Decatur’s newest subdivision (updated)

Check back frequently for updates on additional teardowns and new construction progress at each of the properties.

Over the next few weeks, three houses on Ansley Street between Jefferson Place and Greenwood Avenue will be demolished to make way for three new homes. A fourth house, recently listed for sale, may join these 1940s homes as Decatur’s latest Oakhurst teardowns.

Street sign posted on Ansley Street advertising pre-teardown garage sale. Photo by author, March 3, 2012.

The three homes slated for teardown by Thrive Homes will contribute about 90 tons of waste to area landfills. The new homes to be built at the teardown sites will be significantly larger — McMansions, by definition — than the existing homes and the Ansley Street streetscape will be significantly altered once they are completed.

Although Thrive is developing each of these properties independently, cumulatively the completed projects will bear Thrive’s “historically inspired” brand of faux Craftsman features and other architectural bric-a-brac. The street will lose its historically authentic character; it may not have a new subdivision name, but it will look and feel just like a new “historically inspired” subdivision.

Is this the type of unsustainable development Decatur envisioned in 2007 when Oakhurst builders and land use attorneys successfully defeated a proposed Oakhurst Historic District? Did Oakhurst residents really contemplate this type of development without the opportunity to provide their input as community stakeholders?

Ansley Street streetscape. View to the north from Jefferson Place. Photo by author, March 5, 2012.

The new Ansley Street “Subdivision”:

450 Ansley Street

450 Ansley Street. Existing house (left), proposed Thrive elevation (right).

450 Ansley after teardown earlier in the day. All debris had been hauled away to a landfill by 2:30 PM. Photo by author, March 29, 2012.

450 Ansley. Photo by author,May 3, 2012.

 

450 Ansley Street. June 1, 2012.

454 Ansley Street

454 Ansley Street. Existing house (left), proposed Thrive elevation (right).

Thrive Homes demolished 454 Ansley on Saturday, March 17, 2012:

454 Ansley Street on March 18, 2012. The house was standing the night of Friday March 16 and Thrive reduced it to a rubble pile by sundown the next day. Photo by author.

Builder’s crew removes trees from the lot to prepare for foundation construction. Photo by author, March 20, 2012.

Foundation completed at 454 Ansley Street. Photo by author, March 28, 2012.

454 Ansley first floor framed. Photo by author, March 29, 2012.

454 Ansley second floor framed. Photo by author, April 2, 2012.

454 Ansley second floor framed. Photo by author, April 2, 2012.

454 Ansley. Photo by author, April 3, 2012.

454 Ansley. Photo by author, April 22, 2012.

454 Ansley. Photo by author, April 22, 2012.

454 Ansley Street. June 1, 2012.

454 Ansley Street completed. First open house, July 1, 2012.

 

470 Ansley Street

470 Ansley Street. Existing house (left), proposed Thrive elevation (right).

470 Ansley gutted and awaiting demolition. Photo by author, March 23, 2012.

470 Ansley Street, April 27, 2012. 7:10 AM.

470 Ansley Street, April 27, 2012. 10:30 AM.

470 Ansley Street. Foundation, May 23, 2012.

 

470 Ansley Street. June 1, 2012.

Displacement and Disruption in Action

A drive down Ansley Street in April 2012:

Read a related post about a resident displaced by these teardowns.

 

12 thoughts on “Decatur’s newest subdivision (updated)

  1. First of all there is nothing historic about the existing post war structures that will be demolished.

    Secondly, all though the homes will add to the landfill much of it (wood fiber) is biodegradable.

    Third, the majority of the new construction being built is purchased by growing families that already live in the community and want to stay. Some of their current homes have been remodeled and no longer fit their needs. This leaves the smaller remodeled inventory for new younger families that allow our neighborhood to not only survive but also thrive.

    Forth, this allows our tax base to increase and help fund all the things that we love about our community such as the school system.

    This point of view is extremely near sided and does not take into account the many families that welcome the new product.

    • Community Stakeholder said:
      “First of all there is nothing historic about the existing post war structures that will be demolished.”
      – Do you honestly NOT see how you contradict yourself with this statement? It would seem you know as much about history as you do proper grammar and punctuation.

