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Old 11-17-2014, 10:45 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Variety is the spice of life--and of urbanity. I like a mixture of densities, in a neighborhood or even a block. It's not hard to design a block that mixes small apartment buildings with single-family homes, especially if the apartments are designed in complementary style. Late 19th century building styles were more vertical, elevated from the sidewalk level so they provided some privacy and prominence even on a small lot with a small front yard. Modern "urban infill" housing tends to resemble these older styles, in form if not in function--the Boston "three-up," the row house in its detached or attached variants, the backyard in-law quarters, and the mixed-use building, which can also resemble a house, with living quarters upstairs and retail downstairs. If the mixed-use building provides necessary neighborhood conveniences, this promotes walkability, sparing neighbors the need to drive to faraway commercial centers. And, of course, the third factor is access to transit. The traditional neighborhoods shown in the OP's links depended on some form of transit to get its residents to distant points, but roads also provide accessibility via other modes--bikes, cars, even the automobile.

I'm not horrified by the idea of actually seeing my neighbors. They're nice folks, we can see each other from the front porch or if I open a window but modesty and privacy can be preserved through use of a "curtain," which is a piece of cloth stretched over the window so others can't see in when you're doing things the public doesn't want to see.

Not everyone has the same idea of "goldilocks" density, but there is no reason why multiple densities can't be offered in the same neighborhood--except for archaic "zoning" regulations that declare that single-family homes next to six-plex apartments will somehow cause a disruption in time and space.
Yeah, regardless of which density you're going for, I think there should be a mix, whether that's a mix of row houses and apartment buildings for denser neighbourhoods or a mix of SFH, 2-3 flats, bungalow courts and lane way homes for more moderate densities. And you'd want different densities at the neighbourhood level too depending on distance from downtown or rapid transit.

The one type of infill that's missing most in Toronto is small apartment buildings. You'll have townhouse infill including stacked and back to back townhouses which can be quite dense (ex https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.66698...KYFfNQXn-w!2e0)
And you'll have high-rise condos usually at 200-1000 units or mid rises at 50-200 units, but very little with 2-20 units.
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:08 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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As to the OP, some of the moderate density examples look rather nice. However, in most cases the density is low enough that cars have a big advantage over transit for out of neighborhood trips and over walking for within neighborhood trips. With that, transit ridership will be rather low resulting in lowered transit frequency and coverage and local business placement will be less pedestrian oriented. I'm more interested in a "walking city" where getting around without a car doesn't have as much of a convenience advantage and the larger streets are full of pedestrians. So I don't bring up these compromise neighborhoods that much as I'm interested in them as much. Not saying they're bad, though I think sometimes posters overstate their walkability and how different they are from modern suburbia (in particular, newer California burbs are similar in density)

As I'm used to denser cities, I don't find the examples that urban, I think much of older American development is also low density. The Minneapolis example did look dense, that Maplewood, Missouri example was no denser than a postwar suburb I grew up in for part of my childhood. You could walk to nearby shops, which was nice but few rode local transit. Most drove everywhere. As for whether it's a good compromise density, many who those who like suburbia would prefer more space while those interested in busier, more urban places find them not enough. In some American cities that do have denser center city neighborhoods, the in between neighborhoods often have seen a decline. Usually other historical and demographic factors are bigger factors.
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Old 11-17-2014, 01:29 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Whenever we discuss density on this forum, it always seems like our only options are either rowhomes and highrises or sprawled-out McMansions. Arguments against urbanism on this forum often are critical of environments like this where everyone is "packed in like sardines." Frankly, I totally understand that-rowhome and apartment-type settings are crowded, and they are certainly not for everyone, only those who really, really want to live close to or in a certain area. In otherwords, they're great if you have very little land and a lot of demand, but that's usually not the case outside San Francisco, DC, NYC, Boston, or other similar cities. However, this kind of built environment isn't even close to being the most common type of urban development for US cities. I feel like both urban opponents and proponents ignore moderate-density urban environments (think streetcar suburbs). This kind of development is frankly the most common type of housing in all cities, so it's not like these aren't common-it is the typical urban environment for all cities not on the East Coast or in San Francisco. Why don't we pay attention to built environments like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this? Notice that not only are these all single-family homes, very well spaced apart (not "packed like hamsters"), and they come with good-sized lots and yards, but they also are in very walkable, urban environments that are amicable to mass-transit development. And some of those homes even have space for driveways and garages! It's the best of both worlds. Why are we as a forum not giving built environments like these more attention, and why are developers not building more infill like this?
In terms of population density, I'm not sure that they actually rank less dense than rowhouse neighborhoods. For example, this area in Pittsburgh actually has a lower population density than this area in the suburbs. The rowhouse neighborhood has lots of DINKS and single people occupying whole homes, while the suburban area has fairly substantial families occupying parcels roughly twice as big,

Regardless, the core question - why these areas aren't "appreciated" is pretty easy.

