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Affordable Housing with First-Rate Design

Kaid Benfield examines a model 'pocket neighborhood' - Little Rock's Pettaway - which simultaneously improves a declining neighborhood, provides affordable infill housing and applies advanced measures for stormwater control.
January 15, 2013, 1pm PST | Jessica Hsu
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"The project employs the 'pocket neighborhood' concept championed by architect Ross Chapin – reducing the footprint of a group of smaller, single-family homes by sharing gardens and amenities that would occupy more land if duplicated for each individual house," explains Benfield. Shared features in Little Rock's Pettaway Pocket Neighborhood include a community lawn, playground, gardens, street, and stormwater management system based on green infrastructure. The site plan places nine homes on a one-acre assembly of five parcels, which doubles the density previously set for the site, and the affordable pricing comes from standardized dimensions and materials. The design might be considered too suburban, if not for the fact that Pettaway is centrally located. Benfield says, "The goal is to bring completeness and ambition again to this once-thriving area whose proximity to downtown positions it well for a revival."

Little Rock's Pettaway Pocket Neighborhood has won many awards including a 2013 national honor award for regional and urban design from the American Institute of Architects. The housing project was a collaboration between fifth-year architecture students at the University of Arkansas School of Architecture and the University's Community Design Center. The students worked with an advisory committee to blend traditional architectural elements with modern principles. "For the pocket neighborhood, designers took resources typically found in individual private lots and pooled them to create a true public realm, something notoriously lacking in modern American residential subdivisions," says Benfield. He adds, "[Pocket neighborhoods] make a lot of sense now, helpful to conserving land and encouraging walkability for the growing part of the market that is not seeking a large amount of space."

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Published on Monday, January 14, 2013 in NRDC Switchboard
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