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x99 last won the day on July 21 2012

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  1. It sounds to me like this is more than just blight monitoring or broken windows policing. It's more of a proposal to incorporate a number of CPTED principles into the zoning codes. Why the opposition to this? If anyone can find a study showing that CPTED does not work, I would love to see it. Most of the individual studies and various meta-analyses I have seen indicate that it does, in fact, reduce the incidence of criminal activity. I do wonder about the bit about what you can put in windows. I don't think they would say, "Gee, you can't put expensive cell phones in the window of a cell phone store, or expensive jewelry in the window of a jewelry store." That would just be stupid. I assume the ordinance would say you cannot block the windows. For example, I wish they had had more CPTED stuff in play for the Dollar General redesign on State. That was a lot of terribly considered design decisions by (I assume) the corporate people there. That store should be two or three times busier than it is. Unfortunately, it still looks like a closed off crime den dump from the outside. On the inside, it's clean, but it's a cavern. Comparing that to the redone Family Pantry in the linked article is a perfect contrast of how a few tweaks to an ordinance could make a good difference. One now looks good. The other still looks dumpy, probably because DG corporate completely misjudged the area based on census statistics. If you were going to pick a store to try to rob without getting caught, you would pick the DG. I don't necessarily see the harm in forcing street-facing windows for any commercial space undergoing a redesign and reconfiguration, if they're already spending a few hundred thousand or more on permitted work. They could always include some sort of exception for circumstances where it isn't feasible.
  2. Very different. More of less all of the disaster is changed. It's pretty much what I posted a month or two should be fixed. They scrapped the weird Hardiboard fill between brick "columns" on each edge, added window hoods, and put a better cornice on it. The whole "what in the world were they thinking" factor is remediated. Personally, I prefer more distinctive, interesting designs that show a better understanding of good traditional architecture, which this is not (but neither was the old Wild Bunch, in fairness). What I prefer, though, is always risky because most architects are entirely incapable of doing it well. It's tough for a lot of them to pin down an old building by decade, and walk through the myriad styles that were prevalent from, say, 1870 through 1910. For better or worse, that body of knowledge isn't often taught, which makes it difficult to work within those styles to come up with something new, yet still inventive and appropriate. Still, there is no reason for this not to sail through. It's basic--more basic even than what is replaces--and a very "safe" design, but it doesn't detract at all from the historic buildings around it. That still puts it above 90% of the proposals you see in historic districts. EDIT: Time flies. I posted suggestions for this building back in November. They pretty much followed them to a tee. They should have just asked me first and saved 8 months... That design at 1201 annoys me. They're showing some good chops with the right half of the building. That's actually a really, really nice piece of work for this historic district. I'm assuming here that the shadow lines over the windows are developed from four or five layers of brick recesses, and not just colored materials. If they actually did that, actually came up with something that for all the world looks like a load-bearing facade with a heavy window recess, in a very coherent design, my hat's off to them. It borrows from buildings about 4 decades after my favorite "new historical" construction next to Martha's Vineyard, but it's every bit as good as that one. Then there's that ... thing ... on the left. WHY?! Why not just give us two great buildings? Why insist on ruining it with a building that pays respect to and uses for inspiration precisely nothing in the entire district? Put up a Victorian corner confection there... clock tower, turret, or something, and contrast that against the building on the right and the gas stations. Take a long, hard stare at the Jeffrey Richard Salon building and some historic photos of corner buildings. Architects love the "contrast" bit, but there are ways to do it nicely in a historic district other than a glass wall.
  3. Just how many times do I have to post my favorite South Park homeless clip? Security isn't the solution. A big shiny bus to California is the solution. "California... is nice to the homeless. California... super cool to the homeleeeeess. ... Lots of rich peopleeee... Giving change to the homeless..." So much cheaper. Such a better solution. After decades of trying all the other solution, we really should at least try.. Seriously, though, Studio Park will present a possible problem: Hundreds of people who don't know any better actually giving them money within walking distance of the shelters. Why do people think every exit ramp has a random homeless (or at least fake homeless) guy standing sentry? IT WORKS. If people would stop buying the "I need food" line all of 300 feet from a soup kitchen, and keep their wallets closed, it would solve 90% of the "uncomfortableness" problem.
