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I just listened to an interview with Carrie Brownstein, one of the co-stars of Portlandia, in which she talked about the final season of that show. One interesting topic that came up was how much American cities have changed since the show first came on the air in 2011. When Portlandia started, the show was making fun of over-the-top hipster stuff that you'd only find in places like Portland (or maybe SF or Brooklyn), but now, most of those things are mainstream. You no longer have to go to Portland to find a gourmet donut shop or a "curated" flea market or a third wave coffee shop with an interior made of reclaimed wood or a dozen microbreweries specializing in obscure styles of beer. Literally every mid-sized American city now has all of those things.

 

Perhaps the biggest reason that so many cities started seeing a resurgence in the past decade is that people were craving authenticity. In particular, people that grew up in the suburbs with bland architecture and chain restaurants discovered that in the nearest big city, there's culture, great historic architecture, cool restaurants/bars/coffee shops, etc. But now that urban revitalization has hit a certain stride, and many of these cities now offer the exact same types of amenities, I think many people are seeking out the next level of "authenticity" by moving to cities that have a very distinctive brand. Nashville of course benefits from their brand as the capitol of country music. Even for people who don't like country music, it has an appeal in a kitchy/ironic sort of way; i.e., they love the fact that Nashville has this country music "authenticity" even though they couldn't care less about country music itself.

 

Speaking of bland architecture, am I crazy or is every developer copying this sort of design?

 

zaremba-brothers-revive-avenue-district-in-downtown-cleveland-8ed3570aa729c1d9.jpg

 

This could be anywhere in North America. It is the same bland, mass-produced subdivision mindset brought to the urban landscape. 

 

Please. Developers. Stop it. Put some effort into your designs. Hire real architects.

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It's the Potemkin village.  I think it's being driven more by design review boards and neighborhood councils than anything.  They want to "break up the masses" and "don't make it look all like one building."  In the face of excessive height/density restrictions and the demand for fee simple property ownership in such situations, you'd end up with disproportionately horizontal buildings when built out on a full block by a single developer.  All the excessive articulation however makes the detailing and construction more complicated and expensive, necessitating cheaper materials to compensate.  Proportionately, if each block was designed as four buildings instead of the 12 shown, then maybe they could actually do something not so chintzy and derivative. 

Screen_Shot_2017-08-08_at_5_48.32_PM.thumb.png.351b4874c7bbe91a1c06d73dff82c40f.png

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Speaking of bland architecture, am I crazy or is every developer copying this sort of design?

 

 

 

This could be anywhere in North America. It is the same bland, mass-produced subdivision mindset brought to the urban landscape. 

 

Please. Developers. Stop it. Put some effort into your designs. Hire real architects.

 

Nothing new.  We were just talking about the Triangle apartments in UC on another thread.  They appear to be modeled on the CWRU south campus dorms, despite being built a good 20 years later. 

 

It can be taken too far though, the "favela" style plans for Nucleus are a good example that's likely to be far more dated than generica not so far in the future.

 

We've been fortunate in downtown Cleveland, especially with the triple towers.  I was driving in the other day and was thinking that Key looks like the architectural offspring of Terminal and 200.  It's not a bad thing.  Not the same at all, but complementary.

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lets be glad much of that bland lazy potemkin village urban apt bldg style missed cleveland for the most part. thats what the pehst warehouse district would have looked like. i bet stark realized that and thats what in part fueled the more striking nucleus concept.

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lets be glad much of that bland lazy potemkin village urban apt bldg style missed cleveland for the most part. thats what the pehst warehouse district would have looked like. i bet stark realized that and thats what in part fueled the more striking nucleus concept.

 

All of the new construction in Cleveland looks like that.

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Outside the confines of architectural studios I don't think there are many people that want to the return to the dystopian days of monolithic boxes that International School Modernism saddled our urban environment with.  In the graphic posted, Ann Daigle really nailed it on the head.  Architects put a premium on designs that "express the structure" or "are honest about the nature of the materials used".  The vast majority of other people want masses broken up to human scale and even some detailing.  How do we reconcile that?

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I'm sure most of you guys would have complained in the early 20th century when everything looked the same. 

 

It really didn't though.  There was a lot of variation and detail back then.  This new stuff would all be blank slabs of sheeting if we allowed it, featureless the first year and then stained with rust trails forever after.  What you're seeing here is the compromise, which is almost a mockery of traditional variation and detail.

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The vast majority of other people want masses broken up to human scale and even some detailing.  How do we reconcile that?