1. They are "legacy areas" - no one builds new streetcar suburbs any longer, which is basically what all the links are.

2. In many older metros (for example, in the Northeast), the streetcar suburbs are far enough from the core that there are bands of 19th century neighborhoods in between them and the CBD, which are the locus of most of gentrification now. This is less true in portions of the country where the streetcar neighborhoods are the oldest still intact residential neighborhoods of course.

3. If you ended up with a large parcel of land in the urban core (or surrounding it) building a new streetcar suburb would be a waste (from a developer's standpoint) compared to apartments or townhouses. The property would have been expensive to acquire, and by making it detached SFH with reasonable-sized (for cities) yards, you're basically forcing it to be relatively expensive for the urban market. Only zoning requirements would keep the area detached SFH, and in that case it's highly likely (again, unless form-based zoning blocked it) they would be built in a much more suburban fashion than the historic houses were.

4. As to the legacy neighborhoods, many of them have good walking infrastructure, but lack much in the way of walkable amenities. They may have a business district which is a few blocks long, but it was never constructed to be a hopping place, because back in the day you took the streetcar to shop in the CBD or another regional shopping nexus. In some cases these are semi-blighted, in some cases somewhat gentrified. But they're not big enough you'll spend all day or night hanging out there - it will get boring fast.

The bottom line is that streetcar suburbs simply aren't hip, and they never will be unless they are in a city lacking any more urban neighborhoods, or if there is a later peppering of density added in the form of scattered apartment buildings and townhouses. And I say this living in an area functionally identical to what you just linked to, minus a lack of street trees.
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Old 11-17-2014, 04:58 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
The bottom line is that streetcar suburbs simply aren't hip, and they never will be unless they are in a city lacking any more urban neighborhoods, or if there is a later peppering of density added in the form of scattered apartment buildings and townhouses. And I say this living in an area functionally identical to what you just linked to, minus a lack of street trees.
In the case of Toronto, the wealthiest neighbourhoods are mostly streetcar suburbs (and streetcar suburb-like, such as Ledbury Park, Leaside and The Kingsway), even wealthier than the wealthy auto-oriented suburbs. They're too expensive to be hip though, they're mostly home to lawyers, doctors, professors, and businessmen, there aren't really any artists or young adults, at least not in the single family homes. They'll have yuppies living in the apartment nodes, but the hip neighbourhoods so far have been older pre-streetcar era neighbourhoods with row houses and industrial lofts.

BTW I think the Central Northside might be a bit denser than Dormont if you look at city blocks and exclude industrial areas and undeveloped areas, but it is pretty close. Dormont does have some small apartment buildings though and maybe also fewer vacant or parking lots.
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Old 11-18-2014, 08:18 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
In the case of Toronto, the wealthiest neighbourhoods are mostly streetcar suburbs (and streetcar suburb-like, such as Ledbury Park, Leaside and The Kingsway), even wealthier than the wealthy auto-oriented suburbs. They're too expensive to be hip though, they're mostly home to lawyers, doctors, professors, and businessmen, there aren't really any artists or young adults, at least not in the single family homes. They'll have yuppies living in the apartment nodes, but the hip neighbourhoods so far have been older pre-streetcar era neighbourhoods with row houses and industrial lofts.
Within Pittsburgh (proper), the wealth is concentrated in either streetcar suburban neighborhoods, or very early automobile neighborhoods. The wealthiest three areas are.

1. Squirrel Hill North - or rather portions thereof. Began getting built out in the late 19th century, but much of it wasn't built out until the 1920s. Here's an older streetscape, and here's a newer one.