  4. That's a pretty rational assessment of ridesharing. I'm inclined to agree that it doesn't really solve any congestion or cost issues at all, except perhaps for making the load in parking ramps nominally lighter. When various studies look at the cost to own a vehicle, they often consider the cost to own a vehicle that is less than 4 years old, with full insurance coverage. The reality is that the automotive fleet is much older, and the insurance costs much lower. Owning a 10 or even 15 year old car and insuring it really is not that expensive compared to the cost of "sharing" someone's brand new ride. It's probably cheaper. The wear parts are all dirt cheap, the oil changes are dirt cheap, the insurance costs are dirt cheap, and the other operating costs aren't much if anything at all over a new vehicle. Ridesharing seems like a road to nowhere, unless you're someone who buys a brand new vehicle and just lets it sit, causing your worst expense to be depreciation. I know a guy who bought a car for $600, and insures it with PLPD. Since he, like 60% of Americans, has no assets to speak of, I'm sure the liability coverage is also the legal minimum. It wouldn't surprise me if he only pays $500 a year to operate the thing, plus gas. Uber and Lyft can't possible compete with that. Even the bus can't compete with that on a macroeconomic cost level, not even at NYC occupancy levels. And on a "greenness" quotient? It takes NYC style occupancy levels just to hit fuel consumption figures that can compete with a new Camry. It takes a lot of fuel to push those heavy things around, heat them, and idle them every 500 feet, even with the Hybrid buses. Not to mention that you have to overbuild all of the roads to handle the weight. I sometimes wonder how much better off we would be just banning everything over 10,000 pounds transiting local streets unless it was absolutely necessary (fire trucks, construction vehicles, etc), and imposing taxes based on vehicle weight and height. And then, run the bus system with far smaller shuttle vans 90% of the time. Lately, I've noticed that one of the most significant congestion producers is buses trying to make it through busy intersections, and then continuing to block them after the light turns. Not only do, say, 5 cars not get through for every one bus, but probably 4x the occupant load of the bus stands idle when the bus acts as plug in the works, and probably 1x the occupancy load of bus gets impeded whenever it stops for loading and unloading. When traffic is heaviest, the buses do the most damage to the flow. That makes me wonder whether the bus system can ever really achieve any of the lofty promises claimed for it. I don't think running a bunch of vehicles 5x the size of everything around them is something any traffic engineer would prescribe. Tough problems, no easy solutions. Too bad subways are so expensive.
  5. The duplexes are a start, I suppose, but I always though that recommendation was completely stupid. It seemed to be mostly arbitrary, and probably should have been heavily attacked on those grounds. Unfortunately, that would have mean supporting the logical alternative: Allowing up to a quadplex everywhere by right within 300 feet of a contiguous commercial area of a certain size, and allowing them by right on all major city streets which have a certain traffic count, provided that parking minimums of 1 space per unit can be met. Most of those areas are already heavily populated by split up houses, and it's a logical place for more. Why every corner lot in the city should have a duplex never made sense to me. Unfortunately, the neighborhood associations chose to attack them on a completely asinine basis, and from what you are saying, lost.
  6. Design team? Jim Bob and his brother Billy Bob? Nah, that's not fair. I don't want to sell good ol' boys short. Even good country folk know better than to put cheap parts on the pickup cuz it looks like sheeeeeeeeeeyit. This whole thing is just a disgrace.
  7. As an FYI, email boxes are probably lighting up with friendly neighborhood opposition to the proposal to make two family dwelling status available by right on corner lot houses. The battle has begun! Do your Urban Planeteer duty and write a letter of support to yer commish! Of course, the NAs won't admit that they are elitists, so the Heritage Hill NA ginned up the same old ridiculous old heap of bulls---, claiming that adding apartments just results in more expensive dwellings and has no effect on prices at all. I'm sure Eastown and the rest aren't far behind. Apparently, basic math, supply and demand curves and virtually every single study ever done on the topic have managed to completely elude these people. One wonders whether they are actually this stupid, or lying intentionally. If they want to oppose apartments in residential neighborhoods, fine--have at it. Why can't they just admit they are homeowner elitists who dislike renters, and stop trying to gin up opposition with an argument that is arguably fraudulent? I suppose the cognitive dissonance when they realize they're as bad or worse than the greedy land developers would probably be just too much to handle... For the letter writing among you, let's do some friendly maths: $250,000 loan at, oh, 4.5%. Let's tack on property taxes, insurance. About $1770.00 a month. But--oh--maintenance! And water bills! Better tack on about $4000 a year minimum for maintenance in the old place (roofs, furnaces, and all the other good stuff) and $1000 for water. So another, what.. $400 a month? So we're already at $2200 a month to live in "their" neighborhood before we even deal with saving up that little down payment problem. Let's go FHA on that thing with only about 3.5% down and.. What's this? $9000 minimum to move in? Plus other closing costs and charges? So the price of entry to BUY in Heritage Hill is easily $10,000 to get in, and then $2200 a month. And what if we need a "real" down payment? $25,000! Let me tell you who often (but obviously not always) doesn't have that kind of money, statistically speaking: MINORITIES, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS, SINGLE MOTHERS AND WORKING CLASS FAMILIES. But who often CAN come up with $1200 a month? Oh. The same people that can't afford to buy. Yeah, that's right. It's just a retreaded, gussied up argument to make sure that only rich white people can get in, littered with phony concern. Arguably, they are basically advocating redlining the less well-off. Hypocritical, assuming they are your typical "social justice" types with yard signs proclaiming their virtue. Which a large number of them are., since I have seen their signs. At least the people in East and FH have the decency not the declare their concern and virtue while stomping on you and proclaiming how much their boot is for your own good. Now, this is perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek and exaggerated, but it's also, um, basically true. "You gotta be rich(ish) to get in, even though we really, really feel for you. You just have a little too much money to quality for our full sympathy... we'd rather have some real poor people who don't work (which we know we won't get because no one turns houses into low income housing projects)." Now, who wants to be the first to draft an email calling declaring that CDBG funded neighborhood associations opposing more rental units are racist anti-immigrant thugs who hate women, the working class, and the poor, and are really just doing the dirty work of the big orange-haired boogey man and ICE? Ain't me. I'm just droppin' bread crumbs, people. A+B=C, and all...
