Union Hill Development

Discuss items in the urban core outside of Downtown as described above. Everything in the core including the east side (18th & Vine area), Plaza, Westport, Brookside, Valentine, Waldo, 39th street, & the entire midtown area.
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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by FangKC » Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:25 am

The more I think about it, the more I think they should put the garages in back of the house in an alley. One of the nice things about the south part of old Union Hill is that you don't have garage doors connected to the houses and facing the street.

On the north side of the neighborhood, there are townhouses that do have garage doors more prominently in the design.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by pash » Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:56 am

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by Demosthenes » Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:03 am

Oh I agree that this isn't a major freakout or anything. It would just be really easy to have the garages in back off an alley, so I don't understand the reasoning.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by flyingember » Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:46 am

Demosthenes wrote:Oh I agree that this isn't a major freakout or anything. It would just be really easy to have the garages in back off an alley, so I don't understand the reasoning.
the original alley was legally vacated for both sides of De Groff. we're talking about needing to deal with the specific land ownership of 34 properties to add two alleys. you have to compensate them for the lost property. there's likely mortage holders involved too and a changing lot size changes the land value the mortgage is based on.
you're also potentially dealing with utility movement. poles, utility boxes, etc. and do you think they'll want to pay for that? do you think the city will? no, we could be talking millions of dollars for the home developer.

that's why it's not easy. I'd call it a big deal project

they made the right call, they put the garages in front

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by moderne » Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:05 am

The new infill DeGroff homes actually do a better job of hiding the garage than the historic DeGroff houses. The original houses have detached garages that face the street. Having lived 15 years with a garage on an alley, there can be problems with that. We had some retail on the end of the block that was frequently blocking the alley with trucks. I got into several angry encounters trying to get my car out. And then there is snow. Nobody does snow removal on the alleys, not the city nor residents. I used to clear by hand the alley directly behind my property, but it did not do much good when the rest of the alley is snow and ice packed.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by Demosthenes » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:59 pm

flyingember wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:Oh I agree that this isn't a major freakout or anything. It would just be really easy to have the garages in back off an alley, so I don't understand the reasoning.
the original alley was legally vacated for both sides of De Groff. we're talking about needing to deal with the specific land ownership of 34 properties to add two alleys. you have to compensate them for the lost property. there's likely mortage holders involved too and a changing lot size changes the land value the mortgage is based on.
you're also potentially dealing with utility movement. poles, utility boxes, etc. and do you think they'll want to pay for that? do you think the city will? no, we could be talking millions of dollars for the home developer.

that's why it's not easy. I'd call it a big deal project

they made the right call, they put the garages in front
Wait, what? There is already an alley on the block where the townhomes are. So how was that the right call?

As for the block between DeGoff and Oak, yes there is not an alley currently. However I can't believe it would be very difficult to add one on the south end of the block. Just like the McGee alley, it wouldn't have to go all the way through the block (which is unfortunate, but whatever), just up through the project site and up to where the current house is on this block. Keep it just to the side of the properties facing DeGoff so they are not even a part of this.

Obviously the alley off Oak would be a little tricky, but come on. Are we done doing infrastructure projects in this city because they are too tricky? Look at all the work being done in Union Hill. This would be a small project comparatively.

I think you misunderstood me a little bit Ember. It sounds like you are thinking I want to create full alleys on both sides of DeGoff. This is not the case. I was talking about only adding one half alley, on the block between Oak and DeGoff, only on the south end. The alley between McGee and Grand (which was the other one I was talking about. Where the townhomes have been built) already exists.

The houses on Degoff obviously don't need an alley. They are already so suburban in nature that it is pointless in discussing it. Obviously that would be a huge project. What I'm talking about is much smaller. And in the case of the townhomes they would literally have to do no infrastructure work.
moderne wrote:The new infill DeGroff homes actually do a better job of hiding the garage than the historic DeGroff houses. The original houses have detached garages that face the street. Having lived 15 years with a garage on an alley, there can be problems with that. We had some retail on the end of the block that was frequently blocking the alley with trucks. I got into several angry encounters trying to get my car out. And then there is snow. Nobody does snow removal on the alleys, not the city nor residents. I used to clear by hand the alley directly behind my property, but it did not do much good when the rest of the alley is snow and ice packed.
Okay. I understand there are some negatives to living off an alley. But are you saying that because of these little problems you encountered we should get rid of alleys?

Alleys are an important part of keeping a city like ours urban. We have gotten rid of so many alleys and it has completely hurt the urban nature of these streets. Now people have to have garages facing the street. Or at least driveways. Curb cuts all up and down the block. We can't be getting rid of alleys because of snow.

