Historic Neighborhood Infill Development

Many urban neighborhoods have a need for infill construction, where homes that were lost to deterioration or other reasons must be replaced.  Here in Irvington we have a unique case where a gas explosion in 2004 eliminated three houses instantly and blew out windows in a one-block radius. (images from kipar-one here)

One house disappeared and the two adjacent were condemned

In an explosion this bad, we are lucky that nobody died.  It’s actually a fun conversation topic to ask people in the neighborhood, I’ve heard several variants from “slept right through it” to “the coldest nights of my life, took a week to replace the windows.”

Just this summer, the last destroyed house was replaced.  The first one, at the corner plot, did not leave anyone thrilled.  The second one was a solid infill project.  And happily, fate saved the best for last – a two story traditional American home that is perfect for the neighborhood.

The new corner duplex uses traditional materials but does not address the street as well
A new home that matches the original in massing and style
The new blue house is a great addition to the street

All homes featured were built after the approval of the historic district status, but I think the quality is improving because developers are now aware that poor designs are much less likely to be approved.  I believe that historic development requirements can have a good impact on neighborhood development, and I’m glad that it remains an option here in Indiana.

Comments 5

  • Very nice…that last house is a winner for sure.

  • Just an FYI – Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis is completing an infill home right now in the Cottage Homes neighborhood. The home is LEED Platinum registered and was approved by the neighborhood and HPO. 1319 E 9th Street.

  • That last one looks REALLY nice. I would live in that.

    Nice to see development respectful of the neighborhood heritage

  • I’m curious as to why you think the last one is best. In my view, infill housing should have a more distincly modern appearance, while retaining the same setback and massing as their historic neighbors, so they don’t just look like old houses that have been highly altered. How would the neighbors and the IHPC have reacted to a much more modern design?

  • The final house is my favorite, but my preferences are based on the property’s contributions to the neighborhood, not on how well the homes meet the needs of their residents. I’m sure each one would be a great place to raise a family, and I’m very happy that each one is now part of Irvington. But here is my analysis of each house:

    The first house has a stoop, but no porch. It is the corner property, but is only a 1.5 level instead of a 2 level. The structure doesn’t have defined entries or gateways that separate private and public areas. This is why I say it doesn’t address the street well.

    The next house is great, a solid infill project like I noted. It has a good porch and the parking is hidden. I do know that it has a full finished basement, but I was hoping for a taller house to preserve the “skyline” of the street (there are nearby historic 2.5 levels) so I didn’t give it full marks.

    The final house is my favorite because it has good window placement, the garage is mostly hidden behind the house, it has a full second story with a nicely pitched roof, and it is easy to appreciate the welcoming nature of the front facade and the clearly defined transition from public to private space.

    I have no problem with well-designed modern structures, but since there are so many ways to do a home incorrectly it’s probably just safer to stick with the tried-and-true traditional styles when doing an infill project. Many modern styled homes try to stick out for notoriety and end up hurting the atmosphere of their street, but they certainly have an important role in our neighborhoods.

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