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Old 08-15-2013, 07:03 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,439 posts, read 2,008,052 times
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I posted this in the Harrisburg forum, but figured it could apply to the entire state as well. The last few decades have seen an obscene number of cookie-cutter suburban developments where every unit is nearly identical to the next. Being suburban, there's usually little to no walkability (that is, no shopping, dining, or services within walking distance), and the lots are arranged for maximum profitability instead of visual appear or uniqueness.

That's all changing with the New Urbanism movement, and it's taking a foothold in this part of the state. We've got one finished development, another major one about 1/4th complete, and another getting ready to start. The idea here is still to build suburban developments, but to do so in a way that resembles a village or small town. There's lots of well-landscaped green space, a walkable downtown with boutique shops and cafes, and plenty of walking paths. Housing is a mixture of medium-density townhomes and single family homes, all with varying setbacks and lot sizes / shapes. Although the exteriors are planned by the builder, there's a high degree of variation with no discernible pattern (ie, you can't say every fifth home has a stone facade or every sixth home is a cape cod). And the communities are designed to promote pedestrian and bicycle traffic, with vehicles relegated to back alleys and front doors that open to parks instead of streets.

Walden Crossroads | Charter Homes | Harrisburg New Homes

Quote:
Charter Homes' smartly designed townhomes combine the unparalleled amenities of the Walden community with local village living found nowhere but Walden Crossroads. Neighborhood shops blend seamlessly with select elegantly-appointed townhomes - putting a great shopping experience at The Shops at Walden just down the street.
For Walden, Charter Homes is making some substantial improvements to the surrounding community. They're rebuilding their adjoining road to include a bike lane for its entire length, they're building a 33-acre park (complete with four sports fields, a dog park, concession stand, and public restrooms) and turning it over to the township, and they're funding traffic lights at intersections impacted by their (and others') development.

There's another one just around the corner:

Lower Allen Township commissioners weigh zoning changes that could allow large neighborhood-style development | PennLive.com

Quote:
Someday people could be strolling down the main street of a town center not far from their homes on rural land in Lower Allen Township that has been in the family of Emerson Lesher for five generations. The proposed development would have a dense core area with retail and commercial businesses, restaurants and multi-family housing such as apartments and townhomes. The density would diminish as development spread outward from the core area.
I abhor suburbs, but this is a big step in the right direction. Suburbs to me combine the worst of rural living (long commute, zero walkability, high infrastructure costs) with the worst of city living (lack of open space, noise, congestion, lack of privacy). Development like this goes a long way towards fixing some (but not all) of those issues. You've got a handful of retail businesses within walking distance, you've got beautifully landscaped green space, and you've got a layout that heavily favors pedestrians and bicycles over cars. This is a far cry from the cookie-cutter developments where every townhome looks the same and cars rule the day.

I'm sure there have to be some more developments like this out towards Philly and Pittsburgh.
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Philly
8,891 posts, read 7,809,849 times
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Home | MAGNOLIA PLACE
this one is actually on the edge of a borough and will include a victory brewpub
fwiw, in the philly area, boroughs themselves are now growing as fast as the counties (sprawl) which indicates, to me, a change in the market place. this is also the case in lancaster. in dauphin, the boroughs have still been shrinking (except carlisle) so the trend may not have gotten there quite yet. Of course, borough and city development is often old urbanist, one off parcel development by companies of varying size as opposed to large developments designed from the ground up in all aspects.
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:32 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
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Wow - those look nice. $319k actually seems surprisingly cheap for new luxury construction in that area.

All of the articles I've read about the local new urbanism developments feature the township commissioners and/or land owners saying "yes, THIS is what we've been waiting for". Mixed use development has a ton of pros and no cons aside from personal preference. Ditto on high walkability. I still regret that we're not seeing this kind of revitalization in the cities (at least not around here), but this is something.
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:09 AM
 
Location: Philly
8,891 posts, read 7,809,849 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DowntownHarrisburg View Post
Wow - those look nice. $319k actually seems surprisingly cheap for new luxury construction in that area.

