Guest architect Michael Medick is a town planner at CSRS, in Baton Rouge, La. www.csrsonline.com
Guest architect Michael Medick is a town planner at CSRS, in Baton Rouge, La. www.csrsonline.com

It’s a familiar scenario: There’s an infill piece of property for sale in a residential neighborhood. A builder buys it. Maybe it’s a teardown, or maybe it’s vacant. In either case, the usual response is, how many houses can I manage to get on it? It makes sense, of course; the homes have to make money. But in order to sell well, the new homes also have to make sense in the location. In a typical case, four generously sized houses are built facing each other with a driveway in the middle. The rubber-stamp plan is profitable, but the neighbors probably won’t be happy with the big, brawny new kids on the block. But with no covenants or historic regulations in place, the neighbors have no say in the matter.

Consider an alternative. Let’s say that the four aforementioned homes sold for $500,000 apiece, or $2 million total. What if, instead, scaled-down homes were built at slightly greater density—for example, six houses that sell for $400,000 apiece, or $2.4 million total? You’ve just upped your revenue by 20 percent while building homes that are in step with the economy, not to mention the neighborhood.

The plan above proposes a service lane at the back of the property, with a shared green space that becomes an attractive addition to the neighborhood. The sizes of both the lots and the houses are more marketable in a slow economy, they’re more mindful of the existing streetscape, and they encourage a sense of community, which, in turn, can be a security benefit. This kind of strategy is a win-win: It benefits the new residents as well as the existing ones, and it’s good for your bottom line.

Before

Michael Medick

Simple Minded A "rubber stamp" plan turns its back on the existing streetscape.

  • Garage-dominated massing is ungainly.

  • Houses turned inward ignore existing neighborhood.

  • Large lot is short on usable yard space.

  • Interior drive bisects property.

After

Michael Medick

Central Park Designing for density adds two extra houses and includes a shared green. A big old existing tree on the property was also preserved.

  • Houses face green space; porches have views and accessibility.

  • Shared green is an amenity that adds value.

  • Sidewalk wraps around the green, encouraging use of shared space.

  • Rear service lane avoids garage-dominated massing.