 

Because they think the only alternative is monolithic boxes.  If the form is simple you can spend the money saved on better materials and detailing.  That's a more traditional design typology.  Functionally, the buildings from MikeInCanton's rendering are courtyard apartments, except the courtyard isn't for the front doors it's for the parking.  They're basically this:  https://goo.gl/maps/ATCNWR4PsG22  Now, the architecture isn't great, but it's all masonry and there's not too much spinning and twirling and pushing and pulling.  Call it faux historical if you want, but the style it's using was already a 19th century faux reinterpretation of even older designs.  The thing is that it has a connection to people here being part of the vernacular architectural language.  Essentially people "get it" because it's familiar and makes some logical sense as to what it's doing (heavier masonry at the bottom where it gets more weathering, a cornice to protect the rest of the facade and punctuate the top of the building, windows sized for people to stand by and look out, doors for people to go through, vertical expression of all those because people walk by and stand in and occupy these buildings, and people are vertical [usually], base/middle/top arrangement which goes back to classical columns which themselves are expressions of human proportions). 

 

For more actual moderate sized (missing middle) buildings, which are actually old, there's plenty of examples out there that aren't monolithic slabs but aren't trying to pretend they're anything but what they are.  This is what I think we should be pushing for instead. 

 

https://goo.gl/maps/tmHC57Rewz32 

 

https://goo.gl/maps/QheWBd1pz9t

 

https://goo.gl/maps/ktcuyE5tDN12

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I'm sure most of you guys would have complained in the early 20th century when everything looked the same. 

 

It really didn't though.  There was a lot of variation and detail back then.  This new stuff would all be blank slabs of sheeting if we allowed it, featureless the first year and then stained with rust trails forever after.  What you're seeing here is the compromise, which is almost a mockery of traditional variation and detail.

 

If you drive down a typical street in Lakewood the houses are a few different styles but mostly nearly identical.  We seem to view these more fondly than new construction which is also done a few basic styles.  The same can be said for most eras of architecture. 

 

most of the 6 flat buildings in Lakewood and Coventry are the same general style too with minor variations.

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No, he's right. Famous art critics like John Ruskin have been complaining about that sort of nonsense since after the industrial revolution. They didn't have a square problem but they thought late Victorian-era buildings were bland and sterile, with all of it's clean, straight lines and lack of imperfections in detailing due to mass production and advancements in tools. They didn't think their new construction had any character; it all looked the same to them. Of course, for all of us, that was the golden age.

 

If you want an example of what I'm talking about, look closely at the buildings in German Village vs. Victorian Village in Columbus. I can't really think of a Cleveland example because I don't think there is a neighborhood as old as German Village, still standing.

 

 

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^ Exactly.  If you look at one Victorian street in one city and one in another, they will look alike.  If you look at an Arts and Crafts street in one city it will look the same as one in another city.  We only have a romantic view of the past because it is interesting to see these neighborhoods that are still intact. Also, only the best buildings of those eras were the most likely to survive. 

 

Many of the Arts and Crafts houses are cookie cutter.  heck, many of them were sold out of catalogs.

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I wonder how much influence Sketchup has. I swear, if you play around in Sketchup, you're guaranteed to just start receeding or advancing a bunch of squares to make your building. It always ends up looking like the examples, above. It's almost like they force it on you. Sort of like how I used to make beats with software called "Fruity Loops" and somehow it always ended up sounding like Techno, even though I hated Techno.

 

Anyway, I blame Sketchup for bad post-modern architecture.

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I'm sure most of you guys would have complained in the early 20th century when everything looked the same. 

 

I agree 100%. I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable at architecture in any way, and I'm also not going to claim that my perspective is the only correct perspective. But, I don't get what's wrong with modern styles at all. Really, I'm just glad we've moved on from brutalism.

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I'm sure most of you guys would have complained in the early 20th century when everything looked the same. 

 

I agree 100%. I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable at architecture in any way, and I'm also not going to claim that my perspective is the only correct perspective. But, I don't get what's wrong with modern styles at all. Really, I'm just glad we've moved on from brutalism.

 

This.  People focusing too much on how things could be a little bit better here and there can easily lose focus of both the facts that it could be a lot worse and it has been a lot worse.

 

I do worry about the long-term durability of some modern urban townhomes.  But then again, I also worry even more about the long-term durability of a great many $475,000 3300-sf new-build single family homes in the suburbs, architectural diversity or no.