There are plenty of negatives to garages and drive ways too, keep that in mind. There are pros and cons to everything. But if we are going to try and continue to grow urban Kansas City in a smart manner, we must hold onto our alleys and build new ones whenever possible. This is critical.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by moderne » Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:44 pm

I live in this neighborhood so only my opinion counts(humor). I'm fine with single family homes with driveways. I don't want to live in a DT density. I think there is a perfect middle ground between high rise urbanity and Johnson County amorphism. This is to be found in the layout when KC had its formative period pre WW II. The classic street car suburbia is just fine and dense enough for most of the city. While you are not stacked on top of one another and on top of business/retail, all of those things are adjacent and walkable and businesses do not require parking lots but want to be next to the street. And yes, from my experience I would not choose a residence with only an alley garage approach.
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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by pash » Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:34 pm

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by chaglang » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:41 pm

pash wrote:Densities typical of KC's pre-war neighborhoods of single-family homes are walkable (even in the leanest sense) only for the people who happen to live nearest to the commercial corridors. Which means that those corridors will necessarily be very car-oriented, because most people will have to drive.

I understand that a lot of people like this sort of pre-war suburban atmosphere. But let's not pretend it's walkable for anything other than recreation.
Maybe not now, but the potential is there. It was once walkable, no?

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by pash » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:56 pm

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by Demosthenes » Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:23 pm

moderne wrote:I live in this neighborhood so only my opinion counts(humor). I'm fine with single family homes with driveways. I don't want to live in a DT density. I think there is a perfect middle ground between high rise urbanity and Johnson County amorphism. This is to be found in the layout when KC had its formative period pre WW II. The classic street car suburbia is just fine and dense enough for most of the city. While you are not stacked on top of one another and on top of business/retail, all of those things are adjacent and walkable and businesses do not require parking lots but want to be next to the street. And yes, from my experience I would not choose a residence with only an alley garage approach.
)
What I'm talking about has nothing to do with density. It is about keeping and creating an urban atmosphere that is pedestrian friendly throughout inner city KC. It can be nothing but single family homes and be completely fine. The garages and curb cuts are what I'm talking about here. They are a problem for many people. People who are walking have to worry about all the spots on the sidewalk where a car can drive as well. Bicyclists have to worry about so many more places mid-block where someone could be turning. And they are generally ugly.

It just isn't an ideal urban landscape. I realize this isn't the end of the world or anything. It is pretty small stuff compared to many other issues we are faced with. It does still make a difference though. And if someone is going to build new houses, I am going to critique them. They could have been designed better. Wish they had been.

I really wish that Kansas City would get some of her alleys back. They are a key part of any semi-dense urban landscape. If we were super ultra dense with small blocks like New York or San Francisco, we wouldn't need alleys. But for a city like ours (and most) that has mostly single family homes and small apartments it has an enormous effect. It changes the entire nature of our city.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by pash » Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:39 pm

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by Demosthenes » Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:35 pm

pash wrote:My tangent was in reply to moderne's, but you're right of course that how the garages are situated has nothing to do with density in this case. It seems obvious to me that they should just put the garages under the houses, below grade with a front driveway, just like many pre-war houses built into hillsides. ... I suppose people might not like basement garages much, or that it might not work as well with today's larger garages.
Yea those kind of garages aren't too bad, especially if only a one car garage. They can look pretty cool. But if the garage is 2 cars or more it tends to take up a lot of space. Big driveways and large front garages are two of the ugliest trends in housing from the last few decades.

I used to live in a little bungalow in Hyde Park that had a one car garage below it, built into the stone wall that went along the street. It was really cool. Very narrow so the curb cut was almost non existent. Honestly no one really even parked in it. We mostly just hung out there sometimes and had cookouts in the "drive way."

That being said, our street still should have had an alley :D .

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by chaglang » Thu Jan 29, 2015 10:15 pm

pash wrote:More than today, yes, but I don't think much of the city outside of today's greater downtown has ever been particularly walkable, except at scattered nodes. You could once get around fairly well by transit and walk the last mile, which is the big change.

There are also reasons to prefer greater housing density today. For one, the commercial landscape has changed a lot. Many shops, particularly grocers and other purveyors of mundane goods are now typically much larger and serve many more customers. So there are fewer shops per person, which means they're spread farther apart at the same population density; there's now one Hy-Vee, where there used to be half a dozen smaller corner markets. You might have had a small corner grocery in walking distance (or next to the streetcar stop you'd use a couple of times a day), but today chances are you don't live in walking distance to nearest the Hy-Vee.

And a big segment of the retail market has moved online. So you need more people nearby to support a similar number of brick-and-mortar shops. Those changes have been somewhat offset by an increase in wealth—we buy more stuff than we did a century ago—but I think retail square footage per person is probably considerably lower than it was in the past.

