Morning Metro: Outwrite Closes For Good, Courtyard To Open Feb 1st, and Atlanta’s Got Growth Problems

Midtown Atlanta parking map courtesy of Human Scale Cities

55 thoughts on “Morning Metro: Outwrite Closes For Good, Courtyard To Open Feb 1st, and Atlanta’s Got Growth Problems”

  1. Not a big fan of the ‘Prairie Modern’ style. Doesn’t fit in well with our Oakhurst bungalows. Looks rather boxy

    1. Not my taste either. But obviously someone’s. On the bright side, Arlene does build things with a higher level of quality than many of these folks, and her properties have WINDOWS.

  2. The ‘prairie modern’ style looks pretty wonky and weird to me. But I’m a little biased… I generally prefer older, less enormous houses for aesthetic and environmental purposes. I’d rather renovate and live in a small/cute bungalow than inhabit some excessive behemoth of a house (even if you build it with green materials, the fact that a house is so large has a lot to do with how much energy it uses!).

    And I agree with Rob — it really ticks me off when people build these weird houses in the middle of a street filled with petite bungalows (which I think are truly a defining characteristic of homes in Decatur and Oakhurst)!

    1. Big houses will get cobwebs, leaks, animals, and dust bunnies in places you cannot reach. A brand new huge house with high ceilings looks fantastic at first. Somewhere around 10 years, it looks much more dated and shabby than a similarly worn more modest and classic home. The ultra-wealthy either buy a new home or renovate (while living in expensive rented digs) at that point.

  3. Mr. Leinberger of the Brookings Institute makes the case for the imperative of passing the transportation tax.

  4. The “Prairie Moderns” are indeed out of character for Decatur and Oakhurst in particular. Not only do they interrupt the rhythm of streetscapes developed over the course of nearly a century, they also dwarf (in scale) historically authentic homes in proximity. Another thing to consider is that most (all?) of the “Prairie Moderns” were built on teardown sites. Regardless of the PR, there is no way any of these properties can be considered “green,” sustainable, or compatible with the community where they are being built. Another neighborhood, perhaps. But not Oakhurst.

    I wrote a blog post that national historic preservation groups forwarded links to about these “Prairie Moderns” on Third Ave. Google-savvy folks can get there.

    1. David, it is not that I disagree with you about whether the houses are out of character, but I personally like the fact that older neighborhoods such as Decatur aren’t cookie cutter subdivisions and each neighborhood contains some unique homes. I also like the fact that the neighborhoods are still evolving and new residents are able to put their stamp on them. You aren’t going to like every house on your street, but don’t those unique ones add character? If you want rhythm or consistent skylines, move to the outlying burbs where each subdivision contains no more than 3 or 4 floorplans and covenants prohibit any variation from the mold.

      I don’t see why the fact that these houses are on a teardown site or the size of the homes are relevent. Although there are undoubtedly other reasons (or just simply your own personal prefernces about style, symmetry, etc.), your argument just wreaks of wealth envy IMO, especially the comment about teardowns. If someone tore down a delapitdated 1200 sq ft bungalow and built a brand spaking new 1200 sq ft bungalow style home, would you feel compelled to point out that it is a teardown site? There are a lot of new, larger homes throughout Decatur which incorporate architectural elements from the turn of the last century (and many that don’t), and not only do they not look out of place, they look much better than some of the homes which probably need to be torn down. Just my opinion.

        1. +1. Here we go again. I’m not envious of anyone’s wealth. But why, oh why does Decatur no longer welcome someone who can buy and renovate a $200,000 – $250,000 house?

      1. @DawgFan: “Wealth envy?” You’re kidding, right?

        No, my opinion comes from nearly 30 years of historic preservation work as a consultant, teacher, and former chair of a historic preservation commission in a county with nearly a million people and internationally-recognized planning and historic preservation programs. I didn’t say I didn’t like the “Prairie Moderns” (I don’t), I gave my professional opinion. And no, I’m not a preservation zealot who believes that every old building needs to be preserved as a museum piece. I am, however, a Decatur homeowner who bought a house in a charming neighborhood with a lot of historic character. Unfortunately, that character is being eroded by construction of McMansions like these “Prairie Modern” homes.

        1. David, I think DawgFan didn’t realize that your teardown comment was partially related to the concept of a new home claiming to be green— true green would be to reuse and rehab as much of the exisiting materials as possible, in order to prevent landfill/waste.

          1. I did not mean to imply that David is envious, but there are many people who see someone buying an existing home to tear down who are envious. Or, there are people who see someone buying a home, tearing it down and then building a much bigger one who are envious. I think a component of the argument against this practice is based on wealth envy (whether people recognize they are envious or not), although I ackowledge there are other reasons, including personal prefernce. David prefers preservation. I don’t mind a mix of old and new. Just our opinions.

