The block style rides a wave
In the go-go years of speculative home building in Madison Park (say, prior to 2010) there was a lot of teeth gnashing by certain traditionalists over the fact that cute little cottages were being torn down by developers for the purpose of building large box-like structures that did not conform to supposed neighborhood values. The idealized character of the neighborhood as "a lakeside village" was, according to this attitude, being disrupted by outsiders who really had no appreciation of the history or ambiance of the Park.
Of course Madison Park has always had a wide variety of housing types, especially when you throw into the mix the mansions in Broadmoor and Washington Park and the many "multi-family" apartment and condo structures that impact both the feel and the sightlines of the area "North of Madison." We live in an eclectic neighborhood overall, and one that gives residential appraisers fits. That's because of the built-in difficulty of making valid value comparisons between houses that are even in close proximity to each other in the neighborhood. House styles, sizes, and original construction dates are all over the map, even for any particular block. It's been many years since there was any kind of uniformity for much of the area that comprises Madison Park.
The recent tear-down of the "Rainbow House,"which we chronicled in December ("Another cottage comes down"), brought home for many the fact that the "village" ideal for any part of Madison Park is rapidly becoming outmoded. And as speculative development accelerates, we can assume that our neighborhood's level of eclecticness will be further enhanced. That's because developers are more likely than otherwise to build angular structures that make use of most or all of the legally available footprint of the property. Though not using all of the space technically available, the builder of the big abode that will replace the "Rainbow House" is using most of it. But the company is simply creating in Madison Park what it believes a prospective buyer will demand.
|A new rendering of the structure replacing the "Rainbow House"|
In our real estate column for this month's edition of the Madison Park Times we quote the builder of the new 3,219 sq. ft. house as saying that the cottage that previously sat on the site was not the kind of residence people would desire in a place like Madison Park. "We want to be around for the long term," said Isola Home's Colt Boehme, "so when we're building we need to take into account what the market wants. The buyer today is looking for efficiency and livability--and that's what we're hoping to deliver."
Isola also thinks that the style buyers are interested in is "contemporary." For many spec builders this translates into a boxy modernism, though Isola itself claims to eschew boxes. But as speculative building picks up in Madison Park, it's inevitable that more boxy structures will be added to the neighborhood mix. A good example of what we're talking about is this entry being constructed by another builder in the same general area as Isola's property:
|A new spec house on 42nd Avenue E., North of Madison|
There seems to be a bit of a trend here, and we're aware of other small houses that will soon be coming down to make way for larger, state-of-the-art structures. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with it. But if these houses are easily sold, it may well portend the relatively quick end to the ideal of Madison Park as a village.
For now, what we do know where we've come from:
|An "ungentrified" row North of Madison|
What we don't know is exactly where we're headed. It could be this:
|Two full-footprint houses on 30-foot-wide lots in Washington Park|
[Blogger's Note: Before anyone accuses us of being anti-box or anti-spec house, take note that we ourselves live in a box (a New England saltbox, to be sure) which we purchased from a speculative builder in 2001. The house, which holds 2,400 square feet, replaced a teardown cottage of perhaps 800 square feet. So if replacing the old and small with the big and new is a problem, we're part of it.]
[Graphic courtesy of Isola Homes.]