3/18/2008

Sycamore Village - March Update

I've been following various pre-construction and construction developments here at Sycamore Village for the past two years. Here's what the corner of Sycamore and Jefferson looked like on Saturday afternoon.
IMG_2753
I spent a few moments last week walking the site and saw all sorts of houses in various stages of development. All sorts of vexing questions came to mind.
First, while the two block area surrounding - north and east - Sycamore Village is experiencing tremendous foreclosure sales - here, here and here - involving houses that were built in the last 10-15 years, who's asking the question about the real market demand for these heavily subsidized new builds at Sycamore Village? I mean why not buy a "new build" a block away for less than 20% of the proposed sale prices of these new houses? Or for that matter, where are the new owners coming from? Hamlin Park or other neighborhoods on the city's east side that are beginning to experience decline? Certainly not from the suburbs? Will be interesting to track for sure.

IMG_2573
click image to enlarge
Second, while City Hall creates an artificial demand - on a site with questionable environmentals - for additional "vinyl victorian" couldn't we have returned to a neighborhood closer to the core between Genesee and Broadway and simply complete it? Lots of empty lots adjacent to 10 and 15 year old brick houses that fit this unique urban place. Here's a pic of what that neighborhood looks like, just two blocks to the west of Sycamore Village. So many spaces for infill...
east side
Missed opportunity? i know.
Third, where's the innovation? If new housing is going to be built why not something different? Something green, energy efficient and something that reflects a more innovative approach to urban infill housing. So many opportunities to really get it right. Why not an international design competition for these spaces? For example, from a recent New York Times article - Learning from Tijuana - we learn that higher density and innovative urban housing development is being considered in Hudson, NY.
Picture 15
Another missed opportunity? Well, just heard about the proposal for the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home, a few blocks away. I'll be confirming some of these developments, soon.
Remember, this is what the Sycamore Village area looked like in September 2006 while standing at the corner of Mortimer and Sycamore. Earlier, this house - at the same corner stood 'till the summer of 2005. It had been recently re-roofed, was in excellenct structural condition and of course was later taken to a landfill.

In the country's second poorest city with the second largest of number of vacant properties/person in the country all we get is this heavily subsidized and ersatz 'vinyl victorian' crap. Why? Since when did being poor mean that we have to be so stupid?
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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agreed with the line that just because we are poor does not mean we have to be so stupid.

I drive to downtown on Michigan Ave each morning and see a boarded up brick home that could be rehabbed into a nice double near some inferior, recently built vinyl covered ranch houses.

Is there no money to be made in rehabbed property?

I think that the passage of time does not make a society smarter.

Mary B. said...

These houses could at least have a larger lot size. It looks as though in the front yard they are close to the street. The back yard seems pretty dinky to me. It's not as though the land the houses are being built on is worth anything. The houses are sitting up high because the soil is contaminated. I don't understand how the land will be leveled out once they fill in around the foundation?

Anonymous said...

Larger lots?!?! I thought this was a city?

MJ said...

I agree, the small lot sizes and desnse cluster of the houses is one of the unique selling points here. I hope the larger porches and interaction with the street become design bench marks here instead of the stoop with room for one person and a garage placement that only allows one car to fit in the driveway. This development is much better then what was started here and then stopped for the remedation.

The city needs a long term plan to in fill from this point back into the core. More urban designs like these and street scape improvements back to the core when the streets come up for replacement. Building a more dense cluster to support these and prop up the existing new builds. If spread out too far the buyer confidence is lost.

As I mentioned on BRO - the retail/housing project trying to get built over at Best and Jefferson would work great here. Put it on the old forge site or at the corner of Broadway and Jeffeson. Along with this development, the two of them would make a great gateway to this new build area onto the core down Broadway and Sycamore.

I too lament the lose of brick house that was on the corner. It could have been a model for reuse along side the new builds. A project where say 1 house for every 10 new builds get rehabbed if it is a significant structure. I think the all brick house would have qualified.

Mary b. said...

I live in an area of the city near downtown where newer homes were plopped down in an old neighborhood. I have a crappy vinyl house about five feet away from me. The middle class, educated new home owners never mingle with the rest of the neighborhood. They never "interact with the street". If the homes have dinky yards, I guess they will not attract homeowners with children. Of course , if you have children, and you can afford a house for $250,000, you live in the suburbs. The new home owners for Sickamore Village should be promised placement in City Honors School, if they have kids. Maybe that might entice people to buy in that neighborhood.

sbrof said...

"Third, where's the innovation? If new housing is going to be built why not something different? Something green, energy efficient and something that reflects a more innovative approach to urban infill housing. So many opportunities to really get it right."

Hey that's my thesis. If I ever get it done. ;)

Bruce Beyer said...

Dear MJ:

What planet do you live on? Or more precisely, what part of the "hood" do you live in?

Anonymous said...

Those houses sit up high because they are built on bedrock, all the contamination has been remediated

Rebuild Buffalo said...

Who would pay $200,000 to live on the east side of buffalo????? Every year at the City of Buffalo foreclosure auction there are thousands of properties for sale on the east side for nothing, I mean they cant even give away some of the property. Even in areas of the city where crime is no where near the problem it is in this area do you see prices at this level (with the exception of a few pockets). I fail to understand the logic involved in deciding to move forward with this development. Think how many more homes could have been redeveloped and rehabed with this money? And for the stretches of land that have vacant lots and distressed housing, clear the lots and increase the green space. When will we learn in this region/city we need better land use planning? We continue to loose population, yet we continue to spread out further and further.

Anonymous said...

Rebuild Buffalo

When was the last time you were in this part of the East Side, There are no more "vast tracks" of vacant land in this area anymore. I am glad that everyone doesn't have your attitude. Then this whole hood would be just that still. Hope your cosy in your Clarence crapper with $8,000 property tax bill.

Anonymous said...

As they finish these houses they really do look nice. But I still wish the city had more foresight. This block could have been an example of a "Green Complex". Several city blocks devoted to environmentally responsible building, with state of the art techniques. An example that might give us national attention, having positive news coverage of the city for once. As for all the other houses they are building on Hickory and all other streets, all I can say is nice try but these houses aren't going to last more than 30 years. I hope this is part of the city's overall plan. Build'em cheap get the hood rolling again and then maybe people will build real houses, where the face boards aren't rotting after 10 years and all the flashing is bend up. Perfect example is Pratt between Genesee and Broadway area. There isn't a new house there without rotting wood, missing siding. Thanks you HUD builders, but you can keep your $1 dollar, 5 gallon bucket of paint, your 10 year roofing products and your two left handed builders, who haven't figured out how to nail in siding into particle board yet. Sorry all just so sad to see people buy a new house that is falling apart already. I live in this area in a brick building that I paid 1/3 of the cost of these new houses. The building is 110 years older and has no problems. Hummm, guess you should stop tearing down brick buildings stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!

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