Another loyal reader (our readers have to be extremely loyal since our publication schedule is so sporadic) recently dropped off a copy of a Preservation Information booklet published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Design and Development of Infill Housing Compatible with Historic Neighborhoods by Ellen Beasley.
Since I have not been able to find the text of this very informative booklet online I will try to summarize some of the main points.
Infill development fills a vacant parcel of land in an existing built-up area. This is not some new-fangled idea. It has been going on for decades. Any number of the buildings that we think of as old could have replaced even older buildings.
Preservationists have refined the concept of infill by placing an emphasis on relating the new design to the existing, surrounding context. What is considered an acceptable design may vary according to the neighborhood.
Design is probably the biggest concern when considering infill development projects and “neighborhood residents at all economic levels have become more demanding regarding the design and construction quality of infill projects”.
The booklet focused mainly on small-scale infill projects and gave a number of reasons that various groups would be interested in such projects:
*Members of a neighborhood group want to ensure residential, rather than commercial, construction and buy a vacant lot to control development.
*A private developer sees an opportunity for profit.
*An individual home owner is attracted by an urban historic district, but wants a new house.
*A preservation group wants to demonstrate the feasibility of designing and constructing a compatible infill project.
*A city wants to put vacant land back on tax rolls.
The development process is outlined as follows:
1. Defining goals
2. Researching the project site
3. Understanding the market and the neighborhood
4. Structuring the development team and obtaining financing
5. Writing a project program
6. Selecting an architect
7. Designing the project
8. Beginning construction
9. Making the process work
Through out the discussion of the development process, participation of the neighborhood is stressed. Cooperation between the neighborhood and the developer is the key to a successful project. Some of the benefits of cooperation that are mentioned are:
*Developing an awareness and understanding of each other’s goals and interests.
*Identifying shared goals and ways to achieve them.
*Creating a defined procedure for neighborhood involvement and review.
*Minimizing surprises and misunderstandings during the planning and construction of an infill project.
*Obtaining financing and zoning variances.
*Promoting positive media coverage for the neighborhood and the developer.
A very informative case study of a project in the Edgefield neighborhood of Nashville, TN is included. This extremely successful project, which began in 1984, included the construction of a variety of housing types-condominiums, apartments, and single-family houses-in a designated historic district with 10% vacant land.
Statistics gathered in 1997 for the booklet showed that property values of both the new and old houses in the Edgefield district increased since the mid-1980s although the Nashville real estate market saw a period of flat appreciation from 1988 to 1992.
If you are interested in or concerned about infill development, remember neighborhood cooperation and design are the two most important factors for success. And, it wouldn't hurt to get your hands on a copy of this booklet either.