  2. Let’s not forget they’ve already put in 4 or 5 of their cookie cutter craftsmans on Greenwood Ave

  3. As Oakhurst becomes a more desirable place to live with most houses selling for 400 and up I don’t see an end to it. There will be more & more affluent families moving in with the bigger is better mentality.

    The truth being a majority of these houses being torn down would be fine for a family of 4. If a house is too far gone I understand a rebuild but a majority of these homes should be restored. Once its gone its gone and along with it the character and history of the neighborhood.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_less_stuff_more_happiness.html

  4. The truth is that the useful lives of these extremely small post WWII tract houses have probably come to an end. Builders are not tearing down the beautiful craftsman bungalows that people think of as the prototypical Oakhurst home anymore. They might have had torn some down in the past, but not anymore. Most all are renovated or are in good shape and are too valuable to be tear downs.

    According to Dekalb County property records, 450 Ansley is 873 sq feet, 454 Ansley is 1016 square feet, and 470 Ansley is 1037 square feet. Not only are these homes incredibly small for all but maybe single person households today, their architecture does not really add anything to the neighborhood, and there is not much you can really do to improve them or expand them. How many of the people that are protesting their demolition is willing to live in these tiny homes? I doubt any.

    These homes were built very cheaply to provide affordable housing to people in the rapid post WWII expansion in the late 1940’s. I’m sure if there were “preservationalists” in South Decatur back in the 1940’s, who lived in the 1910-1920’s Craftsman bungalow homes built in the prior generation, they did not like that these home were being built and probably thought that they were incompatible with their homes as well. Similarly, the farmers who worked the land before the turn of the century probably wished they could have preserved their way of life instead of subdividing the property into the neighborhood we have today. But time marches on and things change … just as things are changing today. We should not try to stop progress.

    • What a ridiculous thing to say! 1000 sq ft is more than ample for a family with two kids unless you are some ostentatious person that enjoys succumbing to the stereotype of Americans as frivolous people in need of absurdly large homes. What would you even do with all that space? Spend thousands decorating it and then not even use half the rooms? You do realize there are families living in 100 sq ft by choice, right?

  5. I must first admit I am biased, as my family is hoping to purchase a home in Oakhurst some time soon. But I have worked in real estate and construction for the past 10 years and I hate to see our quirky, diverse, affable neighborhood turn into a cookie cutter suburbian subdivision. I’ve done teardowns of houses that were functionally obsolete. I get that. But what they are being replaced with are massive boxes with a little extra trim here and there. I am supportive of preservation efforts that make sense. I don’t want to completely limit what people are able to do with their own property, but isn’t there a happy medium somewhere?

    • Thanks for commenting. As I’ve written, it’s not just a historic preservation issue. It’s about sustainability, the environment, and diversity. In fact, I doubt a defensible case could be made for a historic district that embraces all of Oakhurst. A small HD in the business district may still work but an area-wide district, I think, is no longer possible due to the tremendous loss of original buildings and the haphazard construction of McMansions. Even smaller districts based on historic subdivisions may no longer be possible simply because they retain too little integrity. The folks who fought so hard against a local historic district in 2007 may have been more successful than they could have ever anticipated. Their self-interest and short-sighted campaign that tore Oakhurst apart will continue to cost the community well into the future and there’s not a thing people can do to recover what’s been lost. Here’s one of the fliers they distributed throughout the community:

  6. I am somewhere in the middle with this debate. I continue to be against the Historic district idea, but I wonder if the Decatur house-building regulations might be too loose, or contain too many loopholes. Specifically, I am concerned about the water-runoff and drainage problems I see with all the new construction. It seems most builders have figured out how to max out lot coverage to include large 2-3 story homes with detached garages on small plots of land.

  7. How about those three lots together get developed as something other than three new 4000 sf single family Thrive homes. Who is Thrive anyway?
    What would be really interesting is to do “something” across the three lots that would be used by more than the six adults and what 6-12 kids. I think what I hear David saying in this post is that we need better planning – nothing against Thrive and their style of building, but to allow one developer to impact the “style” of the neighborhood may not be in our best interest.
    Imagine a row of live/work lofts with retail right there. A bookstore. A boulangerie. And maybe even a candle stick maker. That would be thinking outside the cookie cutter.
    ps please don’t write back about the lack of parking or storm water or who would want to live next to a blacksmith. I only offer these simPle examPles to illustrate the need for more planning. And besides the parking issue should be over soon when gas is $5/gallon…

  8. David, all of your research is very thorough and appreciated. Here’s my story, for the opinion it’s worth. My wife and I moved to 1426 Oakview Road in OAK in July of 2001. It was a charming 2br/1ba home. The home had one tiny bathroom in the center, and with our first baby girl on the way, we undertook a small addition project and added a master bathroom. As our daughter (and number of dogs) grew, so did our need for space.

