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Urban Redevelopment and Infill/ Rehabs


I don't know if it's alright for a non-planner to post something in the "Make No Small Plans" forum, so if it isn't I apologize.[newbie alert] I posted this on another forum, but I wanted some feedback from some pros. [/newbie alert] Photos of infill development are appreciated.

Urban Redevelopment and Infill

Over the past several years, cities have worked hard to reestablish themselves as places where people want to live, work, and play. Increased investment and a focus on urban revitalization are paying off as interest in downtown living rises. Developers, including many who historically have developed in the suburbs, have responded by rehabilitating or converting older buildings, constructing new mixed-use projects, and developing new infill projects in existing neighborhoods. However, infill development presents a unique set of challenges and involves issues that vary according to the circumstances of the individual project. [...]

After years of decline the news of population growth in U.S. cities is remarkable. After decades of losing residents, many U.S. cities are now experiencing gains in
population. Of the 20 largest cities (including only Census tracts within the city limits), 16 gained population from 1990 to 2000. (Philly, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Detroit didn't) The back-to-the-city movement is now a clear trend that appears poised to continue well into the 21st century, as evidenced by housing permit activity in cities at the end of the 1990s. [...]More people living in cities has led to a construction boom for urban infill housing.



Detroit: rehabs and infill: new townhomes.

The realization seems to be growing that cities need good housing to become the vibrant centers of cultural and social life that they once were, and thus public and
political support for urban infill housing is on the rise. Urban infill housing sparks neighborhood revitalization. Not only do new residents pay property taxes, but they
also spend money. New residents spur retailing, office development, restaurant openings, cultural activities and events, religious activities, and the development of parks and recreational areas.

Urban infill housing also makes sense from the perspective of smart growth. It tends to be of a higher density than suburban housing, thus making better use of increasingly limited urban land. It reuses existing properties, which often are neighborhood
eyesores, thus bringing much-needed tax dollars to local governments and revitalization to inner-city communities. Infill development can represent an efficient use of public funds if the required infrastructure is already in place. It is often less destructive to the natural environment than is suburban development.
Infill housing development supports mass transit and alternative modes of transportation, including walking and biking. To smart city officials and politicians, urban infill housing makes lots of sense.


Detroit's New Center area is the site of new infill housing adjacent to historic neighborhoods.

Developers have discovered that urban infill housing makes sense for many of the same reasons. They have discovered that although urban infill housing may be riskier, it often generates greater financial rewards than does suburban greenfields development. Some developers report that their most successful projects in the 1990s were urban infill projects.5 These projects are often high-profile developments that bring national recognition and prestige to the development company. Infill development is seen as part of the solution—not part of the problem—which is why political support for such projects is increasing in strength. Urban infill housing may have many fans and supporters, but still it is often more difficult to build than suburban housing. Challenges to urban infill housing include: social problems in distressed neighborhoods, land acquisition and land assembly difficulties, financing complexities, regulatory constraints, contaminated sites, infrastructure
problems, community opposition, and historic preservation requirements.

Infill development on strip shopping center site





Myth #1
The market for urban infill housing is weak.

Fact #1
A back-to-the-city trend is energizing the housing market in many cities. In many others, city governments
have adopted innovative programs to encourage housing demand and production.

Myth #2
Assembling land for urban infill housing is likely to be difficult and time-consuming, and land costs are likely to be prohibitive.
Fact #2
Issues related to land acquisition vary from city to city. In some cities, land is readily available and affordable. In others, it is scarce, expensive, and mired in legal entanglements. Many city governments offer developers assistance with the acquisition and assembly of land, and creative options are available.

Myth #3
Financing for the development of urban infill housing projects either is not available or is too complicated to be worthwhile.

Fact #3
Financing is usually available for well-conceived projects. It can range from simple private deals to
quite complicated public/private partnership structures, depending on the specifics of the project and the market.


St. Ann's Common, Cincinnati

Myth #4
Cities tend to have complex zoning and building codes and long-drawnout building permit processes that make the development of urban infill housing too risky and timeconsuming.

