Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Missing Middle: Housing Opportunity for Raleigh

I recently stumbled across this article about the Missing Middle housing type in cities across America.  It was incredibly refreshing to me to find this article because until finding it, I was pretty sure that I was the only person who recognized this missing piece in the housing market (in Raleigh anyway). We have big condo buildings and houses, with not much in between. 

Those who know me know that I have been involved in the Blount Street Commons project, along with Peter Rumsey, for the past two years.  Blount Street Commons was originally envisioned as a neighborhood that would recreate the past and bring the wealthy families back to Blount Street.  (For a little history, check out this old article).  In addition to the wealthy families in the historic homes along Blount Street, there would be a mix of row homes, and condos to complete the mix.  Needless to say, the downturn in 2008 had a huge impact on the neighborhood and a few things had to be adjusted.  Things are picking up now and the neighborhood is making a comeback, which brings us back to the Missing Middle. 

There are five empty lots along Blount Street that were originally planned for single family homes.  Given the character of the street, these homes would need to be quite large, at least 3500-4000 sf, and plans would have to be approved by RHDC.  The market has simply not been there for single family homes, so we've been brainstorming on other uses of the space while still bringing residents to the neighborhood.  

In thinking about the demographics of downtown and how the residents are largely either young professionals or empty nesters/retirees, and being someone who hates stairs myself, it occurred to me that if you wanted to live in a flat (one level condo), you had no choice but to live in a large condo building with 200+ other people.  

Other cities have 2 and 3 story walk ups with 3 one-level units.  Some buildings have six or eight apartments in one building, essentially a low to mid-rise building in a more residential neighborhood.  Raleigh does not have this kind of product. 

We do have a few small scale condo buildings:  Martin Place has 12 units (and stairs), the BSC row houses are new and clustered in small rows of 4 (also have stairs), and Hillsborough Street has a few buildings with less than 25 units, but they lack the quality that can be found in today's condo homes. A few of the condos built along Cabarrus Street in Boylan Heights are one level, but that's all we have. There aren't many options for low-rise, one-level living with high quality features in an elevator building.  The developers of Fairview Row have recognized this, but they are targeting the luxury market with $800k plus units. 

I believe that Blount Street Commons *is* the Missing Middle for Raleigh and it provides the ultimate mixed use space only blocks from downtown.  The neighborhood has grand historic homes, row homes, carriage homes, and town homes with rooftop decks (coming soon). The mix of businesses from the AIA building to Gallery C to the Seaboard shops only a block away and the Person St shops around the corner put you right in the middle of everything.  The ability to stroll through Oakwood on a morning walk, walk a few blocks to museums and the Capital, and jump on the R-Line for anything else gives this location a unique and intimate feel while being in the heart of everything.

So - back to the Missing Middle.  I strongly believe that there is demand for one-level living in a neighborhood like Blount Street Commons.  Picture what looks like a large historic home (but newly constructed), with 4-6 condos inside with an elevator, nice shared common space, and well designed floor plans.  If that sounds interesting to you, shoot me a note