 1950s-era ranch houses are being snapped up by Orthodox Jewish families, and replaced with McMansions that have up to eight bedrooms. A lot of older cottages near Lake Erie in the jurisdiction where I work are also being replaced with larger houses - as much as you can fit on a 2,500 square foot lot, anyhow.

    Otherwise, it's a buyer's market; if you can get a very nice 1920s vintage house in Shaker Heights for around $200K, there's no need to tear down something elsewhere.

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    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Teardowns are now the norm for all residential development in my fair municipality. Be it large (old sawmill site) or small (single house site), structures are being torn down all over for new construction. Of the applications that have come across my desk this summer I don't think I saw any that weren't teardowns.

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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    But that's not really the issue in teardown locations. Places you describe above are not the type of locations that teardowns occur. The places you mention are not desireable for teardowns and others anyway.
    I was trying to say is there are much worse situations besides having tear-downs. At least the economic and social conditions are such to warrant the investment in these neighborhoods and in your community.

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    It's too bad that our visual culture has decayed to the point that the replacement houses are generally (almost always) awful monstrosities (imo).

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    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    It's too bad that our visual culture has decayed to the point that the replacement houses are generally (almost always) awful monstrosities (imo).
    This is the real problem with teardowns; that the replacement is almost always inferior to what previously existed, especially when it replaces almost anything built before World War II.

    It used to be that when people needed more room they would hire an architect and do an addition. Unfortunately nowadays residential construction and building is so dumbed down in this country that it's cheaper to put up bloated pastiche of prefabricated odds and ends than it is to do a well thought out addition built by skilled carpenters and masons that creates a home of lasting value.

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Exactly....

    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    It's really nothing new. When I lived in Denver in the late 1990s, teardowns were rampant, especially in Washington Park, Cherry Creek, and Hilltop. I lived in West Highlands, one of the neighborhoods featured in the article. Teardowns there weren't as common as in neighborhoods east of the Platte, but they still happened; mostly very small houses that were around 600 to 700 square feet on side streets; and newer loft-style buildings on some properties that were zoned for more intensive development, but only occupiued by smaller bungalows.

    When I bought it in 1998, my friends and co-workers responded as if I was moving into a slum. When I sold my house, the new owner intended to "pop the top" -- add a second story -- and "punch out" an addition in the back. The dot-com bust happened, and none of their plans came to fruition. When you look at the current price of my house, it's frightening. I could never afford to move back there.



    Here in Cleveland, teardowns are nonexistent except in Beachwood, where smaller 1950s-era ranch houses are being snapped up by Orthodox Jewish families, and replaced with McMansions that have up to eight bedrooms. A lot of older cottages near Lake Erie in the jurisdiction where I work are also being replaced with larger houses - as much as you can fit on a 2,500 square foot lot, anyhow.

    Otherwise, it's a buyer's market; if you can get a very nice 1920s vintage house in Shaker Heights for around $200K, there's no need to tear down something elsewhere.
    What Dan said.....this has been going on a for a while now in Denver, but it seems a little strange that it would still be going on in such a "down" or at the very least average market. Obviously there are neighborhoods that will remain hot, even during a down time in the burbs I think if the new buildings can be done with some sense of scale and design, it could be a good thing. Denver should be able to make the transition by now, after having gone through those 1990's examples above The Denver neighborhood planners should be allowed to create design and code controls to facilitate these changes in a "good" way Much like in the historic districts of the City.
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

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    Cyburbian
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    Most of the teardowns are really in Cherry Creek North, and it is rather impressive to see humongous stone fronted stucco houses plopped right down next to a tiny 1950s ranch or bungalow.

    So far most of the teardowns in Denver are occuring in areas where the older housing stock isn't of historic importance or of any architectural distinction. Not like, say, in some of the Chicago or NY suburbs where people are tearing down handsome 1920s colonials and tudors for something even bigger.

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