            But, doesn’t using the term “McMansion” support my observation? “Mc” clearly refers to McDonald’s which is, in this case, a symbol of evil capitalism, corporate greed, etc.

            1. In general, extravagant needless wealth disgusts me. It’s essentially everything wrong with our world right now. It has nothing to do with “envy”… saying someone has “wealth envy” is just a weak, classist cop out for rich people who don’t want to face the facts that they’re running our world –socially, economically, and especially environmentally — into the GROUND.

              1. Just curious, but do you not think or realize that your statement is based entirely on classism, the same classism you so clearly despise? You basically just grouped every single rich person together – no excpetions – all of them are the same. And I would love to know how you define “rich”. Building a 3,000 sq ft house in a nice area is not extravagant (unless of course you are envious) and doesn’t exhibit needless wealth.

                  1. “They only call it class warfare when we fight back.”

                    In other words, I think it’s the 1% who’ve been warring against the poor all this time… and when the poor people actually decide to do something about it, it’s suddenly outrageous. #doublestandards

                  2. It’d be great if we could not mock each others opinions. I know that’s not living up to some people’s view of DM as the new AJC comments section, but I’d rather we be civil.

                    Thanks bunches and scrunches decapitated-by-a-top-loading-washing-machine-bear!

              2. Let’s not be naïve here. If she could make as much money off of renovating the smaller bungalows then she can buy tearing down and rebuilding then she wouldn’t be tearing them down.

            2. DF, I don’t think you implied that David id envious. I think you flat out said it.

              Ahem, “your argument just wreaks of wealth envy IMO”

              If you want to take it back, then take it back. But don’t deny it.

        2. I have seen your blog. I did not see any entries there about new houses that were not criticized. Perhaps I missed them. Can you point out some new infill construction in the area that you like?

          1. @Ben, Unfortunately, there are not a lot of compatible, i.e., non-McMansion, new builds in Oakhurst. Most of the homes built since we moved here have been maxed out for FAR and setbacks (and have gotten variances). They are out of character (stylistically) and out of scale with the historic neighborhood. Yes, Oakhurst is historic, just not legally recognized as such.

            There are several rehabilitations that I’ve seen that are really good and would serve as models for folks thinking about tearing down older houses and building McMansions. The National Trust for Historic Preservation released a landmark study on the benefits of retaining old buildings versus new construction and Atlanta was one of the sample cities used in the study:

            1. I think a lot of people view “historical fans” as “hysterical fanatics” because there is the perception that these people view anything new as bad, and anything old as good. People and their tastes change. The ranch house was a very popular design at one time, then it fell severely out of style. But it is every bit as worthy of history as a craftsman 4-square.

              1. @Ben, I agree. In fact, I’ve written about ranch houses and their historical significance. And, just to show you that historic preservation isn’t just about aesthetics, I’ve also written historic designation documents on Cold War-era microwave relays. One of these documents is in the collections of Library of Congress because I did it for the National Park Service:

                Aside from engineers and telecom executives, I bet you won’t find a whole lot of folks who will tell you that a lattice tower is a work of art. But when you put it in context, it — the artifact — tells a pretty compelling story.

              2. I think people made fun of ranches and split-levels even at the height of their popularity. Can’t remember who but folks like Tom Lehrer or Johnny Carson. They were the McMansions of their day.

                1. As someone who knows every Tom Lehrer lyric, I don’t think he ever mentioned housing. Now, Pete Seeger had a few words on the topic.!

                  1. o/ o/ “National Brotherhood Week, it’s National Brotherhood Week…..” o/ o/

                    o/o/ “E-e-e-egypt’s gonna get one, too, just to use on you-oo know who. Israel’s getting tense, wants one in self defense. The Lord is our shepherd,” says the psalm, but just in case…..we better get a bomb! o/o/

                    My parents had the record. I bought the CD when my son was around 3 and for some reason, he thought it was hysterical. It’s dated stuff but I love Tom Lehrer.

                2. This is (sort of) my point. Today’s McMansions will be tomorrow’s ranch houses… or something like that. I’m just trying to say that “history” is constantly evolving and placing value judgement on one style or another really just boils down to aesthetics, which is by definition, subjective.

      2. Re wealth-envy: I have wealth lust in my heart and I’m proud of it! But my rational self agrees with CL that too much conspicuous consumption is a bad idea when our planet has finite potential for consumption. Now while I do have wealth envy, I do not have expensive home envy. My stint as a home owner and recipient of a renovation is that the larger the home, the more work it is and the less leisure and family time are available. So unless you work on your home for pleasure, which I realize some do, a large and/or expensive home is a burden even if you are wealthy and can hire lots of help. It’s work to manage staff and services and legal issues, etc. Whenever we go on vacation and rent a small cabin or condo, and then have a ball, I think….this is the true life of pleasure, to have less responsibilities!

