Thursday, June 26, 2008
Infill in a western city might mean building a garden apartment complex on land formerly used as a parking lot of the edge of downtown; infill in an established suburb might mean construction of three-story houses in a neighborhood of now-disfavored brick ranch houses. But in an old city such as Philadelphia, infill means creating development that will both be popular and will fit with neighborhoods that were largely completed before the automobile. In the city of brotherly love, an initiative called “Infill Philadelphia” is promoting designs to revitalize older city neighborhoods. The projects will seek to bring back to life underutilized or abandoned buildings and to bring new development ideas to moderately sized empty spaces in the city. And cities such as Philadelphia have far too many such spaces, both because houses have been abandoned and because small industry and businesses have moved elsewhere.
One special challenge that faces Philadelphia is its large stock of 19th century row houses, which were perfectly reasonable forms of urban housing back then, but seem too cramped, too narrow, and without enough modern features for many 21st century American families -- even the low-income families that make up much of Philadelphia's population. Among the design challenges of infill plans are to adapt these houses –- either by remodeling, expansion, and sometimes teardown –- to make the old neighborhoods both appealing to today’s families, affordable to low-income households, and able to stand up to the stresses of life in Philadelphia today …
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