Prefabricated tiny living spaces are on their way to America’s biggest city

While the concept of living in micro-apartments is not new to many cities around the world, it is a fairly novel concept in North America where large dwelling units have traditionally dominated the marketplace. That, however, is changing and we are excited to be covering the emergence tiny living in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, New York City will soon celebrate the arrival of its first prefabricated “microunits” that will make up the city’s first tower of such apartment units. More from The Atlantic:

For another, this will be the city’s first “microunit” building. In 2013, its design won a city-sponsored “micro-housing” competition devoted to compact housing for single occupants. (Forty-six percent of Manhattan households are made up of one adult.) The architects, Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang, hope that large windows, high ceilings, and floor plans featuring multipurpose living areas—fold-up furniture sold separately—will make the apartments feel more spacious than their 255 to 360 square feet.

Bunge says that drafting a modular, microunit building is, in terms of complexity and precision, something like designing a car. The little boxes flirt with minimum-habitable-space laws as well as mandates regarding disability access, so there is absolutely no room for error. “If we were to … change drywall from half an inch to five-eighths,” he says, running his fingers across some plaster, “we’re screwed.”

$11.2M Redevelopment of Historic Heberle School to Breathe New Life Into West End

A team of New York-based developers have purchased a number of properties in the West End, and a recent tax credit from the State of Ohio may spark the first major redevelopment investment in the historic district in decades.

In 2012, Zada Development purchased two historic school buildings from Cincinnati Public Schools for $60,000 each at auction. The two schools sit within a block of one another in the Dayton Street Historic District, and have sat vacant for the better part of the last decade.

The development team told UrbanCincy that they intend to begin construction on the 86-year-old Heberle School in February, thanks to a $1.8 million Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit – the biggest award in the recent round of funding in Southwest Ohio aside from Music Hall’s $25 million catalytic project award. It is due to the neighborhood’s proud history that the developers decided to enter the Cincinnati market and take on their first project here.

“This area has been abandoned for some time, which prompted us to collaborate with the Dayton Street Neighborhood Association in order to revive a community rich in history and architecture,” explained Golan Marom from Zada Development Group.

The group’s previous experience is largely comprised of high-rise residential rehabilitations in the New York area.

The $11.2 million Heberle Lofts project, meanwhile, is seen as phase one of the team’s efforts. The second phase will focus on the 100-year-old Lafayette Bloom Middle School on Baymiller Street. There, developers anticipate a project similar in scope to what will be done at Heberle, which is planned to include 59 market-rate apartments and 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of street-level commercial space.

A striking similarity at both school properties is the large open space in front of their main entrances. In both cases, Marom says that the plan is to maintain some of it as parking for the development, while also creating new public and green space for the community.

While redevelopment has been moving northward from Over-the-Rhine’s Gateway Quarter, all the way up to the Brewery District surrounding Findlay Market, it has yet to spread west into the West End or its Brighton District. An injection of activity like this, however, could improve the neighborhood’s ability to support service retail and restaurants, which so far have proved difficult to attract within the Brighton District or along Linn Street at the nearby City West development.

The development team says they are still working to secure some additional financing, but are optimistic they will be able to get started in the coming months. Should everything go according to plan, the Heberle Lofts project is expected to be completed approximately two years after construction work begins.

What if we calculated level of service for pedestrians?

Level of Service. Chances are, unless you’re in a field related to transportation planning or engineering, or are a total geek, you probably have not heard of this term before. LOS, however, has come to define how we design and build or roadways. Almost by its structure, LOS favors cars over the function or safety of any other mode of transportation. So what would happen if we took the same approach for other modes, like walking? More from Urban Kchoze:

The point of a traffic engineer in most studies is to keep level of service as low as possible to avoid delays for drivers, helping them drive faster and have to wait less for other traffic. Now then, some of you may ask “well, what about pedestrians and cyclists? How is level of service measured for them?” Well, the answer to that is that the default method says: F#!% ‘em.

So let’s suppose that we calculate a level of service for pedestrians based on the same basis as for vehicles. Pedestrians can stop and accelerate to regular walking speed almost instantaneously and so we don’t have to calculate delay caused by lower than desired speeds during acceleration and deceleration. So delay is limited essentially only to the wait time before they can go ahead and cross (supposing car drivers respect pedestrian priority).

