This townhouse-type duplex was completed less than a year ago, and is one in a row of 4 identical duplexes, totaling 8 units. These are fee simple townhouses, meaning that the original single family lots were divided down the middle into two 25’ X 100’ lots with a common wall dividing the properties. This type of development appears to be the most common use of the R2.5 zone, which allows 1 dwelling per 2500sf of land area. All units have a garage occupying much of the lower level, with the main levels floating above the ground plane, demonstrating a phenomenon we have been calling the floor is lava.
At the ground level, instead of stoops, yards and front porches, we have a large paved area, occupied by vehicles. Each duplex pair shares a curb cut.
These houses were constructed on the site where four single-family houses were demolished, in what was, until recently, a primarily African American community. According to city records, one of these units sold earlier this year for precisely $1M, so while adding housing may help home prices in the aggregate, at block and neighborhood level, we wouldn’t expect any relief from gentrification from this type of development – in fact, quite the reverse!
We selected this project for a case study to illustrate the tendencies of the market at present, and thus illustrate the likely outcome of upzones without additional controls on building form. The City’s Residential Infill Project says very little about building design, and we believe it is worth noting that without the addition of such controls, projects of this type will likely become much more ubiquitous in our neighborhoods. You’ll pardon our cynicism when we roll our eyes at blandishments such as “Duplexes are beautiful.” Well, some are but those tend to be historic examples, built before a time when accommodating automobiles was a primary driver of building and site design. So be careful what you wish for.