There is a lot of talk today about retrofitting the abandoned properties in suburbia lately. The majority of the conversation is shifted toward large abandoned shopping centers and other large abandoned tracts of land. These are the easiest areas to fix due to the land typically under one or two ownerships. However, the new subdivisions that have been constructed prior to the economic meltdown are suffering just as much. There are some neighborhoods that have been completely devastated and abandoned by the foreclosure crisis created from the bad adjustable loans that were once available. This has been a big concern of mine as I have read many of the articles written by Christopher Leinberger such as “The Next Slum.”
While I was considering this over this past weekend, I put the pencil to paper and doodled with some watercolor pencils. The first image below is of a typical conventional subdivision, with what is typically known as a “Snout House” in the planning profession. It is called a snout house due to its resemblance of a dog’s face, with the garage as the “snout” of the house. Snout houses are notorious for having the garage as a predominant feature of the home.
The following image is what I consider to be a sprawl repair alternative to the conventional subdivision. The image illustrates an addition to the home toward the street, located at the garage. By doing this, the garage opening is shifted to the side of the home and utilizes a shared driveway with the neighboring home. This configuration allows separation between the actual home and the addition by way of garage so the addition has added flexibility. The addition toward the street could lend itself to multiple purposes, from an office, to a studio and it could even work as a stand-alone retail store or coffee shop. The addition could also simply be an addition to the home, perhaps as an accessory dwelling unit or a recreation/media room. Located above the addition to the front of the home, could easily be utilized as a rooftop terrace, deck, etc. to be accessed from one of the bedrooms (typical use above garages of snout houses).
Aside from the addition to the actual home, stand-alone accessory dwelling units can be located in the rear yards of the lots or between the lots if the side setback is great enough (realistically need a 15-ft side-yard setback for each home). This could allow the conventional subdivision to gain new life and vitality through growth and change. Too often, subdivisions are isolated from other uses and are very homogenous in respect to architecture, value of home, etc.