The pandemic has us focusing more on the criteria for choosing a city, a neighborhood and a home. It comes down to aesthetics, economics and future happiness — the foundation of organic urbanism. Aesthetics drive the economics of a neighborhood and a home. The health of a city and neighborhood contributes to the happiness and the future value of a home. The sense of community magnifies the desirability of a home and neighborhood.
We have all been taught that owning a home is the American dream. We know that the purchase of a home is one of life’s most significant decisions and one’s most significant design decision. (Well, maybe you have just heard that from me.) We all know America and its culture are founded on the pursuit of happiness. And yet when most people buy a home, they put happiness on the back burner which robs them of the rich experience of living in a home that makes them happy every day.
As cities increasingly become enclaves for the rich and reservations for the poor, the debate rages on how to create inclusive urban growth to make cities less economically segregated and more vibrant. In Dallas, the Trinity River gives a geographic definition to the high income and low-income neighborhoods, dividing the historically prosperous northern half of the city from the historically downtrodden southern half of the city. The middle income families in Dallas continue to dwindle.
What Ron Wommack and his client realized was this rather dowdy spur of houses on very high ground adjacent to an abandoned railroad track would soon be a site overlooking the Santa Fe Trail, a running, walking, bicycling trail from White Rock Lake to Fair Park. What was a lesser street now became a very desirable hidden street relating to the Santa Fe Trail.
The recent challenges from the coronavirus force us to shelter at home and think of our home in whole new ways. Traditionally, when a buyer looks for a house to purchase, they are usually thinking about practical and financial criteria, like the square footage cost of the investment, how much house can they afford, are there large enough rooms for grand entertaining, and does the home have the latest and most stylish counter tops and appliances. The style of the house and whether the right public school is nearby is usually a major priority.
Shelter in place has us focused on the characteristics of a home that makes us happy. What makes us happy in a home has not changed, but since we are spending more time in a home than ever, we are focused on what makes us happy in a home. Neighborhoods become more important during shelter in place. Here is a home that exudes the elements of a home we enjoy when we shelter in place.
The Dallas city manager and housing director are proposing a devastating blanket zoning change: allowing ADUs (additional dwelling units), better known as granny flats, actually backyard rental houses, in single-family zoned neighborhoods. This change would allow a 44-foot wide by 30-foot tall rental house to be built on the back of a standard 50‑foot wide by 150-foot deep lot.
Density is the Holy Grail of New Urbanism, from creating new zoning for granny flats, rooming houses, townhouses, duplexes, fourplexes and backyard two-story rental houses in established neighborhoods to encouraging dense mixed use development on undeveloped or redeveloped land. The advantage of urban density and the idyllic effect of density has been the battle cry of urbanists and city planners for decades.
In 1990, when Dallas was going through its great economic depression, it actually had a chance to have more than just backyards and trees. It had a chance to have a version of New York’s Central Park. Southland Corporation had assembled 200 acres one small lot at a time. After the devastating economic downturn, this land became available to purchase for just pennies on the dollar.