Then there are the well known demographic changes, so population density is lower at the same density of housing units these days.
Good points. Most of what I hear from people at midtown planning meetings is a desire to be able to walk to get small items like a gallon of milk. Or to walk to a bar or coffee shop. And then use a car or transit for grocery store trips, etc. That falls into some category of walkability, but it's closer to utilitarian walkability than anything that happens downtown.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by pash » Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:18 pm

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by FangKC » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:02 am

flyingember wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:Oh I agree that this isn't a major freakout or anything. It would just be really easy to have the garages in back off an alley, so I don't understand the reasoning.
the original alley was legally vacated for both sides of De Groff. we're talking about needing to deal with the specific land ownership of 34 properties to add two alleys. you have to compensate them for the lost property. there's likely mortage holders involved too and a changing lot size changes the land value the mortgage is based on.
you're also potentially dealing with utility movement. poles, utility boxes, etc. and do you think they'll want to pay for that? do you think the city will? no, we could be talking millions of dollars for the home developer.

that's why it's not easy. I'd call it a big deal project

they made the right call, they put the garages in front
The developer could also ask the City to reopen a partial alley just behind his new properties. It wouldn't have to extend the entire block. Partial street closures, and partial alley closures have happened all over the City already. It doesn't have to be the entire block.

The developer can add an access drive on the rear of their own property for the garages without having to reopen a legal city alley that existed there before. Then, on the property deed for the individual houses, you place a permanent easement there so that people who buy the houses can have access to their garages. The developer could also subdivide the whole property and add a fifth lot across the back of all four houses, and then call that an easement lot that is co-owned by all four house property owners for access. Then to close it, all four property owners in the future would have to agree to remove the easement from that deed, and return their section of the easement to their house lots. This would probably never happen, because it would restrict access for three garage owners. Three owners would vote down the fourth. The only situation I can think of where they would close it is if in the distance future, three of the interior lot owners tore down their garages and wanted larger yards. This might be possible if we invent teleportation and cars are no longer needed.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by FangKC » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:25 am

moderne wrote: And then there is snow. Nobody does snow removal on the alleys, not the city nor residents. I used to clear by hand the alley directly behind my property, but it did not do much good when the rest of the alley is snow and ice packed.
Here's a tip that alley garage owners use. They watch the weather each day, and if there is snow coming, they park their car on the street so they don't have to worry about a snow-packed alley. Sure you have to clean the snow off your car the next day. But it's easier than shoveling the entire alley. I hope this helps.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by FangKC » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:28 am

moderne wrote:Having lived 15 years with a garage on an alley, there can be problems with that. We had some retail on the end of the block that was frequently blocking the alley with trucks. I got into several angry encounters trying to get my car out.
This is a good argument for always having two entrances to a block-long back alley. That way, if one entrance is blocked, you just back up to the other exit of the alley.

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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by FangKC » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:55 am

Pash makes good points about density.

The other reason I promote density improvements so often on this forum is because of demographic changes. Families have fewer children per household than in past times when density levels were higher.

The other reason is that children leave the household, and their parents age in place. It's not uncommon nowadays for larger houses in our city, that used to historically have seven people in the household (two parents, five kids), have only one person living in them now. A single widowed adult, or a single younger person who is divorced, or was single when they bought the house.

On my block alone, there are several big houses with just one person living in them. Of all houses on my block, more than half of them are occupied by single adults (always single, divorced, widowed).

The last statistic I remember reading about Kansas City, Missouri, was that only about 25-30 percent of dwellings were occupied by families. Even if that statistic is untrue, the majority of dwellings in KCMO are occupied by single or married adults without kids.

Even not considering buying on the Internet, this has had a huge effect on the ability to keep retail alive near one's house. A neighborhood that once had 10,000 people in it historically may now only have 4-5,000 in it today. Still the same number of houses, just fewer people living in them. This had profound consequences on City revenue. You have fewer people paying sales taxes and earnings taxes. You have less children who need things bought for them, etc. A larger number of seniors than ever historically means reduced sales taxes, because seniors just don't buy that much, mostly because they are on fixed incomes that are significantly less than when they worked. Retired seniors also stop paying the earnings tax.

The number of seniors occupying houses in Kansas City--as a percentage of the population--is at an all-time high. Because they are living longer, that means their houses don't go up for sale as often, and aren't sold to replacement buyers with more people living in the house.

A lot of seniors in a neighborhood can affect property values, because fixed-income seniors usually have less money to do exterior home maintenance. If several seniors on a block do this, the property assessments for the entire block can go down--affecting the county and city property tax revenue streams.

For these reasons, rebuilding population density levels is very important for city revenues, and to maintain and attract any type of retail.

When residents block any developer from constructing several apartment buildings in their neighborhood, it's often to their own peril--unbeknownst to them. The lowered density of the neighborhood, and the refusal to allow it to be rebuilt, means that their local grocery store might close. It means they don't have a drug store nearby, or any banks, post offices, restaurants, barbers, beauty salons, physicians, dentists, hardware stores, or dry cleaners.

It means the City has less money coming in to fix their streets, do snow removal, and hire enough police to protect them. In the end, it will mean that taxes have to be raised to make up for the lower density levels.
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Re: Union Hill Development

Post by moderne » Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:14 pm

The truant balconys on the new apartment buildings will be installed next week.

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