All of the articles I've read about the local new urbanism developments feature the township commissioners and/or land owners saying "yes, THIS is what we've been waiting for". Mixed use development has a ton of pros and no cons aside from personal preference. Ditto on high walkability. I still regret that we're not seeing this kind of revitalization in the cities (at least not around here), but this is something.
there's actually quite a bit going on in Philadelphia
PlanPhilly | East Falls "passive house" cleared by zoning board
PlanPhilly | New apartment buildings from Pearl and DAS Architects
Quote:
Blackstone Development, known for student-housing projects around Temple University, wants to turn an entire block in South Kensington (aka Old Kensington) into a 277,000-square-foot mixed-use development with 247 residential units, a restaurant, a cafe, and other commercial and live-work spaces
Piazza North? Another mega mixed-use development proposed in S. Kensington (UPDATED) | Philadelphia City Paper | 06/20/2013

you're starting to see it in lancaster, though the new proposed midrise is pretty atrocious in its design (a blank wall at a corner in downtown). I'm not sure why it hasn't made it to dauphin county. oddly, mixed use had been outlawed for decades. whether people wanted it or not, it was illegal to build
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,439 posts, read 2,008,052 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pman View Post
though the new proposed midrise is pretty atrocious in its design (a blank wall at a corner in downtown).
I'd have to see it myself. I'm a huge fan of brutalism in architecture. If I could have found a house with polished concrete and steel exterior walls, I would have bought it in an instant.

Quote:
I'm not sure why it hasn't made it to dauphin county. oddly, mixed use had been outlawed for decades. whether people wanted it or not, it was illegal to build
Fat lot of good that did us.

"Why would anyone want to walk a block to the grocer when they can just drive 10 minutes to the supermarket?" asked the 1950s planning commissioner in a totally unironic way.
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:29 AM
 
Location: Philly
8,891 posts, read 7,809,849 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DowntownHarrisburg View Post
I'd have to see it myself. I'm a huge fan of brutalism in architecture. If I could have found a house with polished concrete and steel exterior walls, I would have bought it in an instant.
brutalism is a pretty awful form of architecture for cities. it's best kept to battlefields and middle of nowhere locations. it's just bad urban design, whether you like the aesthetics of windowless boxes or not.

here's the development
Architect plans $5 million, 7-story condominium project in downtown Lancaster - News
Quote:
Originally Posted by DowntownHarrisburg View Post
Fat lot of good that did us.

"Why would anyone want to walk a block to the grocer when they can just drive 10 minutes to the supermarket?" asked the 1950s planning commissioner in a totally unironic way.
the ideas actually have their roots in the 1920's modernism when garden apartments became all the rage. they made their way into planning circles in the 30's. most famously, GM presented a vision of the future based on modernist ideas, at the 1938 world's fair...a world where people lived in subdivisions, shopped elsewhere, and worked in a third place, all connected by highways...the idea caught on with FDR's New Deal cabinet but because fo the way, not much was built until the 50's. the phrase, ideas have consequences comes to mind.
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:55 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,439 posts, read 2,008,052 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pman View Post
brutalism is a pretty awful form of architecture for cities.
No way. I want to feel like I'm walking around a dystopian Blade-Runner-esque kind of world. I want a city designed entirely of brutalism. All brutalism, all the time. Nothing but hard nondescript walls everywhere you look. I am not kidding.

But since I can't have that, I'll settle for urban reclamation as it's going now.

This is the kind of thing that's really going to help cement Lancaster as a superior urban alternative to Harrisburg. Population lead aside, anyone who wants to live in Harrisburg proper is limited to rowhomes, early-20th-century singles and doubles, and the 1500 Project.

