By Dustin Urban
A new building has taken shape on South Main Street, further completing the streetscape and bringing new design concepts to the neighborhood. Owned by Bart Bettorf of Illinois and designed by Kenny Craft, the attached building at 903 South Main incorporates 1550 square feet of primary living space on the second and third stories and an 840-square-foot residential rental unit on the first floor.
Among the building’s most interesting design features is the three story “nook column.” This feature serves a number of purposes. First it creates interior space with eastern exposure, bringing morning light into this south-facing building. “Nooks are extremely valuable space; they’re very cozy and very functional,” says Jed Selby, who helped develop the design. Additionally, the nook column serves the important purpose of covering the ICF party wall with the neighboring building at 901 South Main; now as you look west from the South Main Town Square, the nook column is an aesthetically pleasing feature that will catch the eye.
Designer Kenny Craft refers to the Bettorf building as a ‘stacked flat.’ “Essentially it’s a town house on top of a rental apartment, but it has the appearance visually of being one residence,” says Kenny. The “residential mixed-use” zoning on South Main Street makes such design flexibility possible; Mr. Bettorf could have designed a building with commercial space on the first floor, but “I have five kids,” he told me. “I wanted to be able to come down and have two separate living areas in the same building. And financially it makes sense to be able to lease the downstairs.” Bettorf plans to rent both units through South Main Vacation Rentals.
Essentially the first floor unit functions as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU)—like an apartment over a garage—only it is incorporated into the main building. While many towns and cities make ADUs an illegal use, 156 ADUs are permitted to be built in South Main. Not only do ADUs give owners flexibility and the ability to help cover the mortgage with rental income, they are also an excellent source of affordable rentals.
Although smaller in size than the first story of the Bettorf building, one such ADU in South Main is currently renting to one of South Main’s master carpenters for $500 per month. This a good deal for both tenant and owner since the additional cost per month on a mortgage payment of building an ADU is less than the monthly rent it brings in, making such a rental a great investment.
As the supply of such rentals grows in South Main, so too will the economic diversity of the neighborhood. Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, in their definitive book Suburban Nation, describe ADUs as a critical form of affordable housing. “Not only is a society healthier when its diverse members are in daily contact with one another, it is also more convenient. Imagine living just around the corner from your doctor, your child’s school teacher, and your baby-sitting aunt. Imagine being able to grow old in a neighborhood that can accommodate your changing housing needs while also providing a home for your children and grandchildren (47).”
Such statements sound nice, but consider that this social arrangement is dramatically different from that created by the economic segregation of suburbia. More from Suburban Nation: “Unlike the suburban system, [economically diverse neighborhoods do] not isolate people from one another. The same sidewalks, the same parks and the same corner store serve everyone from the C.E.O. to the local librarian. Sharing the same public realm, these people have the opportunity to interact, and thus come to realize that they have little reason to fear each other (47).”
Of course privacy between units must be considered in the design, and Craft has accomplished this nicely with the Bettorf building. Primary access to the first floor unit is through a door off of the front porch. The top two stories, meanwhile, are primarily accessed by a staircase from the back of the lot (the first story unit has no access from the rear of the building) as well as by a door off the front porch. From the interior, both units are completely separate.
Designing for privacy in this way provides for a much more efficient use of space. ADUs, write Duany et. al, are “essentially a bedroom that has migrated out of the body of the house into the rental market. The logic is straightforward: there are literally millions of unused bedrooms in this country, but they are not available because renting them out would violate the privacy of the homeowner (51).”
The home’s interior promises to be quite nice (click on the floorplans to see a larger version). There are a couple fireplaces, and the first floor living area will step down from the entrance level, making the ceiling height a gracious twelve feet.
While the two units will initially be managed by South Main Vacation Rentals- available either as a single rental with five bedrooms and three full baths or as separate three bed and two bed units, the building will be flexible over time. In South Main, says Jed, “the form is defined and the function is flexible. Which is the opposite of conventional zoning, where the function is firm and the form is flexible.” We’re excited to have a unique new design on South Main Street as well as a new family as part of our community.
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