Single-Lot Densification Faces Zoning, Economic Challenges

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.

1 minute read

March 26, 2015, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Small-Scale Apartment

Sludge G / Flickr

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. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Streets.MN

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Close-up of 'bike lane' road sign with bike logo

Report: U.S. Biking Boom Slows

The pandemic bike boom is petering out, but more Americans are biking than ever before, signaling a need for cities to keep improving bike infrastructure and make roads safer for cyclists.

28 minutes ago - Streetsblog USA

Newly constructed houses in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe Historic Preservation Proposal Could Make it Harder to Build New Homes

Proposed changes to the city’s preservation ordinance would make two-thirds of the city’s housing stock eligible for preservation.

1 hour ago - The State Press

Blue and green city bus blurred in transit on New York City street.

How to Measure Transit Equity

A new report highlights the need to go beyond traditional equity metrics to assess how public transit systems are serving the lowest-income and most disadvantaged riders.

2 hours ago - Mineta Institute

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

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.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.