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^ Exactly.  If you look at one Victorian street in one city and one in another, they will look alike.  If you look at an Arts and Crafts street in one city it will look the same as one in another city.  We only have a romantic view of the past because it is interesting to see these neighborhoods that are still intact. Also, only the best buildings of those eras were the most likely to survive. 

 

Many of the Arts and Crafts houses are cookie cutter.  heck, many of them were sold out of catalogs.

 

Only the best old buildings remain, but even the worst old buildings are better than the best of new ones. The level of detail isn't comparable. For example, look at the masonry flourishes above the first story windows on this building:

I never see details like that on new buildings. Why? If it's labor costs, couldn't those blocks be carved by a CNC machine?

 

I don't really even care about the architecture style or originality, as long as there is some granularity to the structure.

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Yeah, in my eyes it's not a close comparison.  The prewar buildings are dramatically more diverse and artistic than what came after.  In some ways this is all subjective but certain aspects of it do seem measurable.  A blank sheet of cladding is a blank sheet of cladding, while an elaborate sculpture is an elaborate sculpture.  They are objectively dissimilar.  If you happen to prefer the former... OK.  But don't tell me nothing's been lost.

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Not wanting a "single building" aesthetic is confusing to me. Have people conflated poor design with uniformity?

 

We see this a lot with infill buildings in Cincinnati's urban core. Neighborhood groups will insist that new infill look like multiple small buildings, instead of one giant building filling the entire block, in order to better fit in with the historic architecture. The problem is, this architecture is not fooling anybody. If you actually broke the site down into multiple buildings (which could still be connected internally) and had a different architect design each, that might look great. But simply taking one large building and slapping different building materials onto different sections does not look good. The other problem with the opposition to large buildings is that many of the most iconic buildings in urban neighborhoods are large buildings that fill an entire block and do look like one big, hulking building. If an architect proposed the Emery Building, the American Building, Music Hall, or the Alms and Doepke Building today, neighborhood groups would freak out and say "it's too out of scale for the neighborhood!"

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And even buildings that are smaller than Music Hall, etc, are still pretty sizeable. Look at the Art Academy building... it fronts a relatively narrow street and "owns up" to its size, especially compared to those townhomes that just got finished up at 15th and Elm. 5-6 story, quarter-to-half-block buildings aren't "out-of-scale" with OTR, and they should be allowed without having to dumb down the facade into phony looking chunks.


“To an Ohio resident - wherever he lives - some other part of his state seems unreal.”

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If you drive down a typical street in Lakewood the houses are a few different styles but mostly nearly identical.  We seem to view these more fondly than new construction which is also done a few basic styles.  The same can be said for most eras of architecture. 

 

most of the 6 flat buildings in Lakewood and Coventry are the same general style too with minor variations.

 

Don't drive down a Lakewood sidestreet. Walk it. It will allow you see that the old saying about Lakewood houses is true -- they're like snowflakes as every house is different.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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I live there and walk it a lot.  I stans by my comment.

 

Do you live on the "newer" middle or west end? On the streets at the older east end that I walk, there isn't a single identical house. And I've been walking them for 22 years.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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I live there and walk it a lot.  I stans by my comment.

 

Do you live on the "newer" middle or west end? On the streets at the older east end that I walk, there isn't a single identical house. And I've been walking them for 22 years.

 

In fairness, I live in in Western Lakewood.  My house is 100 years old, but I assume it might be "newer."  Now, some houses have different details, some due to renovations or updates over the years, I find them to all be in a Craftsmen style.  On my street there are, American Foursquares, Arts & Crafts Bungalows, "Cleveland" doubles and some colonials with gable roofs.  They are of the same basic style though, the same post-modern buildings are the same basic style. 

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lets be glad much of that bland lazy potemkin village urban apt bldg style missed cleveland for the most part. thats what the pehst warehouse district would have looked like. i bet stark realized that and thats what in part fueled the more striking nucleus concept.

 

All of the new construction in Cleveland looks like that.

 

While a lot of the new construction in Columbus looks great to me.

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I think blaming architects is easy, and while many are complicit, it's more complicated than that. Developers want cheap (which leads to cheap brick, metal siding, EIFS and hardie board) and zoning codes (and NIMBYs) which desire or even require that facades are 'broken up' visually.

 

I think the intentions are usually in the right place, and at this point consumers are expecting it so it has become a cyclical problem, but the result is bad looking bland architecture from coast to coast. In the future when people visit these neighborhoods they'll just say, "well this was built in the early 2000's" just like you can currently do with 70s or 80s architecture today.

 

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Here's a view from my window (and from my walks). Each house is different....

