Easton Redevelopment Authority Does Urban Infill Right

Gretchen Longenbach continutes doing amazing work at the Easton Redevelopment Authority:

Today, the [ERA] owns six houses on [the 600 block of Pine St.] that they plan to develop into modern urban dwellings that officials say differ from other, more historic-oriented houses in that section of Easton‘s West Ward.

“It’s a neat thing that isn’t really being replicated in other parts of the Valley,” said Justin Collins, project coordinator with the Lehigh Valley Community Land Trust. “You’ll see this type of urban infill in Philadelphia or New York, but there aren’t a lot of people doing that kind of thing here.” […]

[W]hile the city strives to maintain a historic flavor on such streets as Ferry and Northampton, Longenbach said, the authority is looking for a more “artistic flair” at Pine Street with the hopes of targeting a younger demographic of buyer.

“These homes were already more modern in general, and they didn’t really have any historic features, just boxing and siding,” she said. “So we thought we could take the opportunity to do something creative there.”

The new homes will have energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning systems, and may include such modern amenities as bamboo floors, laminate tiling with unique designs and countertops made from recycled material, Longenbach said.

Bill Adams at the Express Times brings us some photos:

The part of this approach that is replicable is that city policymakers can choose to scale back the scope of their preservation efforts to either specific buildings, or specific areas of neighborhoods, and then make it very easy to replace or modernize buildings in all the other areas. Some areas of Easton feature buildings with very special historic features that are timeless and beautiful. But many more buildings are just kind of old and janky. Some cities’ conservation ordinances are so strict they make it difficult to replace the janky buildings in addition to the beautiful ones, and that’s really a mistake. In parts of Northside Bethlehem you see a lot of older row houses that have ugly vinyl siding that could really stand to be modernized just like ERA’s been doing on Pine Street.

The part of this approach that can’t be easily replicated is that Gretchen and her team have great subjective design sense in addition to their competency at restoring buildings and securing financing for these rehab projects. There’s no substitute for staffing your redevelopment authority with talented people.

(via Colin McEvoy)

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