The stubborn neighbor

You’ve heard of the woman who lived in this house, haven’t you? Here’s the lead to the story in the Seattle P-I:

Edith Macefield died at home, just the way she wanted.

The Ballard (Wash.) woman who captured hearts and admirers around the world when she stubbornly turned down $1 million to sell her home to make way for a commercial development died Sunday of pancreatic cancer. She was 86.

No one knows exactly what will happen to the house now. She left no heirs.

— Hat tip: Andrew Sikora

A better Barr Street, or a barren one?

We at The Good City are all for downtown development, but I wonder if the improvements happening on Barr Street will have anything more than a cosmetic effect.

Above is the artist’s rendition of what the area will look like. The Journal Gazette said this:

Over the next three months, the city will fulfill a plan to make Barr Street more attractive with new trees, sidewalks, streetlights and curbs.

The streetscape project is part of downtown improvement plans and will enhance the Cultural District on the east side of downtown.

The city of Fort Wayne says this was a good street to develop:

City officials selected this area for investment because of the buildings already in place — Fourth Wave, the History Center and Barr Street Market, Renaissance Square and the First Source building.

“We don’t want to put in new trees and sidewalks in an area that could soon be under construction,” said Redevelopment Director Greg Leatherman. “Since this section of Barr Street is already developed, it was a perfect place for us to put these ideas into action.”

The street is developed, but consider how it’s developed. Below is a photo:

The street is not much more than parking lots and blank walls. On one side, the First Source building offers the street enormous garage doors. On the other side is a blank brick wall.

A block south, the Renaissance Plaza building is no better with its mirrored windows.

As David Sucher writes in City Comforts, a pedestrian friendly street is lined with buildings with permeable walls — this connects the inside of the building to the sidewalk.

In the artist’s rendition at the top, the white pavilion with tables and people is now a parking lot — but there are no real plans for anything but a parking lot.

And without on-street parking, Barr Street remains very wide. That encourages drivers to speed and discourages pedestrian traffic.

Hopefully, the trees and curbs will help. But with buildings and parking lots that discourage pedestrians, the Barr Street experiment won’t bring a lot of pedestrians to the street.

Do you want this in your neighborhood?

dwell_house.jpgIn response to my call for neighborly modern home architecture, Scott rises to the challenge.

He points us to an article and photos in Dwell Magazine which discusses this house built in a distressed neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio.

The builders of the home were warmly welcomed:

Luckily for the couple, there weren’t any stringent codes or angry neighbors with which to contend. “Dayton has some great older areas downtown that are strong historic districts,” maintains Mary Rogero. “But this was a very nondescript neighborhood, so it was easy to tweak the design in a direction that paves the way for modern homes to come in.”

But how would this go over in Fort Wayne? Would your neighborhood welcome such an addition to your neighborhood? I really think my neighbors wouldn’t blink at such a design, but would only be thankful that something new was being built. Tell me about yours.

The battle of Water Song addition

Water Song

If a developer told you he was going to build a gas station on the property behind your house, after you were told by the home builder that the property’s zoned for an office park, what would you do?

Some residents of Water Song addition near the corner of Coldwater and Union Chapel roads want to fight it tooth and nail. Resident Donald Bengel, in a letter to the editor in The News-Sentinel, says he may be willing to go to court over the matter. (You can read his letter on the continuation page.)

But it’s very difficult for any government to kill a new business in cold blood, especially one on a busy corner. It’s likely the challenge would go nowhere.

Instead, why not consider the long-term needs of the neighborhood, and fight for that?

Like most carved-from-the-cornfield developments, Water Song is 100 percent residential, cut off from any business or service. Perhaps there are sidewalks, but there are precious few reasons to walk them.

Run out of milk? Drive to the store. Want a cup of coffee? Drive to a coffee shop.

But if the developer of the gas station is encouraged to serve the neighborhood it borders, he could do the following:

  • Build a sidewalk between the neighborhood and store, for walking, biking and skateboarding — and include a bike rack.
  • Point the outdoor lights downward.
  • Stock essentials, such as milk, bread, butter and batteries.
  • Construct the side of the gas station facing the neighborhood not as a blank wall, but with a nice little coffee house with plenty of windows, such as a Higher Grounds.
  • Be sure there isn’t a drive-through lane or any other traffic between the store and the neighborhood, for safety.

Come at the developer as enemies, and you’ll get a losing battle. But come at him as potential customers, and he very well may build a place that would serve your neighborhood rather than injure it.

Photo of Water Song addition from Google Maps. See the jump for the full text of the letter to the editor referenced.

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