Rowhomes are fine, don't get me wrong. Most of our stock is very old, and that's fine too. Ditto on the singles and doubles. The 1500 Project is a new condo building that is priced far and away from what the market will bear, as evidenced by the fact that they've sold only a handful since opening 18 months ago. Great build quality, great design -- like living in an Ikea -- but $380k is not even close to reasonable for a 1200 sqft two bedroom condo in Harrisburg. When we went looking for homes in the sub-$200k price range (entirely reasonable for the city) earlier this year, we found:
  • A home in that price range that had modifications not approved by the HARB. Since basically every home in Harrisburg is considered "historic", and because Pennsylvania law does not have a statute of limitations on enforcing restrictions, and because future owners are legally liable for the actions of past owners, this is a huge problem. Also, it had 100A service. Upgrading to 200A would have required us to dig up the street and have PPL run new service to the home. Great neighborhood and great open floorplan, though.
  • A 3600 square foot four-story townhome in an amazing neighborhood of oversized civil-war-era rowhomes. All was going great until the building started shaking as we walked through it. Turns out the front wall had separated from the upper floor and was starting to peel away from the building. We ended the tour. Not only has it not been condemned, it's still on the market.
  • A beautiful rowhome in a great neighborhood that had it all. Central air, built-in cabinetry (looks like all craftsman style), immaculate hardwood floors, and best of all, the top floor had been left entirely in its original condition. There was also a wrought iron exterior spiral staircase to the private two-car garage. Priced well below market value, and then we discovered that the owner had rewired the home himself. Badly.
  • A rowhome that had been restored in the 1980s to be ultramodern. Actually looked pretty neat and was very well done. We actually signed on, but had to kill the sale when the inspector discovered the worst termite infestation I've ever seen. He pushed a spoon through a load-bearing beam. A spoon.
  • A beautiful ultramodern loft condo built in 2004. Spiral staircase, curved ceililng, three stories open all the way, hardwood and exposed concrete throughout, green construction, high-end kitchen, the works. Except it was part of a failed (about 15% complete) condo development, and the HOA was in really bad shape after having their entire funds embezzled by a former member.
  • Varying combinations of all of the above.

Our criteria was an open floorplan in a good neighborhood with good walkability and a structure that wouldn't fall over or kill us, under $200k. We could have been talked up to maybe $250k if it came with an amazing view or looked like Mies van der Rowe himself designed it. We couldn't find it. After three months of hard searching, we resigned to moving out to the 'burbs.

The point of this story being, if Lancaster can build a modern midrise with open floorplans in a walkable neighborhood, that's going to help draw in the young professional crowd. That's going to help solidify the customer base for neighborhood retail, which will help bring in even more residents, which will create even more demand for good modern housing, and the cycle continues.

In Harrisburg, we don't have any of that. We have some "good enough" rental properties, but there's absolutely no high density living for sale in the city at a reasonable price. With 20- and 30-somethings moving back into urban areas at an increasing rate, that's a really bad point for the city to have to contend with.
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Old 08-15-2013, 10:32 AM
 
3,183 posts, read 5,588,075 times
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Does Harrisburg City still require a City home inspection on transfer, or did that die in the collapse of the Reed regime?

Hershey has more of a problem than the folks in control there realize. The company and the med center bring in new talent. If they want to start a new family and have 5.5 kids, they are overjoyed until they ask where Nordstrom is. If they are single or childfree, if they come to work there they might wind up living over in Mechanicsburg or in Lancaster City until they get sick of the commute and find a different job. What small business pops up usually flees to Hummelstown or Palmyra. The township is proud of their multi-use trail that just doesn't quite get all the way to the employment centers or quite all the way into the newest housing stock to offer alternative commuting options around rush hour or tourist traffic.
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Old 08-15-2013, 10:48 AM
 
Location: Far from where I'd like to be
25,613 posts, read 32,401,940 times
Reputation: 37729
Quote:
Originally Posted by DowntownHarrisburg View Post
, and the lots are arranged for maximum profitability instead of visual appear or uniqueness.

That's all changing with the New Urbanism movement,
LMAO.

If you think "New Urbanism" developers aren't gunning for maximum profitability, let me tell you about a bridge you may be interested in buying ...
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Old 08-15-2013, 11:16 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,439 posts, read 2,008,052 times
Reputation: 973
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
LMAO.

If you think "New Urbanism" developers aren't gunning for maximum profitability, let me tell you about a bridge you may be interested in buying ...
I never said New Urbanism wasn't profitable. I said the lots are arranged for appeal. If you really want to dig down into it, that's probably why the homes in places like Walden are flying off the shelves for $400k+ while cookie-cutter developments -- all arranged for maximum efficiency and profitability -- are not.
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