MCL, the largest residential builder in the city, has been responsible for three areas on the site which together comprise more than half of the developable area. Each of the three MCL areas has its own building type which includes, respectively: 92 attached townhouses, 34 “Prairie Style” detached single-family houses, and 36 “Chicago Homes” detached single family houses. Ogden Development and Thrush Development, on the other hand, concentrated solely on attached townhouses. Ogden’s Metropolitan Mews, is a garden style complex of 48 townhouses built around three interior courtyards. Similarly, Thrush Development’s Federal Square consists of smaller, stacked townhouses in buildings clustered around a series of landscaped pedestrian and parking courtyards. The latter, in particular, has paid close attention to its landscaping elements as part of its marketing point of “new age” living with “efficiency and the environment”. Both the efforts to attract the target audience through physical design and the attempts to provide functional mainstream amenities to sustain those communities are evident in Dearborn Park. One of the advantages to having several developers engaged in building new homes on the same site, is that the quality must be attractive not only to the suburbs, but within the city and within the site between developer models. In Dearborn Park, where construction was supposed to happen in phases, the demand for housing had to be competitive with the current market’s alternatives. This provided higher quality to buyers, particularly in the newness of features, and interior lifestyle. Contemporary features in MCL’s very traditional-looking homes, for example, read like the equipment for a high-tech laboratory: “two-zoned central air conditioning”; a “50 gallon, high recovery, gas hot water heater”; individual digital key pad security system with magnetic contacts at all doors and windows”; “a gas-fired furnace equipped with humidifier”, and — the simple conveniences of — “pre-wired telephone and cable television outlets in all rooms”.5 By contrast, the selling point for Thrush’s Federal Square townhouses assure buyers of the “new age of living” which “defines a commitment to reexamine every aspect of living in the ’80s… with a focus on efficiency and the environment”.
Accordingly, Thrush’s modern life takes place in a home where “wood casement windows, aluminum clad with argon gas between two panes of low E glass reflect 70% of the interior heat back into the room during the winter”. It also provides a homelife in which residents can program their thermostats according to their activities schedules “to reduce energy costs by 25%.” From a softer perspective, Thrush highlights its patios and private backyards on plan diagrams as “just like the ‘burbs!”. Also made clear to the buyer are the benefits of over 200 trees planted around their townhouses for noise abatement, absorption of heat and carbon monoxide, and not least, a habitat for “birds to sing and control insects.”6 The design and layout of the houses, although they are necessarily smaller than their suburban counterparts, are not spared the conventions of living spaces expected by contemporary standards. Many of the MCL models contain 3 or 4 bedrooms. They are available with an “optional finished lower level” (the club basement) , private back yards and detached two-car garages. Townhouses by the same company feature 2 bedrooms, 3 full baths, a family room, a country kitchen with deck, a fenced-in backyard, an a garage with roof top deck. Some of the models go beyond the conventional in order to make innovative use of city space. The “terrace homes” also by MCL are essentially a townhouses continuing a 22-foot wide duplex over top of a single level homes. The lower level is described by the company sales offices as a ranch flat (1,200 sq. feet) while the duplex on top is considered “a colonial” (1,800). The first level living space is created from expanded space on one floor, since the standard city townhouse has a 13-to 16 foot width. And though each “house” provides two to three bedrooms, “super” kitchens, private decks, and attached garages, the overall look of the structure from the outside is one of a large single townhouse. This ensures that the future-value of the buyer’s investment is not subjected to the possible problems of outdated style. 7 As an extension of the home, outdoor living is provided for in a variety of ways. Yards are an important feature of MCL’s Chicago homes, and although they are generally quite small, their practical utility is discussed as if they were large suburban lawns. In its seasonal newsletter to homebuyers, MCL gives residents tips on gardening and insect control. In a section called “Frequent Question from our Buyers”, the company assures customers that upon request, “a gas line to the terrace, yard, deck or patio is certainly available to enjoy the warm summer night barbecuing.
Additional outdoor space is acquired by using decks and balconies. Free-standing garage roofs in most of Dearborn Park are built flat so that decks can be constructed across their surfaces. Back porches, often in addition to the garage deck, extend from the rear of houses, from kitchens and family room. In both cases, and even when it conflicts with the themed-historicism of brightly painted Victorian style framehouses (MCL’s Chicago Homes), decks are built using unpainted, weather-treated lumber: the practice commonly used for building porches onto new suburban homes. Even on the stolidlooking, dark brick townhouses of the Ogden Company’s development area, many homeowners have exercised their option to have a wooden deck, instead of the developer’s standard exterior balcony which would seem to better fit the buildings’ character. By the same token, contemporary convenience for these developers is extended almost automatically to include the car and its storage for each household. Practically every residential unit in Dearborn Park, as if by right, has at least one dedicated parking space, either in attached garages built under the house, in spaces set in courtyards, or in free-standing garages in back-yards off alleyways. Many garages are double vacancy. Even in the cases of smaller units, such as in the case of stacked townhouses units, parking is provided. In Metropolitan Mews, for example, which is built around an interior courtyard off State Street, thirty-six of the 48 condominiums units have garages, while the other twelve are assigned parking within the courtyard. According to Chicago city planner Rafael Leon, who has been involved with the planning of residential development in the South Loop area, security never seemed to be a problem in Dearborn Park, even though precautions were taken. The first phase was designed to be quite secure with its single entrance on 9th Street, but that was primarily due to recommendations from security consultants from Boston. In the second phase, although it was also given a single entrance, the decision was made to open up the edges to face out to the city, instead of “turning in on itself”. These characteristics may not be permanent in either phase as development continues, Leon says. “I suppose you could eventually open up the streets to the grid again. In streets that end up as cul-de-sacs in Dearborn Park, the city still maintains the right-of-way. We may be able to punch through someday and open them up
When single family houses began construction in Harbor Town in 1989, they were the first to be built in Downtown Memphis in 100 years. The Maria Montessori School opened its doors in Harbor Town in 1992 to 130 children. It was the first downtown school in 70 years. And in that same year, the Harbor Town Marina on the Wolf River inlet opened as the first such recreational facility in the city. Memphis, the only major city along the Mississippi to turn its back to the river, was indeed reviving its central city with the critical piece that had been lacking from its previous efforts: downtown neighborhoods. The development of Harbor Town, situated 200 yards from Downtown on Mud Island, was the linchpin that set this and several other residential projects into action. Memphis began as a river town built high on protective bluffs, and made prosperous by the trade of cotton and lumber from the rural hinterland. The bluffs at this site were once the location of a fort built by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541, but the modern city was not founded there until 1814. Due to the swampy land to the north and south, and a flood plain on the opposite side of the river, the city had no choice but to expand east for most of its history. This trend began with large gracious homes built along the Poplar Street corridor and in downtown in the Vance-Pontatoc neighborhood such as described in William Faulkner’s book, The Reivers.