Preserving Main Street in Large Developments

The Terraces, a mixed-use project in Charlottesville, Virginia, adopts a design that reflects its historic downtown surroundings. Oliver Kuttner, the developer, says that "breaking up" large buildings can make them more palatable on street level.
February 4, 2016, 6am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Greg Henry

Too often, over-sized modern buildings swamp classic Main Street and downtown scale. Charlottesville developer Oliver Kuttner sees a better way. On the Terraces, Kuttner's recent project, Scott Beyer writes, "Kuttner could have knocked down the building and constructed a larger one with modern materials. But instead he preserved it, restoring certain parts and replacing others, while strengthening the foundation to add stories above [...] Thus, what was once a singular brick building now appears like multiple smaller ones, actually fitting better than before into the existing urban context."

Public and private obstacles can stand in the way of these projects. From the article: "Investors today are less willing to finance projects that are unique. Such projects may have bigger long-term returns, but present more upfront risk. But the main reason is regulatory. Parking requirements prevent many downtown projects from being financially-viable. Modern building and fire codes require everything to be wider and more open, producing out-of-scale design."

Of course, the trick is to simulate Main Street well enough to avoid a Disneyland-esque tackiness in the final product.

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Published on Saturday, January 23, 2016 in Market Urbanism
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