Fact #4
The degree of complexity of zoning and building codes and the time required to process building permits
vary from city to city. Many city governments have streamlined their review and permitting processes.

Myth #5
Urban properties usually have some form of environmental contamination, making them too risky to develop.

Fact #5
While previous uses on or around many urban sites are quite likely to have contaminated those sites to varying degrees, evolving government programs have made cleaning up environmental problems less costly and less risky.


The Logan Heights development, designed by diVISION ONE, brings infill row housing to Washington.

Myth #6
Urban infill housing sites lack adequate public infrastructure and amenities, or the infrastructure is
severely deteriorated and too expensive to repair.

Fact #6
In most cities, existing infrastructure elements and urban amenities represent a positive—and highly
marketable—feature for infill projects. In many cities in which the advanced age of infrastructure constitutes
a barrier to development, policies are in place to mitigate the expense of needed infrastructure improvements.

Myth #7
In general, the community opposition encountered in cities is harder to deal with than that encountered in suburbs.

Fact #7
The amount and character of community opposition tends to vary depending on the specifics of the project and the neighborhood. Neighbors and the local political establishment actively support some urban infill housing proposals.

Myth #8
Inflexible historic-preservation requirements make the rehabilitation or conversion of urban structures for use as housing infeasible.

Fact #8
Development involving historic structures can be complicated, but renovated historic structures often
add significant market appeal and value. In addition, tax credits for historic preservation make the rehabilitation and conversion of historic structures more feasible.


Disincentives for Infill Development

  • Setting density on per unit, per acre for downtown zones instead of floor area ratios (FAR) will increase the challenges for a developer. Setting FARs so low (2.5 or less) and then requiring them to buy transfer of density rights only increases costs and complications for a developer. To encourage infill residential mixed-use, set a height and allow unlimited FAR.
  • Huge parking requirements. Cities need to let the market place decide the right level of parking for infill.
  • Retail is discouraged by huge parking requirements, which results in the developer trying to minimize retail rather than maximize the potential on urban streets.
  • Huge open space requirements on tight sites.
  • Tree planting requirements for new developments, including infill sites.
  • Large traffic mitigation fees, school fees and park fees that treat them like a development with large homes. Add this burden to the parking requirement burden, and you create development that won’t happen since it won’t be financially feasible. To encourage infill development, all these fees must be eliminated.
  • Height requirements that don’t understand how these buildings are constructed and the requirements as to how height is measured pose terrific challenges. Infill buildings can’t have changes of floor levels inside the building. Some zoning codes don’t seem to understand this simple principal.
  • Fire Departments that don’t understand how to deal with higher density housing, and place requirements that defeat the concept of urban infill housing. This often makes a site financially unfeasible.

source: http://www.djc.com/news/re/11124636.html

Infill: An Antidote to Sprawl?

According to Gerald Adelman, "Infill development is new construction in established neighborhoods. It can take a number of forms. It could be an individual lot but it may be a larger site -- a factory or a school or a hospital -- that's cleared to permit redevelopment." Adelman is president of the Openlands Project (a nonprofit group working to preserve and extend public open space in the Chicago region), whose work necessarily interfaces with infill development projects. Adelman continues: "Infill covers this spectrum, from individual structures built on individual lots to larger assemblages of land cleared of previous structures and redeveloped." Examples range from the site of Augustana Hospital in Lincoln Park, which was razed and replaced with townhomes; to Homan Square -- new housing on the old Sears, Roebuck site near Homan and Roosevelt; to Central Station, a development built on old rail yards, where Mayor Daley now lives. At the moment, the city's cup seems to be running over with infill development.



infill development in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Anyone with an environmental bone in his or her body must, it seems, prefer infill over "greenfield" developments -- those places on the fringes of current habitation where the cornfields are transformed into cul-de-sacs. Of course we should build in the city where services, infrastructure, and public transportation already exist. Here, building doesn't threaten open land, or mean more and more cars commuting on the expressway or out doing errands all day long. Infill doesn't always mean gentrification, though frequently it does, given the fact that it is largely market-driven. To maximize their profits, developers create an expensive product.

