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Thread: Can walkable neighbourhoods consist of mid-century homes?

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    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Can walkable neighbourhoods consist of mid-century homes?

    With my recent search for a home to purchase, I have come to a realization of something new. I'd like to share it with you and get your feedback.

    For the sake of environment and quality of life, I wanted to live in a walkable neighbourhood. I wanted to live in a home that was close to various things: a bank, a library, grocery stores, a book store, parks, a waterfront, etc. I had found two homes and I settled on the one that is actually is in a better neighbourhood. (The other one was a riverfront property, but the home was bigger than I needed it to be, pricier, and was in a not so good neighbourhood.) Anyways, I have searched for a mid-century home for a long time as I really like the look of these homes especially for their unique architecture, their orientation to nature, their tendency to have rooms that are just big enough and not too large, and their large expanse of windows.

    In my search for a mid century home, I noticed a few things:
    1. They tend to be further away from commercial cores. It is as if they were once the edge of the city and thus has the legacy of being developed in a subdivision model. Thus, they're not in so walkable areas.
    2. They may be found in some in-fill areas and therefore the immediate neighbourhood isn't as great.
    3. They tend to be out in the countryside, which definitely requires homeowners to drive to get anything!

    So, I am left with wondering about this question: if I were to ever live in a mid-century modern home, then I would have to give up one of the two things:
    1. good neighbourhoods (which is good for resale) for not so great neighbourhoods
    2. walkable neighbourhoods for not so walkable neighbourhoods.

    Are my findings similar to what you have observed about areas that have mid century homes in your hometown?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Most of my neighborhood was developed post WW-II and is extremely walkable. 35' wide lots, sidewalks, transit, shops and services located on mile or half-mile grids. I would suggest looking closer into the City if what you want are city amenities. You won't find much in the way of sidewalks where you find 1 acre lots. It sounds like you want to have it all, and those places are rare.

    I can tell you that while my neighborhood is walkable, sometimes I grow tired of have the neighborhood kids closeby because they can be very loud. I am however only 15 minutes from downtown by car and 1/2 hour by bus.
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I think they can, in certain instances. For example, the inner ring suburbs immediately east of Cleveland; the street grid and lots were platted in the 1920s, and a fair bit of commercial "taxpayer strip" and streetcar suburban development took place before the Depression and WWII put a 20-year hold on future development. At the start of the 1950s, development resumed.

    When I was in northeast Ohio, I lived in a house that was built in 1955, in a neighborhood in South Euclid that was fairly walkable despite some "mistakes" made before urbanism returned to the radar screen of planners and municipal officials. Some older commercial structures built to the street were demolished in the 1980s and 1990s. The city plan acknowledged the short-sightedness of such acts, and recommended reversing the trend and and reestablishing the pedestrian-oriented nature of its commercial strips.

    I could walk to two supermarkets, several restaurants, a blues bar, a video store, a coffee house, hardware store, barber shop, two drugstores, City Hall, and the post office. Every street in South Euclid has sidewalks and tree lawns on both sides; there are even sidewalks following "ghost streets" that were platted but never built thanks to the depression. I could walk to two bus lines where buses ran at 15 to 30 minute headways off-peak.

    Downtown South Euclid

    My old street, two blocks away

    My mid-century house (I still own it; a management company rents it out).

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    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Most of my neighborhood was developed post WW-II and is extremely walkable. 35' wide lots, sidewalks, transit, shops and services located on mile or half-mile grids. I would suggest looking closer into the City if what you want are city amenities. You won't find much in the way of sidewalks where you find 1 acre lots. It sounds like you want to have it all, and those places are rare.

    I can tell you that while my neighborhood is walkable, sometimes I grow tired of have the neighborhood kids closeby because they can be very loud. I am however only 15 minutes from downtown by car and 1/2 hour by bus.
    I'm living in the biggest town in the area. The town has 50,000 people. Other communities around this town are 13,000, 9,000, 3,000, 2,000, etc.

    Actually, I don't want to have an acre. To me, to get an acre of property, one must leave this town for that kind of thing.

    I'm a bit perplexed. Do you have all the essential services or a commercial core in your neighbourhood that's separate from the downtown?

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I think they can, in certain instances. For example, the inner ring suburbs immediately east of Cleveland; the street grid and lots were platted in the 1920s, and a fair bit of commercial "taxpayer strip" and streetcar suburban development took place before the Depression and WWII put a 20-year hold on future development. At the start of the 1950s, development resumed.

    When I was in northeast Ohio, I lived in a house that was built in 1955, in a neighborhood in South Euclid that was fairly walkable despite some "mistakes" made before urbanism returned to the radar screen of planners and municipal officials. Some older commercial structures built to the street were demolished in the 1980s and 1990s. The city plan acknowledged the short-sightedness of such acts, and recommended reversing the trend and and reestablishing the pedestrian-oriented nature of its commercial strips.

