Start Small – An Individual Approach to Redevelopment

As one of the 2015 Haile Fellows at People’s Liberty, I will design and build two, 200 sq.ft. net-zero energy tiny homes in Over-the-Rhine. The goal is to address the issue of affordable housing at all socioeconomic levels. The main idea is that anyone at any income level should have the opportunity to invest in their community via home ownership.

During 2015 I will be periodically share project updates with UrbanCincy and author articles about topics related to Start Small. Below is an introduction to Start Small and survey results about tiny homes in Cincinnati.

WHY?

Tiny homes offer an individual approach to address the rising cost of urban home ownership. While household median income in Greater Cincinnati has been relatively stagnant over the past 5 years, median sales prices have been slowly rising in Cincinnati, and more sharply in Over-the-Rhine. The tiny homes being built are intended to be affordable for an individual earning between $15,000 and $25,000 annually.

WHERE?

There are four possible sites in Over-the-Rhine, one parcel on Mulberry and East Clifton, and two parcels on Peete. This area differs greatly from land south of McMicken because of the hillside. Historically this area of the neighborhood had a number of 1 and 2-story buildings and has not been as densely populated as the rest of the neighborhood, likely because of the hillside.

brewery district NESanborn Fire insurance map from 1904. Courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County


NE OTR_simpleModern day plan

WHAT?

Start Small will design and build two net-zero energy tiny homes on a permanent foundation. Three concept model plans have been drawn, but no design has been finalized.

Three concepts

Below are preliminary results from an online survey that is still accepting responses. The survey and input at a Community Visioning Session in February will inform a final design.

tinyhomes001

Data Visualization by Amy Kwong

tinyhomes002

Data Visualization by Amy Kwong

Your participation is needed. Click here to start describing your tiny home…if you want one!

Are the years of suburban corporate campuses behind us?

Many things have changed in America since the golden age of suburbia. The country is now much more diverse and tech-focused, and young people seem to be ignoring The American Dream in a pursuit of their own, newer ideals. One of the relics of The American Dream is the suburban corporate campus, and its death may have just been signaled. More from Better! Cities & Towns:

Smartly clad structures perfectly reflected their pinstripe suited, clean-cut occupants. It was a near perfect match of sociology and architecture. The male breadwinner toiling all day inside a glass box, coming home to the American Dream: a detached “Colonial style” house with a manicured lawn. The Betty Crocker cookbook of that era advised housewives to have a mixed drink ready for their husband’s eagerly expected return, along with tips on how to set a table when the domestic help had the day off.  We all know how that dream turned out.

Some Boomers smugly claim that Millennials will fall back into line as soon as they have children. Well, guess what? They aren’t having kids. They aren’t even marrying. Nor are they buying cars. And not because they can’t afford them. They don’t want them.

The folks who run Weyerhaeuser are a smart bunch. I’m sure they started projecting out how long it would be before they would have a difficult time recruiting younger workers to reverse commute.

An easy fix for dramatically reducing the cost of building and maintaining our roadways

Whether you know it or not, the standard width of traffic lanes on our roadways has increased over the years. The standard set forth by most state DOTs is now 12 feet for a typical lane. An increasing amount of evidence, however, shows that these widths create safety problems for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike. Furthermore, the additional width adds significant costs to the price of building and maintaining our roadways, and squanders valuable land. More from CityLab:

On city streets, most drivers ignore posted speed limits, and instead drive the speed at which they feel safe. That speed is set by the cues provided by the environment. Are there other cars near me? Is an intersection approaching? Can I see around that corner? Are there trees and buildings near the road? Are there people walking or biking nearby? And: How wide is my lane?

[…]

Our lives are currently being put at risk daily by fifty state DOTs and hundreds of county road commissions who mistakenly believe that high-speed street standards make our cities and towns safer. In my most considered opinion, these agencies have blood on their hands, and more than a little. There are many standards that they need to change, but the easiest and most important is probably the 12-foot lane.

Could a different design approach change the conversation about skateparks?

There aren’t many official skateparks throughout the region. Some spaces have become popular destinations for skateboarders, while others have been labeled as unwelcoming due to their designs intended on keeping skateboarders away. But has the design of skateparks often been their ultimate road block from being implemented, and would a more multi-purpose design help rectify that? More from Next City:

Inga Saffron, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, noted in her review that Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund had to raise $4.5 million to bring their vision for Paine’s Park to life, and they did so by “badgering state, city, and private funders to pay for the project.” The space reveals the shift in how skateboarders and architects imagine skateparks. But it also represents a surge of civically engaged skateboarders who are taking city building seriously. The kids who clung to their boards in the ’80s and ’90s have grown up, some of them into advocates. San Antonio has a “skate plaza” program. Seattle welcomes boards not only to skateparks, but “skate spots” (1,500 to 10,000 square feet) and “skate dots” (smaller than 1,500 square feet). Portland’s system has branched out to designate skateboard routes in the city’s downtown.

Dive Into the Topic of Tiny Living Spaces This Friday at the Niehoff Urban Studio

Tiny Houses Event FlyerTo most people, tiny homes often are viewed as a novelty. The idea of building a small house or living in an apartment with less than 500 square feet sounds like living in a closet.

However; with the rising cost of housing and the growing desire for people to do more outside their homes, the idea of tiny living is stirring a new conversation. Tiny homes, for example, could be used to address urban revitalization, homelessness or retrofitting existing structures, such as this garage project in Atlanta.

This is why UrbanCincy has partnered with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host Tiny Living as part of Digressions in Art, Architecture and Urban Design. The event, which will take place this Friday, will feature presentations on the subject of tiny homes and an expert discussion panel.

Writing about the event, organizer Ana Gisele Ozaki postulated that tiny homes are “an antithesis of suburbanization and the ‘American Dream’ as we know it, tiny spaces/living fundamentally question consumption of our current system by proposing repurpose of materials, as a clear response to the 2009 housing crisis and many other flaws of our current economic/financial system.”

This event is part of the continuing partnership between the Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy to examine complex urban issues. Earlier this year UrbanCincy moderated the panel discussion for the Metropolis & Mobility workshop focused on Cincinnati’s Wasson Way Corridor.

The Tiny Living event is free and open to the public, and will run from 5pm to 8pm. The evening will begin with interactive pieces produced by the DPMT7 and ParProjects, and will be followed by a series of short presentations at 6pm to get the discussion started. The panel discussion will begin around 7:30pm.

The Niehoff Urban Studio can be reached via Metro*Plus and the #24, #78 Metro bus lines. The collaborative, public studio is also within one block of a Cincy Red Bike station.

EDITORIAL NOTE: UrbanCincy‘s local area manager, John Yung, will be one of the panelists at this event. John is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s Master of Community Planning program.