By Carolyn Weber

Urban Adventure Home Page


BE SPECIFIC: The No. 1 rule of infill development is site-specific design. "Don't expect to place the 'Chesterfield' plan that has been done 1,000 times in 100 different subdivisions on an infill site because you will only frustrate yourself and the stakeholders in the area," explains Chris Branch, president of The Boulevard Co. in Charlotte, N.C. Architect David Furman designed the company's one-of-a-kind Park West Condos in Charlotte, with contemporary lines and some traditional details that were perfect for the site and the market.


REAL DEAL: When building in historic areas, be sure to incorporate some of the same materials from the surrounding structures to ensure a seamless blend. "Authentic materials, such as wood, stone, brick, and stucco versus plastic and vinyl are appropriate in historic contexts," says builder Michael Lander of the Lander Group in St. Paul. Although the forms are modern, the brick faccedil;ade of Lander's Summit/Grotto Condominium townhomes in St. Paul links it to the century-old buildings that surround it on the block.


PARKING SPACE: Minimize the impact of the automobile by recessing garages, tucking them under, or creating a side-entry configuration. "Common characteristics that I have observed in all older neighborhoods is that the parking is generally relegated to the rear of the lot out of sight, and the buildings have a faccedil;ade that addresses and engages the street," says Michael Lander.


HISTORY LESSON: Infill design in post-industrial urban areas, such as Portland, Ore.'s Pearl District, should reflect the history of the area and existing buildings. "The Johnson Street Townhomes are flat roofed brick structures with bold expanses of metal windows and steel outside decking reminiscent of the industrial heritage of the Pearl District," says architect Jim Bodoia of Mithun. The expansive windows of the townhomes lend a warm glow to illuminate the public realm, providing a shared sense of security and comfort to the community. CITY BUSINESS: Builders know how much a suburban home should cost to build and sell, but what about an urban project? Here's a quick breakdown of target margins for a San Francisco Bay area infill product with an average sales price of $500,000, thanks to Steve Delva, division president at Standard Pacific Corp.


SITTING PRETTY: "Since most infill sites are located in older neighborhoods whose desirability is more dependent on land planning than architecture, the best designs tend to obey the land planning principles that were put in place by the original developer," says Chris Branch. In places like Charlotte, N.C.'s Myers Park neighborhood, where the original setbacks were 30 feet, builders such as Alan Simonini realized the benefit of respecting the original plan and incorporated it when building the Myers Park City Homes. The end result: The appropriate siting of the Colonial-style clusters does not detract from the charm and rhythm of the streetscape.


PERFECT PITCH: A big part of blending in with the existing community fabric is designing compatible roof forms. For the Victoria Townhomes project in Seattle, architect Jim Bodoia of Mithun took inspiration from the neighbors--large, high-end single-family homes. "We borrowed a few design elements," says Bodoia of Victoria's steeply sloped gabled roofs, which mimic those of the older homes. "It creates a nice link of single-family character in a multifamily building."


SITE LINES: Infill design should be thought of as adding the missing piece of the puzzle and making it look as if the project belongs on the site. "Think of your site edge as a seam and connect to what is around you," explains Michael Lander. For the 38-unit Essex condominium project, which faces a city park, Lander created a buffer zone from the street with the front-stair entryways into the units.