    I could walk to two supermarkets, several restaurants, a blues bar, a video store, a coffee house, hardware store, barber shop, two drugstores, City Hall, and the post office. Every street in South Euclid has sidewalks and tree lawns on both sides; there are even sidewalks following "ghost streets" that were platted but never built thanks to the depression. I could walk to two bus lines where buses ran at 15 to 30 minute headways off-peak.
    Yes, I had thought this would be possible in a few cities in North America that started developing their inner-ring suburbs in the 1920s, 1930s, and again immediately after WW2. However, I don't know if this is common here in Canada.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hceux View post
    I'm a bit perplexed. Do you have all the essential services or a commercial core in your neighbourhood that's separate from the downtown?
    No I am not downtown but everything is here, bank branches, bars, doctors offices, schools churches, mosques, eateries, barbers, bakers. Our downtown does not have much of this stuff anymore and is populated mostly by offices, government, casinos, and other entertainment districts. This is a neighborhood centered on an arterial with on-street parking. Heck there is even a super Wal-Mart less than a mile from here that I can walk to (though the last two blocks were developed in the late 1990's early 2000's and are void of sidewalks (land is owned by Ford Motor).
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    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Nearly the entirety of the outer third of Chicago consists of mid-century, walkable neighborhoods with standard-sized sidewalks and closely spaced bungalows.

    In Canada, Vancouver's Oakridge and Marpole neighbrorhoods on the south side of town are similarly scaled with similarly aged housing.

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by drucee View post
    Nearly the entirety of the outer third of Chicago consists of mid-century, walkable neighborhoods with standard-sized sidewalks and closely spaced bungalows.
    Indeed...and there is also the Chicago neighborhood of Garfield Ridge on the far southwest side.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I think that as you move farther west in the continent this becomes more attainable. On the east coast, most of the walkable communities date back to earlier than that, and the tradition since mid-century has unfortunately been mostly one of sprawl. You might luck out and find an infill split ranch somewhere walkable, but that's the exception not the rule.

    As context - my last house was built in 1875 and in a very walkable neighborhood (2 minutes to the nearby square - coffee house, hardware store, toy store, book store). Current house dates from 1920 or so and is in a slightly less walkable area (5 minutes to smaller square, 15 minutes to bigger one with a subway stop).

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by drucee View post
    Nearly the entirety of the outer third of Chicago consists of mid-century, walkable neighborhoods with standard-sized sidewalks and closely spaced bungalows.
    Great example, my neighborhood is a lot like those.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    No I am not downtown but everything is here, bank branches, bars, doctors offices, schools churches, mosques, eateries, barbers, bakers. Our downtown does not have much of this stuff anymore and is populated mostly by offices, government, casinos, and other entertainment districts. This is a neighborhood centered on an arterial with on-street parking. Heck there is even a super Wal-Mart less than a mile from here that I can walk to (though the last two blocks were developed in the late 1990's early 2000's and are void of sidewalks (land is owned by Ford Motor).
    Oh, I see. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I can now imagine what your neighbourhood would be like. Unfortunately, the town that I live in doesn't have anything like this except for the downtown core that is a 15 minute walk from my home. Otherwise all other commercial cores are not self-sustainable in the sense that they have all of the essential services that a person would need to use on a regular basis.

    I wonder how big the community needs to be in order to have more than one self-sustainable commercial cores like you described...

    Quote Originally posted by drucee View post
    In Canada, Vancouver's Oakridge and Marpole neighbrorhoods on the south side of town are similarly scaled with similarly aged housing.
    Thanks for sharing those examples. I am vaguely familiar with Marpole, but not Oakridge. From what I remember reading from a local newspaper article during my visit in Vancouver last summer, Marpole is now a BIA and is trying to revive its neighbourhood.

    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    I think that as you move farther west in the continent this becomes more attainable. On the east coast, most of the walkable communities date back to earlier than that, and the tradition since mid-century has unfortunately been mostly one of sprawl. You might luck out and find an infill split ranch somewhere walkable, but that's the exception not the rule.

    As context - my last house was built in 1875 and in a very walkable neighborhood (2 minutes to the nearby square - coffee house, hardware store, toy store, book store). Current house dates from 1920 or so and is in a slightly less walkable area (5 minutes to smaller square, 15 minutes to bigger one with a subway stop).
    That's a good point, Masswich. I do see how it's generally easier to have walkable communities that consist of mid-century homes or, in my opinion from an aesthetic perspective, mid-century modern homes in the West where communities are younger.

    The town that I live in was originally a Native settlement and then settled by the United Empire Loyalists in 1789. So, I guess I do live in an old community.

    Wow, if I were to live in a walkable neighbourhood like you do, Masswich, then I would have to either live in a condo or in an old home that is much more expensive and/or much too big for me to live in. No subways here too.

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I am another one who lives in a mid-century home and am in a neighborhood that I would consider (mostly) walkable. The neighborhood that I am in consists mainly of homes built in the early to mid 1950s and while we have larger homes and lots than a lot of the other neighborhoods in the area (especially our lot sizes), I am within walking distance to multiple grocery stores, banks, multiple locations for ice cream (that was a prerequisite when I was searching!), churches, elementary and high schools, parks, a river, and it's just about a mile and a half to get to the local downtown area with movie theatres, book stores, and plenty of overpriced bars and restaurants.