 

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"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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But you will also find the same amount of variation in postmodern architecture as well.  I still see those houses you posted as being 2-3 different architectural styles within the same general aesthetic.  They were all built with mass produced materials and I bet many were purchased from a catalog. 

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Being mass produced isn't a problem in itself. And neither does being different make something aesthetically pleasing. I'd probably favor a row of similar-looking Italianate houses over that street.

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I think blaming architects is easy, and while many are complicit, it's more complicated than that. Developers want cheap (which leads to cheap brick, metal siding, EIFS and hardie board) and zoning codes (and NIMBYs) which desire or even require that facades are 'broken up' visually.

 

I think the intentions are usually in the right place, and at this point consumers are expecting it so it has become a cyclical problem, but the result is bad looking bland architecture from coast to coast. In the future when people visit these neighborhoods they'll just say, "well this was built in the early 2000's" just like you can currently do with 70s or 80s architecture today.

 

 

You can do that with any time period, though.  Of course, on older streets things get mixed up as houses are demolished and replaced.  But that's a function of time passing, not of greater diversity of styles at any one time.

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I was Streetviewing around Baltimore and came across this infill that does a good job of avoiding the overly-complex-and-overly-cheap facades that plague a lot of these yuppie boxes:

 

https://www.google.com/maps/@39.2836015,-76.5915537,3a,96.4y,178.9h,102.81t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sjViJvWl9B6KWds36fjNtWQ!2e0

 

It actually appears to still be a series of single-family townhomes, but the two buildings themselves actually have a coherent massing that still fits in with the rest of the Fells Point neighborhood without pretending to be a bunch of individual Baltimore-style rowhoues. It really isn't anything elaborate, but it appears to be real brick instead of veneer, and there is just enough detailing to keep things interesting. I'd be totally fine with seeing more stuff like this in Ohio's cities that more readily acknowledges its own size instead of pretending to be something it's not. I think this would look completely fine in OTR and I'd prefer it over a lot of the cheap stuff that's been cropping up on a lot of the lots.

 

baltimore.thumb.JPG.2e6e209b8897ef6a6c2462c966dcb4a7.JPG


“To an Ohio resident - wherever he lives - some other part of his state seems unreal.”

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^ That's nice.  What do you mean by "real brick instead of veneer" though?  Brick veneer is still real brick.  In fact, pretty much all brick used on buildings are still made of fired clay like they were hundreds of years ago.  We just have better methods of compressing and firing them to make them stronger and harder.  Concrete is really only used for the larger 8" x 16" blocks or for paving.  Anyway, there's basically three ways it can be done:

 

1. Traditional load-bearing masonry.  Prior to about the middle of the 20th century, brick (and stone) buildings used load-bearing masonry where the walls supported the structure.  That means brick walls had to be at least two brick depths (wythes) thick, or about eight inches total at an absolute minimum.  Usually they'd be three or more wythes thick, and for brick highrises like the Mondanock building in Chicago the walls are six feet thick at the ground floor.  This isn't done anymore because it has no ability to resist lateral forces such as from earthquakes, and you have to build another wall inside if you want any insulation.  Plus there's the sheer amount of weight and number of bricks required for any building of appreciable height that also complicates the foundation and footings.   

 

2. Masonry veneer.  This has existed since at least the 1920s, but it became much more common mid-century on.  The bricks themselves are basically the same as in traditional load-bearing masonry.  The difference is there's only one wythe, and the brick carries no load.  The wall behind does, whether that's concrete block with reinforcing, wood framing, or steel.  The bricks sit on ledges to hold their weight, and they're held to the structural wall behind with clips that are embedded in the mortar joints at regular intervals to resist lateral loads.  Rustic fieldstone walls can be done this way too, though those are usually at least six inches deep rather than four, and heavier ties are required. 

 

3. Thin cladding.  I think this is what you're referring to.  It's still the same brick material as traditional load-bearing brick or veneer, except it's only about an inch thick instead of the usual four.  The individual bricks are applied to the wall with a thinset mortar like tiles.  This is sometimes called lick 'n' stick.  If detailed properly it can look just like any other brick wall, but those corner pieces are where a lot of the expense is, as well as detailing the substrate material to give the thickness necessary without also creating a leaking problem.  This is more often used for that really thin mortarless stone that you see all over suburban shopping centers suburban houses post-2000. 