2. Eastern Shadyside - Although the neighborhood is universally expensive these days, many of the grand houses were split into apartments during the 1960s and 1970s for college students. Eastern Shadyside maintained its old money feel overall though. The neighborhood does have an odd mix though, because many of the larger estates sold off their land during the 20th century, resulting in infill of all ages - right down to modest ranches.

3. Schenley Farms - This area near Oakland was all built out between 1900 and 1940. It's pretty eclectic, but all the homes are roughly similar size. Historically it was very popular with professors at the University of Pittsburgh, since they could walk to class, but the local real estate prices are so expensive I doubt many professors can afford to buy there now, unless they relocate from Cali or something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
BTW I think the Central Northside might be a bit denser than Dormont if you look at city blocks and exclude industrial areas and undeveloped areas, but it is pretty close. Dormont does have some small apartment buildings though and maybe also fewer vacant or parking lots.
I was going to say in that census block group of Central Northside was mostly residential, but looking at it again there is a minor industrial area to the west, along with a hospital near the eastern edge, which decrease density a lot. In addition, while the core of the Mexican War Streets is very intact, some of the blocks to the east have a fair number of missing teeth.

Still, the point remains that rowhouse neighborhoods are not always substantially less dense, population wise, than streetcar suburbs.
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Old 11-19-2014, 10:17 PM
 
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A lot of good comments here. Some observations:

I think people are overestimating the typical population densities in neighborhoods such as these. These lot dimensions suggest a housing density of roughly 8-9 units per acre, ie, the lots look to be about 40-45 wide and 100 to 150 deep. These are also SFHs, so people per lot is going to be suppressed. Throw in the fact that these blocks are uniformly residential and that means that needs such as schools, commercial, parkland, will need to be somewhere else in the greater area and of course ROWs chew up land. Areas with this type of uniform building typology on the neighborhood scale usually run 5-8K psm. I'm comparing this to what I know of a couple of the areas pictured, taking out some adjacent autocentric commercial within block groups to get to the high end of this range.

As others have mentioned, this isn't close to enough to support moderately commutable transit where jobs are somewhat dispersed in a region. I think it is a really nice density to build around planned commuter/TOD suburbs as the density gradient winds down. It's also works as walkable if it's adjacent to more dense areas that it can feed off in older urban settings. Cutting the standard suburban of 1/4 to 1/2 acre down to this scale going forward will produce only negligible benefits though.

A few adjustments could be made if we were working with a greenfield to bolster density to something more useful and transit-friendly while still staying with the spirit of the buildings and "feel" though. 1) Push the houses up closer to the streets. I live in something similar to these (on slightly narrower lots) and the front is wasted space. Bring 'em up 15-20 feet closer to the street, shorten the lots 10 feet, and push the remaining 5-10 feet to the back. It makes a huge difference in terms of useable space for entertaining at the back and adds density via shorter blocks without putting the homes directly on the sidewalk. 2) Narrow the streets a bit. Just a bit. It will add to the coziness without sacrificing unit space and privacy. 3) Integrate some multi-unit on corners and parcels adjacent to corners. Nothing wrong with 2-3 flats of similar dimension that respect the forms of the SFHs. These three things taken together would double the density of the neighborhood and put it somewhere in the territory where we can begin talking about transit-friendly areas (10-15K).

That to me is the real challenge: take the medium density building profile that is attractive to a lot of people, adjust the orientation and mix just a bit to keep people comfortable without resorting to a lot of rowhomes that turn more people off.
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Old 11-20-2014, 01:04 AM
 
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True enough--everyone has a favorite "happy medium," but I always like this image for "Goldilocks Density":

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Old 11-20-2014, 10:36 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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It is an idealized cartoon though.

The ratio of pedestrians to bike to motorized vehicles is

1:0:2 in "too dense"
4:3:2 in "just right"

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Old 11-20-2014, 11:11 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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The bicycle ratio going down at the highest densities might be realistic. Walking or transit become easy options relative to bicycling and roads are often too congested.

What's the ratio in this "too dense" spot?

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Fordh...,,0,-1.83&z=16
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:21 AM
 
Location: M I N N E S O T A
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Why can't we just stick to the current model.... high/medium density in the city, medium density in the inner burbs, low density in the outer suburbs, very very low density in the very outer suburbs.

Give people choices, like high density? move to the city... like low density? move to the suburbs.
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