    I say we are only mostly walkable because even while most of the streets go through (there are only a couple dead end streets around), we are not on a traditional grid pattern. We also do not have sidewalks through the entire neighborhood; the streets that run along the outside of our subdivision have them though and the lack of them within the sub doesn't seem to keep many people from walking through.
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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    I am another one who lives in a mid-century home and am in a neighborhood that I would consider (mostly) walkable. The neighborhood that I am in consists mainly of homes built in the early to mid 1950s and while we have larger homes and lots than a lot of the other neighborhoods in the area (especially our lot sizes), I am within walking distance to multiple grocery stores, banks, multiple locations for ice cream (that was a prerequisite when I was searching!), churches, elementary and high schools, parks, a river, and it's just about a mile and a half to get to the local downtown area with movie theatres, book stores, and plenty of overpriced bars and restaurants.

    I say we are only mostly walkable because even while most of the streets go through (there are only a couple dead end streets around), we are not on a traditional grid pattern. We also do not have sidewalks through the entire neighborhood; the streets that run along the outside of our subdivision have them though and the lack of them within the sub doesn't seem to keep many people from walking through.
    Sounds a lot like my neighborhood. I live in a college town with an older downtown in a neighborhood that was built between the mid-50's to late-60's (my house was built in '59). What I consider my "neighborhood" is really a mile square and was built on a modified grid pattern wtih a only a couple cul-de-sac's here and there. There was a secondary commercial area built between the late 60's and early 80's (and or course since redeveloped) within a couple blocks of my home with everything you would need. Restaurants, grocery store, drug stores, video store, banks, doctors, dentists, etc. are all a few blocks away. My house sits equidistant between 2 parks, each a block and a half away. The elementary school is 2 blocks away, and there is a church at the end of my block. The only thing lacking in my neighborhood is sidewalks and streetlights on a few of the side streets, though most streets have them. I'm 1 1/4 miles from downtown (where I work), and 1 1/2 miles from the university campus. It's really an ideal location.
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  13. #13
    California is full of walkable communities built in the middle of the 20th century. I grew up in a town mostly built in the 60s and 70s. The remaining infill development, continuing to this day is pretty high quality. Now with a couple of light stops, it continues to be very walkable.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    I am another one who lives in a mid-century home and am in a neighborhood that I would consider (mostly) walkable. The neighborhood that I am in consists mainly of homes built in the early to mid 1950s and while we have larger homes and lots than a lot of the other neighborhoods in the area (especially our lot sizes), I am within walking distance to multiple grocery stores, banks, multiple locations for ice cream (that was a prerequisite when I was searching!), churches, elementary and high schools, parks, a river, and it's just about a mile and a half to get to the local downtown area with movie theatres, book stores, and plenty of overpriced bars and restaurants.

    I say we are only mostly walkable because even while most of the streets go through (there are only a couple dead end streets around), we are not on a traditional grid pattern. We also do not have sidewalks through the entire neighborhood; the streets that run along the outside of our subdivision have them though and the lack of them within the sub doesn't seem to keep many people from walking through.
    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    Sounds a lot like my neighborhood. I live in a college town with an older downtown in a neighborhood that was built between the mid-50's to late-60's (my house was built in '59). What I consider my "neighborhood" is really a mile square and was built on a modified grid pattern wtih a only a couple cul-de-sac's here and there. There was a secondary commercial area built between the late 60's and early 80's (and or course since redeveloped) within a couple blocks of my home with everything you would need. Restaurants, grocery store, drug stores, video store, banks, doctors, dentists, etc. are all a few blocks away. My house sits equidistant between 2 parks, each a block and a half away. The elementary school is 2 blocks away, and there is a church at the end of my block. The only thing lacking in my neighborhood is sidewalks and streetlights on a few of the side streets, though most streets have them. I'm 1 1/4 miles from downtown (where I work), and 1 1/2 miles from the university campus. It's really an ideal location.
    Gee, may I ask where are these walkable neighbourhoods with mid-century homes? Are there mid-century modern homes too?

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hceux View post
    Gee, may I ask where are these walkable neighbourhoods with mid-century homes?
    My neighborhood is in suburban Detroit just outside of the city of Birmingham, MI (which has been included on lists of America's Most Walkable Communities)

    Quote Originally posted by Hceux View post
    Are there mid-century modern homes too?
    While nearly all of the homes in my immediate area were built in the 1950s, there are very few that I would say perfectly fit the mid-century modern description. IMO, those types of homes seem to fit best in areas where they would have more panoramic views. The few mid-century modern homes in my neighborhood are ones that back up either to a golf course, the river, or both and seem to be sold for many many times more than houses on similar lots that might be right next door. There are also the people who buy an older home in our neighborhood to knock it down and put up something new and once in a while you'll see them put up a mid-century modern style home. But would a house built today qualify? I guess it's all semantics.

    Scottsdale, Arizona seems to me like a place where walkable neighborhoods chock full of mid-century modern homes could exist. Of course, the prices out there can be pretty high (but I imagine they have come down a bit lately) and the summer temperatures can be prohibitive to much walking.
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