  8. Hopefully it isn't an ugly POS like that thing posted above. (Just thought I would toss out my positive comment for the day.)
  9. Horrifying for ADUs. They killed them. How foolish. Do they even realize what they've done?
  10. Well, that explains how they are going to squeeze the parking in, although it's still a little tight. They have a plan, but its going to come down to implementation with HPC and planning. It's also important to note that MSHDA credits and income limits are a far cry from the dedicated Section 8 housing across the street. It would be nice if they do some market rate in there too. A mix is generally a good thing to have.
  11. Thanks for posting that. I think it's a perfect pictorial illustration of my claim that "over garage ADUs are dead under the new regs". All it takes is this picture and the aerial plat view to prove it. What you have built here is the most cost-effective garage ADU possible, arguably the only style that Grand Rapids' rents would support. And this is no longer buildable unless you have at least 25' behind your garage to the rear lot line. So why they are still wasting time with ADUs is very confusing to me. Getting rid of an $1800 fee to get a rubber stamp while tacking on about $20,000+ in construction costs is not exactly a step forward.
  12. If that was the look they wanted, it would have been better to just rip off half the cladding to pull off some sort of interesting "reveal" look. That would have been a conversation piece and a bit of an architectural lark for a lot of right reasons. Unfortunately, I don't think CWD will probably ever sell any of their buildings, and if they do manage to get tenants, they will never bother finishing the buildings. But I hope you're right. Hopefully tenants will get sick of people asking why their building looks like garbage. But I suspect most people won't notice all the plate glass, the painted cement block, the missing window arches, and all of the other garbage CWD thought was okey dokey.
  13. I walked by this project recently. What a dumpster fire. I almost think it would have been better if they had left well enough alone, if they weren't willing to do it right. I realize there were some difficulties, but... yikes. It's the architectural equivalent of some guy finding a Duesenberg Model J in a field under a tarp, slapping it full of bondo and house paint, and thinking that's okay. It ain't. Should have left the tarp on, or done at least a half decent job of it.
  14. Of course they would be. People are just silly about this stuff. Apartments are the devil for some reason. The occupancy levels in most 2000+ square foot houses in Grand Rapids are a fraction of what they were designed for. Precious "homeowners" just want to hate on evil "renters" because they (start the litany of lies) destroy property values, don't care about the neighborhood, cause inordinate amounts of traffic, bring drugs and crime, and kidnap children. Or something like that. The hilarious thing to me is that none of the publicly funded "neighborhood" associations (who will probably gin up a fresh round of opposition) have the word "homeowner" in their titles. But, they mostly are. As I think I've mentioned before, if they choose to generate opposition to things like this, the city should choose to take a long, hard look at all that juicy CDBG funding they pass out to them for "doing good" (or something like that) for their lower-income residents. Almost all of whom, incidentally, are renters. Seems sort of foolish to keep biting the hand that feeds you. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how this round goes. Maybe they'll wise up.
  15. All things considered, it's probably the least parking-intensive use for the site. Although, I think they still might be a little shy on parking. At one point, there was some talk of putting parking in the basement of the building, but I'm not sure how feasible that ever was. Just thank your lucky stars it isn't proposed to be a 50 unit LIHTC project or a bunch of micro-units. I'm not that area could have handled either without having severe problems either parking or crime. The Section 8 project across the street for some reason has always had a significant crime problem. I suspect they're going to need variances up the wazoo for this project, and it will be interesting to see if the neighborhood ends up supporting it. Tentatively, I think they probably should, since most of the alternatives are far worse.
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