…crosswalks with medians and stop signs should be preferred to traffic lights for areas with a focus on pedestrians. It also means that the habit of channeling all the traffic on a few wide arterials, forcing each intersection to have multiple turn lanes and many through lanes, is absolutely terrible for pedestrians. A street grid with densely packed streets would do a better job of responding to all users, as it would dilute traffic on many streets, all these streets could be narrow, with 3 or 4 lanes only (1 per direction plus a shared left-turn lane or 2 per direction). Ideally, I believe there should not be any width of pavement greater than 12 meters (40 feet) in a city, any pavement wider than that should be broken in two with a median wide enough to use as a pedestrian refuge.

Zipcar Holding Tight in Cincinnati While Making Changes Elsewhere

The car sharing economy came to Cincinnati in October 2011 when Zipcar launched their services at the University of Cincinnati, and expanded to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine in December 2012.

Since that time, however, peer-to-peer driving services, like Uber and Lyft, have emerged and begun challenging the more established business model of companies like Zipcar, which was acquired by Avis in January 2013 and boasts a global membership of more than 900,000.

In the case of Zipcar, the user is the driver, and must return the car to its starting point – a requirement limiting potential growth of Zipcar and other car sharing services. In order to stay competitive, Zipcar has recently launched new one-way services in its hometown of Boston.

“We are currently beta testing the service in Boston with our Boston members,” Jennifer Mathews, Public Relations Manager at Zipcar, told UrbanCincy. “Our plan is to roll out the service to additional markets once it’s ready.”

While one-way car sharing travel may soon be a reality in Boston, it appears to be further off for smaller markets like Cincinnati, as does the availability of cargo vans, which are presently available in a limited number of markets, but not Cincinnati. The desire for such vans, industry experts say, is so that they can be used for more utilitarian purposes like moving. For now, those participating in Cincinnati’s car sharing economy will continue to need to either use a traditional rental company, or borrow a friend’s truck for such purposes.

Since its debut in 2011, however, Zipcar officials say that they have made changes to their operations and 11-car fleet in Cincinnati in order to stay relevant.

“While the number of cars has remained somewhat consistent over the years, we have moved locations and updated our vehicles throughout the program,” Mathews explained. “Zipcar strives to place cars where our members want them. As we see pockets of members pop up in certain areas or neighborhoods we will move cars around to make sure that they are convenient as possible.”

Of course, Cincinnati’s Zipcar network is substantially smaller than other cities, thus reducing its usefulness to more than a small collection of users.

While there are no immediate plans for expansion, Mathews does say that the company will continue to monitor their two programs – University of Cincinnati and City of Cincinnati – over the course of 2015 to determine whether additional changes or expanded offerings are needed.

Those with memberships are able to use those in any of the hundreds of markets where Zipcar operates worldwide. Cincinnati’s 11 vehicles can be found at the northwest corner of Race Street and Garfield Place, Court Street in between Vine and Walnut, the southeast corner of Twelfth and Vine Streets; and on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus on McMicken Circle and just north of Daniels Residence Tower.

What can cities today learn from failed ancient cities?

It is always fascinating to study what exactly led to the collapse of previous civilizations and the cities they built and inhabited. Often we study what it is we can learn in order to maintain the civilizations we have built, but not our cities. A team of University of Cincinnati researchers have been looking at exactly that in the former Mayan city of Tikal. More from Next City:

When Lentz and a group of colleagues looked, they were able to piece together a picture of how Tikal survived as an urban center. For hundreds of years, they found, the Maya managed their resources sustainably. But that wasn’t enough to keep the city from collapsing in the face of climatic change; the changes Tikal’s residents made to the land may even have made them more vulnerable.

“They expanded to the carrying capacity of their landscape, leaving no resilience where something bad came along,” Lentz said. “When you make changes to your environment, sometimes things happens that you don’t expect. When the droughts came, because they had exploited the environment to the full extent of their technological capabilities, they just were not able to respond.”

The last monument went up around 869 A.D. By the end of the century, the city was likely largely abandoned.