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Residential communities that work for all income levels

A look at designing residences within established neighborhoods for people who require financial support

PhilHaven is a unique residence where individuals with a physical or mental disability can live independently within a residential neighborhood in Wheeling, Illinois. 

By Stephen Siegle, Associate (Chicago, Illinois)

When diverse groups of people come together to form a strong, mutually-supportive residential community, that diversity can become a point of pride for all residents, particularly those who are more financially-challenged than most. Our design team recently worked on three projects integrating segments of the population that require financial support to live independently, within established neighborhoods: people with disabilities, low-income artists, and residents in a booming city.

Across the globe, including the United States, the number of people in recent years who require affordable housing has grown significantly more rapidly than the housing stock they can afford. Growth of urban centers, immigration trends, increased life expectancy, an increase in the number of people living alone, exclusionary zoning, and other factors contribute to this growing problem. Our commitment to communities must include focus on this fundamental human need.

Here is a look at three projects and how they impact their communities.

PhilHaven: Permanent Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities
Unfortunately, today, people with physical and mental disabilities who long to live in a residential neighborhood find supportive housing opportunities scarce. Our client, Up Development, asked our team to help find a site and design a permanent supportive housing project to provide an opportunity for this segment of the population in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

The result is PhilHaven, a unique residence where individuals with a physical or mental disability can live independently within a residential neighborhood in Wheeling, Illinois. This 50-unit apartment building includes one, two, and three-bedroom apartments for qualified individuals and families where the head of the household has a disability. Residents have access to empowerment programs and supportive services, offered in the home or in the community.

We designed the building to fit its surroundings of traditional single family homes and attached townhouses. To fit in well with its neighbors, PhilHaven is purposefully residential in design. It is finished in brick and stone and has pitched roofs and casement windows. Our planning strategy fit the building to an L-shaped tree line, providing residents with attractive views.

Related item: Multi-Family Residential: Enhancing the quality of the human experience

Inside, a secure lobby greets residents and visitors with a comfortable lounge and an adjoining kitchen for special events. Bright corridors lead to spacious dwelling units with generous windows and ample rooms for living, dining, and sleeping. The site has a playground and a gazebo; it offers parking and direct access to public transportation. PhilHaven is fully leased and has a long waiting list, proving there are many among us who need the help that PhilHaven provides.

A rendering of Pullman Artspace Lofts in Chicago.

Pullman Artspace Lofts: Affordable Housing for Artists
At the southern edge of the Chicago city limits stand the remains of a unique industrial/living experiment: Pullman. The creation of 19th Century industrialist George Pullman, Pullman was a complete community built from nothing. Residences for people at every economic level, hotels, shops, churches, and schools, all surrounded the factory that sustained them. In 2015, Pullman was declared a National Monument.

In 2015, our team entered a city-wide design competition for the Pullman, a 38-unit affordable live/work housing development for artists and their families in the Pullman Historic District. The competition was sponsored by national artist housing developers Artspace, Pullman developers Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, and local arts organization PullmanArts. We were tasked with the restoration of two six-unit 19th-Century residential buildings at either end of a new 26-unit building. The program also included studio and gallery space to be shared between residents of the building and the Pullman community.

Our team won the competition by designing the new building to complement the surrounding historic architecture. A three-story brick and stone building with black brick belt courses and mansard roofs, the winning design recalls the most distinctive details in the Pullman architectural vocabulary within a composition that is unique. The dwelling units have open plans that will allow artists to demonstrate their creativity by shaping their interior environments. The project is expected to be complete in late 2018 or early 2019.

Mosaic on the Riverway in Boston includes 42 market-rate condominiums, 43 affordable condominiums, and 60 affordable rental apartments.

Mosaic on the Riverway: Meeting Needs in Boston
In Boston, the economy is booming. So are housing and rental costs. As of June, the median home value in Boston was $558,300, while the median rent was $2,700, according to real estate data provider Zillow.

With such extreme pressure on housing costs, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently announced $72 million in housing subsidy funds and additional state and federal tax credits to 25 affordable-housing projects across the state. Likewise, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been tireless in his mission to maintain affordable housing options in the metro area.

Related item: Residential Planning & Design: Communities that feel like home

Developers can take a cue from an award-winning high-rise in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood. The Mosaic on the Riverway offers a mix of affordable and market-rate residences including 42 market-rate condominiums, 43 affordable condominiums, and 60 affordable rental apartments. The complex also features a 9,000-square-foot ground floor early childhood education center, a roof-top lounge, and fitness center.

The Mosaic team was recently honored by the Urban Land Institute with the prestigious Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award.

Designed by my colleagues in Boston, the building is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), a tenant controlled non-profit, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a neighbor to RTH and one of the world’s leading hospitals.

The 10-story residential building is in a racially and economically mixed neighborhood, near the bustling Longwood Medical Area, one of Boston’s hubs for medical and academic jobs. Indeed, one of the RTH’s goals was to provide residents who work in and around the area with convenient access to housing and transportation—and both objectives were achieved.

The Mosaic also connects residents with miles of walking and biking paths. The building and site design allows for 67% open space with two playgrounds and the Riverway (part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace) is located across the street.

In announcing the Jack Kemp award, the ULI had high praise for the Mosaic, noting: “This project embodies the spirit and policy that Mayor Marty Walsh put forth upon his election, to build for all of Boston—from formerly homeless families to doctors looking to live near work, Mosaic provides housing for all of Boston’s residents.”

Why diverse communities are important
These projects support the notion that design can be transformative. Through respect for the scale and character of the context, creative planning and design, and attention to detail, affordable housing need not be a burden to an established community. By providing those less fortunate with a respectful, dignified, and attractive living environment, we can create successful diverse communities.

To design with community in mind, we blend creative design and client collaboration to realize exceptional architecture that respects its users and the surrounding context. Ultimately, we strive to create a residence that people are proud to call home within a community that works for everyone.

Also by Stephen: Student residences: 4 trends to watch

Stephen works on multi-family residential and higher education projects and enjoys sketching vernacular architecture when he travels. He serves on a neighborhood buildings and grounds committee and is currently Chairman of the ACE Mentor Chicago Board of Trustees. 

Across the globe, the number of people in recent years who require affordable housing has grown significantly more rapidly than the housing stock they can afford.

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