Thus, from a sociologist's point of view, the issue of infill may be more complicated than it seems. Infill development may be a partial antidote to sprawl. Yet, without careful implementation -- and markets don't tend to be very careful -- it may represent the further balkanization of rich and poor. At the very least, it can spell trouble for our fellow citizens.

source: http://www.consciouschoice.com/issues/cc1302/infill1302.html



infill devt. in DC...

Horner Homes, Chicago

The Horner Neighborhood Plan replaces existing multi-storied, super-block towers with a fabric of townhouses, duplexes and small apartment buildings.

PDF-file including renderings (2 pages) :
http://www.calthorpe.com/Project Sheets/horner.pdf

ABLA Homes, Chicago

...the consensus was that the design will integrate all the units into the surrounding the community and create a traditional urban residential neighborhood. This will be done with 12 different unit types, including Live-work, 3 Flat Tuck-Unders, Townhomes, and 4 Flats over Ground Floor Retail. These building types will be distributed over the 100 acre site to create 3,000 units of housing, with each of the unit types distributed equally to the 3 income levels - low-income, affordable, and market rate.

Rendering by Sonoc Architects.

PDF-file (2 pages) :
http://www.calthorpe.com/Project Sheets/ABLA Homes.pdf


I thought I recognized the ULI article when I read it. There's not much to be said. Infill will certainly continue to be a more significant part of the development picture than has been the case over the last half century. It will not dominate. There are many trends. Immigration patterns, employment location, particularly in manufacturing, and other forces will continue to pull people from cities. Infill will make a dent, but don't look for population densities and numbers that existed in the 1950's. A stable central city population is the best I would hope to achieve.


Michael Stumpf said:
I There are many trends. Immigration patterns, employment location, particularly in manufacturing, and other forces will continue to pull people from cities. Infill will make a dent, but don't look for population densities and numbers that existed in the 1950's. A stable central city population is the best I would hope to achieve.

In fact the vast majority of US cities experience growth now. Not just Southern and Western cities, but now even Detroit and St. Louis seem to add population (about time). I'm talking about city populations here, not just Metro Areas. So I think you're wrong there.

But of course, cities will never be as dense as they were in the 1950s.


I probably phrased that wrongly. What I meant was that the pattern of traditional sources of growth in many cities - immigration being a big one - have changed. Northern cities are particularly impacted. More than half of the metro area jobs in many places are now located outside the central city; a strong incentive to live in the suburbs. Crime, decay, etc. continue to be problems not just for central cities but for inner ring suburbs as well. Americans still long for the detached home with a yard. All of these factors are stacked up against cities.

Who is moving into cities? One group is the aging baby boomers. They've already had their kids. They'll also start dying off. Don't look for growth there. The other major group are young people. Unfortunately, it seems to be a life-cycle move. When they have their kids, many are moving out to the suburbs. (I'm deliberately not considering some newer central cities that are still capable of annexing land for new growth. My focus is on the land-locked central city.)

It is a victory that cities have resurged to capture these groups. However, the population recovery is going to be small relative to the losses of the last half century. Unless there is a major shift in life style preference on the hand of the consumer, and widespread social and physical improvements in cities, I do not see population growth in central cities as a major trend.


I have an internship at a community development corporation right now and I've heard some of the same things you guys mentioned. http://www.summechcdc.com/

The hitch with infill housing in urban neighborhoods that have been in decline for decades is that you have to balance the concerns of the residents who live there already (who find their rents increasing as land value goes up), potential residents (who have certain expectations in an area that previously didn't meet them), and the business community (who you have to beg, plead, and throw money at to come to the area.)

IMO if you have concrete goals set and community support (plus a few good community leaders) then it's worth the effort. Otherwise people will choose to live in homogeneous areas way out in the country (I mean the suburbs - sorry I live in Atlanta.)