During the dark ages of urban planning (the 1960s and 70s), many old residential buildings were replaced with boxy, alienating public housing projects, until Jane Jacobs discredited the idea. Block after block of attractive row houses are gone forever, even though brownstones in places like Brooklyn, Boston, San Francisco, and DC sell for a million dollars or two, or more.
Can we ever go back? Most of today’s urban developments are glassy high-rises, the better to capture the maximum possible revenue for the developer. They’re better than 1970s concrete boxes, but is anyone building brightly colored townhouses with bay windows in front?
Carrollsburg public housing complex is being redeveloped into townhomes, replacing the 700 public housing units with an equal number, while adding another 700 units divided equally between market-rate and “workforce-rate” (aka middle-class affordable housing).
These aren’t Dupont’s ornate Victorian row houses or Brooklyn’s brick brownstones, but they look quite nice nonetheless. And with many people interested in living in the city but not craving the high rise apartment life, we need more townhouses in mixed-use areas. This district is near stores, offices, and the Metro.
Hopefully, mixing mixing low- and middle-income housing with market-rate, all next to one another in buildings of similar appearance, will avoid mistakes of the “housing projects” where concentrations of poverty create high-crime zones. And hopefully this project will look as good as it does in the drawing, encouraging more construction of new townhouses and creating new Park Slopes or Capitol Hills for future generations.