Small-scale development on single lots is an alternative to the centralized mid-rise norm. But this kind of classic infilling may not be as easy as build-it-and-they-will-come.
Alex Cecchini gives us one of the standard densification techniques: "The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan mostly calls for dense, mixed-use development along commercial corridors, and we see zoning that matches that goal. I don't think this is a wise strategy – there is limited land abutting these corridors, and many have a mix of rentals and multiple retail or commercial tenants that make lot assembly and redevelopment very difficult."
Instead, infilling could come about in a decentralized way, lot-by-lot. From the article: "Single lot development is important. It's a small-scale process, meaning more local developers (rather than national, publicly-traded ones) can take part. Profitable single lot development also bypasses the timely and costly process of lot assemblage with the city. Finally, it adds competition so landowners don't hold out for combined offers on combined lots. So, can it be done?"
Cecchini goes on to explore several challenges facing 2 to 3-story single-lot development. Unfriendly zoning codes and dubious demand economics might stand in the way of affordable housing independent from big developers.
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HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
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This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.