 

Cast stone has existed since about the 19th century, and it's basically precast concrete with special aggregate and coloring to make it look like quarried stone (usually similar to Indiana limestone), but it's impractical and expensive for bricks and is usually limited to shaped ornamental details.  An advantage to cast stone is consistent color, sizing, and customizability compared to natural stone.  I don't think it's practical for thin cladding applications however, and being cementitious it expands and contracts more than regular masonry, requiring joint reinforcement or separation planes.  There's other manmade materials out there such as calcium silicate masonry, which is formed like brick but uses lime rather than clay as its main binder, and it's autoclaved to cure it into basically a manmade limestone.  This can be made in "full bed" (six inch) thicknesses or thin cladding, with many of the same benefits as cast stone while also having more compatible expansion and contraction coefficients.  Both of these materials tend to be used more in larger institutional type projects because they have relatively large setup costs due to the nature of their manufacturing that don't pencil out well for smaller jobs. 

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lets be glad much of that bland lazy potemkin village urban apt bldg style missed cleveland for the most part. thats what the pehst warehouse district would have looked like. i bet stark realized that and thats what in part fueled the more striking nucleus concept.

 

All of the new construction in Cleveland looks like that.

 

 

that makes no difference. cle came to it late in the game, its scattered and there isnt that much of it. in fact cle was one of the last places to get new construction in that style. so luckily cle will not be saddled with the generic look as other places are. it seems all the rehabs actually saved cle from it. the question then is what comes next? i would hope something with more thought and care like the baltimore fells point example above. i hope that is not unique because more would be great. its quietly urban and very classic looking.

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Why do all new apartment buildings look the same?

The bland, boxy apartment boom is a design issue, and a housing policy problem

By Patrick Sisson  Dec 4, 2018, 12:34pm EST

 

A wave of sameness has washed over new residential architecture. U.S. cities are filled with apartment buildings sporting boxy designs and somewhat bland facades, often made with colored panels and flat windows.

 

Due to an Amazon-fueled apartment construction boom over the last decade, Seattle has been an epicenter of this new school of structural simulacra. But Seattle is not alone. Nearly every city, from Charlotte to Minneapolis, has seen a proliferation of homogenous apartments as construction has increased again in the wake of the financial recession.

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^ That's a pretty good take. In addition to what's spelled out in that article, I think another element that has had a massive impact on form in the last few years is the specific code requirement for continuous insulation. These bland residential boxes are very easy to wrap in a continuous layer of foam board. So while they may be unattractive aesthetically, they should at very least be quite energy efficient in a way that bland 50s boxy apartments like these never were: https://goo.gl/maps/KBaLA5HYnmv

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heres another recent take -- stick/balloon frames:

 

 

 

Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same

 

Cheap stick framing has led to a proliferation of blocky, forgettable mid-rises—and more than a few construction fires.

 

By Justin Fox

 

 

These buildings are in almost every U.S. city. They range from three to seven stories tall and can stretch for blocks.

 

 

more:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-02-13/why-america-s-new-apartment-buildings-all-look-the-same

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So they finally did a piece on the Yuppie Box.


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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19 hours ago, ColDayMan said:

So they finally did a piece on the Yuppie Box.

 

And the "Texas doughnut."  (In Ohio, it would be the Ohio donut, I guess.)

 

I was just about to post this same article, should have known someone else would get to it first.  I'd figured there was something about that particular design that made it particularly cost-effective for less-dense downtown developers, because so many of the new midrise builds in Akron in the last decade or so (since 22 Exchange) have followed that general form, with minimal variation.

 

Except that many of them (22 Exchange being an exception) still find ways to avoid building flush to the curb with street-facing retail or other spaces that invite participation in public life.  Many still have whatever you'd call that strip of useless green space that's too small for recreation like a park, but too large for real pedestrian-friendliness.  I'd call it a Devil's strip, but that name is apparently already taken by something much less diabolical (the tiny green strip between the sidewalk and the curb).

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33 minutes ago, Gramarye said:

Except that many of them (22 Exchange being an exception) still find ways to avoid building flush to the curb with street-facing retail or other spaces that invite participation in public life. 

 

Not surprising for cheap buildings.  Nearly every zoning category in Cincinnati has at least a 5' front yard setback, so getting a variance on that one is extra time and work and cost.  Plus, the closer the building is to the property lines, the greater the exterior walls' fire ratings needs to be.  That's more expensive construction, especially where windows are involved.  This isn't as big a deal on the street face, but depending on the width of the street it's still a factor.  Doing mixed uses also requires extra fire separations and perhaps even different construction types, all of which leads to additional costs.  None of those scenarios are particularly conducive to cheap wood construction.

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