Laura Margaret Jones
Our friend and colleague, Thomas Connolly - a.k.a. Sidewalk Citizen - can be better at marketing our work than we are. He has web pages dedicated to each of his developments, many of which we’ve designed and which he always gives us credit for. He also frequently gives us shout-outs on social media when he posts our renderings.
But this isn’t about Thomas Connolly’s fantastic marketing. This is about why he’s a good developer and why we wish there were more like him.
He’s Providing Options for a Neglected Market
It goes without saying that the Southside is a destination for food and entertainment, but one problem remains. Where do the people who work and play there live? Until a few years ago, the only housing on the Southside would have been a detached single family house, which exceeds the needs and budgets of the individuals and families currently trying to live downtown. Thomas is changing that.
He saw that no one was building for the urbanists. No, that’s not synonymous with “millennials.” Yes, they do comprise a lot of the new urban population, but it’s also middle-aged single professionals, veterans, empty-nesters, childless couples, and single parents to name a few. Thomas noticed the housing gap, often referred to as “missing middle housing" and devised a plan to, in his words, “create a modern designed, space efficient home, while keeping the cost to purchase as low as possible.”
His Projects Build Density
“We've found that a lot of people are willing to give up extra space if they can live in the heart of the neighborhoods they love,” Thomas said. Thomas has responded by developing one bedroom, one bathroom townhomes that are a compact 930 square feet. But when you buy it, you also own the land it sits on. Oh, and did I mention that competing one bed, one bath apartments on the Southside cost more per month, you don’t get to own them, and they are smaller than Thomas’s townhomes?
So how does he do it? By building small and tall. He has to fit more units onto an acre of land to offset costs. The structures sacrifice surface area for a three story height and a yard for a private, rooftop terrace. Special attention is given to floor plans to ensure spacious rooms. The townhomes are efficient, dignified spaces for the person who otherwise would have been priced out of the Southside.
But customers aren’t the only ones benefitting from the density. The health of the neighborhood is actually dependent on it. In order for there to be urban amenities, people have to be able to walk, bike, or take public transit to them. In fact, to warrant a bus stop with a frequency of one pass every half hour, a density of 7 units per acre is required. The Southside has lacked that level of density in the past, but with Thomas building 9 townhomes per acre, he is helping to ensure a vibrant future for the Southside.
He Recognizes and Values Good Design
Contemporary design is one of Thomas’s selling points. Modern spaces for the modern city-dweller. While square footage is sacrificed to offset cost, nothing is given up in the quality of the design or the amenities in each space. He does his homework on the subject and spends a lot of time in our office discussing designs and materials. From subtle brick patterns to perforated paneling, each of Thomas’s developments boasts current architecture with unique features.
In order to truly be a city where people can live, work, and play, we need more “sidewalk citizen” developers. Thomas has proven that building at a human scale not only creates more affordable and diverse housing options but that it also facilitates a more liveable urban dynamic. It’s a precedent we’d like to see other developers follow.