        1. Illogical sentence should have read: “My stint as a home owner and recipient of a renovation has taught me that the larger the home, the more work it is and the less leisure and family time are available.”

    1. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t. I have met the GM and a couple of his people and they are very community oriented.

  5. I think it’s funny when people complain about cookie cutter subdivisions in the same breath they’re speaking of the character of all the cute little bungalows. I’ve been in many of these cute little Oakhurst bungalows (lived in one, too) and they are as cookie cutter as they come, just a different era.

    1. @Keith F: Oakhurst, like most late 19th and 20th century suburbs, is an artifact of real estate speculation. In fact, you could look at any raw land improvement project and tie it so capitalism and the market. What sets the cookie cutter building stock of the 1910-1950 period apart from the suburbs of Postwar America are scale (individual buildings and overall developments), materials, design, and innovation. Some suburbs, like the Levittowns, are historic for their buildings and their economic and social associations. Others, are ordinary car-dependent drags on the environment with crappy building stock and unremarkable aesthetics.

      What sets Oakhurst (and its kin) apart from cookie cutter burbs are its scale, materials, and historical associations. Looks can be deceiving, though. What kind of Oakhurst do you want? One that still looks and feels like the Oakhurst that attracted you to live there or an Oakhurst that looks, feels, and costs like Chevy Chase, Maryland?

        1. Really? You end a b***ch slap with an emoticon? That really takes the sting out of it. You go DawgFan.

        2. Boo! I was just answering his question about what kind of Oakhurst I wanted. And it wasn’t directed at any one person – I was referring to anyone who fit that description.

      1. Hey David, I’m going to admit I don’t understand much of what you’re saying, but I’m willing to learn. Your scale comment is lost on me. Also, are the materials somehow remarkable and what is the historical aspect? Is it significantly historical or simply old. I’m genuinely interested. To me, our 2/2 bungalow was kind of cool, but it also leaked, sagged, and was a bit of a money-pit for its size, and I didn’t see the ability to modernize it in a way that I could enjoy a few of the finer things in life.

    2. +1
      Aren’t many of the houses in the neighborhood essentially catalog houses that were put up by developers? I would not say that all homes built during the early 20th century were all necessarily well-built. I lived in one and there was certainly room for progress. The “prairie modern” houses you criticize are actually built with very high standards and will last for many many years.

      1. @Ben, I believe that — “built with very high standards and will last for many many years” — was used to market earlier subdivider/merchant builder homes. The difference is that the older homes had old growth wood, real masonry (not veneers), and structural steel. I wonder how many of the “Prairie Modern” homes were built to LEED Gold or Platinum standards, not built on teardown sites, and, most importantly, what their life cycle assessments (LCA) are.

        1. The bit about old growth wood, etc. is correct, and those homes will stand for a long time if properly maintained. But, they were also built with single pane glass windows, no insulation, open fireplaces and are horribly inefficient. How many of those meet LEED standards?

            1. I insulated my older home and addressed the fireplace, and I have perfomred my own cost benefit analysis of replacing older windows.

              But, you completely misunderstood my point. You have yet to make a single positive comment about new construction and speak as if the big bad wolf could blow them all down. While older homes do have certain advantages, new homes are vastly superior in many aspects (energy efficiency comes to mind). Although not yet time tested, some of the engineered wood products used today are stronger than seasoned timber and have longer life expectancies. I, for one, acknowledge that their are tradeoffs.

  6. If you haven’t yet, please consider signing the Dekalb Animail Shelter petition. We were there in the fall looking for a dog and that place truly needs help. Our pup is a real sweetie, but we’re still trying to figure out what she is!! It makes me happy every day knowing that she was one of the few lucky ones that has to come through that sad facility.

    1. Tried twice to sign, once the website crashed and the second, the hour glass just continued to spin. I’ll try again because I think it’s a worthy cause but they’re not making it easy. Maybe it’s a lower-budget do-gooder kinda site (maybe not), but if they can’t make it work, people won’t use it. On the flip side, maybe there are just SO MANY people signing that it just couldn’t take the pounding.

    2. +1

      I was encouraged when I saw close to 50 comments in this thread, thinking people were passionately discussing the sorry state of Dekalb’s animal shelter (and humane services in general). But no, apparently it’s more important to debate the relative merits or distastefulness of prairie modern architecture. *eye roll*

    3. Just signed! As a former shelter volunteer in other counties, I know what a difference improved facilities can make. High stress levels, aggression, food stealing (to the point of malnutrition), and disease transmission are all rampant in crowded kennels. Two of our three wonderful dogs are from local county shelters, and both probably would have been euthanized had their illnesses progressed further. I’m deeply grateful that my Gertie and Fred were survivors.

  7. Architectural aesthetics aside, I think it’s sad news that Outwrite has closed for good. I had always thought of that store as the model for bookstore as neighborhood gathering place. A place with a point of view.

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