Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Homes in OTR, how about Restoration?

There is an interesting article today in the Enquirer about new home construction in OTR on Pleasant Street just North of Washington Park:

That is all well and good, But yet another "new Urbanist" development with with HGTV style interiors that will be "passe" in 5 yrs . The "model" here seems to be condo, condo, condo and that "model" poses certain problems and shows a 'shortsightedness" on the part of the neighborhood "movers and shakers' and the city about the future of OTR.

It ignores certain facts, not EVERYONE who would like to live in OTR is 20 something. What happens in 5 yrs or so when all those 20 somethings marry and have kids. Where will they go, and what are their options? Condos are great when you are just starting out but sooner or later you 'grow up' and you needs change.

OTR planners and the city are missing the boat in my opinion. The city holds a l;arge number of medium to large brownstones and rowhouse buildings in OTR, once single family homes coverted to apartments in the 60's and 70's. The city needs to "test the waters' and see if anyone out there is willing to come in and restore, not condo, not apartment, but restore and live in OTR.

I would be in OTR now if I could have found a place to buy and restore and I know alot of people like me who would be perfectly content on Elm or Race street in a nice 2-3 level Rowhouse or Brownstone with a nice rear courtyard and new carriage house out back.

I've done this before, I restored downtown homes in downtown Indianapolis, I did the same thing in New Orleans after Hugo where I bought a 'shell" of a house a few blocks north of the old "slave market' commercial district ( think Findlay Market but with people all the time and restaurants, and nightclubs too) The area I bought in was 'rough' by comparison OTR is like the burbs. Just a few of us "Urban Pioneers" living in an area no one else wanted to live in and many thought should be bulldozed. As we restored our house, others moved in and before long it was a neighborhood again. Today that area, once the worst of slums, is home to a great neighborhood of 500K to million dollar homes. Those once worthless homes are now highly cherished.

That's my point, we have to start thinking out of the box. Condos area start but not a solution to OTR. You need more than 20 somethings living in 1100 square foot "apartments/condos" you need houses. There are plenty in OTR but the city wont let them go. You cant build a neighborhood with preferred developers with only one vision. Not everyone wants to live in a condo, people want a small yard, they want their own garage.

OTR's biggest asset is its architecture. I look at OTR and I see Charleston, or Savannah or New Orleans. I see a neighborhood that people come to visit, to see the architecture, to eat in fine restaurants and walk around at night. I see horse drawn carriages conducting historic tours of OTR. I see B&B's and Boutique hotels. I see restored homes open as 'museum houses'. I see a place where downtown executives, not just people 'starting out' want to live who maybe hop the streetcar home from a long day at the office and are home in a few minutes rather than driving and hour each way to work.
I see a neighborhood, a community and that's something, for all their good intentions I don't think the city or the 'key players' in OTR can see. Its going to take some "vision" not 'tunnel vision"!


Anonymous said...

I would sign on for one of those Brownstones!

matt said...

I think there are pockets of house restoration, but it seems like its mostly on the fringes, generally not next to all the condo development. There's some nice restoration on Dayton street with all the stately old houses there (although the area isn't really walkable so much, and the surrounding area isn't great), and it seems like people have invested a bit in Liberty Hill, bits of Mulberry, and some of the areas around Pendleton. I do agree that there should be some decent walk-ups and houses, and there are even a few for sale (two "shells" on Clay, near some redevelopment) and a number of buildings that are further up Vine and in the Brewery District. It certainly seems like there would be a lot of potential around Findlay market, which is why new construction on Pleasant is a little dissapointing, but maybe, hopefully, it will spur people on to buy some of the low priced properties and rehab as opposed to bulldozing. I know I (as a 20-something looking to move to OTR or Northside) have considered taking on a rehab project, but it is quite daunting. Maybe we just need developers working on houses as much as condos, (which are understandably probably larger revenue generators) to bring those home buyers in.

I think the architecture should really be highlighted when talking about attractions to this city, and that there should be a number of initiatives to bring back the luster on these beautiful neighborhoods, involving not just new residents looking to rehab abandoned and disused houses, but also current residents of all incomes.

Paul Wilham said...

Matt I was over in West end last weekend and quite surprised at the amount of new restorations going on , I spotted several and not just on the Dayton but Freeman and Baymiller as well. FYI we walked the area No problems. I'll do a posting later in the week about Dayton.

I think the Findlay area has great potential, if the city would sell some of the stuff they are sitting on. If they would just turn loose one or two properties per block and get some owners in that would help.