    In 2005, we moved only a few blocks away to 316 Spring Street, between Oakview and Fayetteville. When we bought the house, it was a very modest 2/1. We immediately underwent an extensive addition, including a new kitchen, mudroom, master bedroom and bath, living room, and a beautiful screened porch off the back. We worked with a local architect and builder, taking great care to leave as much of the existing home as made sense, and marrying the new addition to the old. I believe we succeeded. In the end, the sum total of the house is roughly 60/40, new versus original construction. We loved that house.

    In 2009, we welcomed our second baby girl into our lives and into our renovated 3/2. (I should mention that in considering both of the above moves, we never once looked outside OAK. We loved it so much, it was never an option.) But again, as our family grew, we felt we needed more room – with two daughters, our dog, the need for home offices, etc., the walls were closing in.

    In Spring 2010, we began looking around the OAK for our next home. Given the inventory at the time for larger homes in OAK, we had a very hard time finding something we liked and that fit our needs. Once again, leaving the OAK was never a consideration. After a year of searching and waiting, we began to entertain the idea of building something. We met with a local builder, Thrive – a builder of one of the “McMansions” you so often refer to with disdain, and really liked both the owner of the company and his homes. We happen to like the style of his houses and the notion of building in a neighborhood we’d helped to develop (in our own little way) and support over the past decade. The lot upon which we built had already been purchased by the builder, and his plan was to tear down the existing house. Naturally, I went to the house to see if I agreed with the teardown. I did 100%. I did so because the house was poorly constructed, was incredibly inefficient, and would never see the renovation it would take to maintain any longevity. It would simply cost too much. The landscapers and real estate team did a great job with the curb appeal of the house, but let’s not confuse decoration with true sustainability. So we moved forward. We now have a house that you would most certainly criticize, and in fact, already have in multiple posts. It is large, with almost 2,980 square feet. It has a detached, two-story garage behind it. One day I will build my music room up there in hopes to further my own hobby and my girls’ music education. My daughters have a bathroom they can share, their own rooms, and even a playroom where they can entertain themselves and their friends. We have a screened in back porch with a fireplace. We can see plenty of trees around us. We have great neighbors. We like to think maybe it’s not too cookie cutter – it’s purple and blue and is filled with our unique style. But you will say it is, and that is just fine by me.
    Most importantly, we love it. It’s perfect for our family. We can still walk to the OAK restaurants, parks and local events we’ve enjoyed since moving to the OAK in 2001. My oldest daughter can ride her bike to Oakhurst Elementary. How awesome is that!? Interestingly, both of the homes we’ve previously owned and sold in OAK went under contract in less than two days. Is this important? Not really, and certainly timing, location and demand did the heavy lifting – but I like to think that a part of it was also the decisions we made in the additions/renovations to both of those homes. I also like to believe that what we’ve helped create from an architectural standpoint is desirable as well. 

    Am I right in building the house I did? The only person that can truly answer that is me. And it’s a resounding yes. Is the development of larger homes right for the neighborhood? If they are right for the people who buy them and take care of them, then yes. Has OAK changed over the past decade since we first arrived? Absolutely. Such is nature. The OAK fits our family, our lifestyle, and allows us to continue to support the community we thoroughly enjoy and support – from my tax dollars to beers with my buddies. 

    This is nothing more than one man’s story of the path that led him to build his new home in a community he so greatly appreciates and admires.

    I am saddened to hear that you and your wife have found no joy in Oakhurst. I wish you both the best and I hope you find the happiness you seek.

    Rob Broadfoot

    • Rob, thank you for the detailed commentary. I’ll respond at greater length in a separate post.

      One thing I’d like to point out, though. It’s wonderful that you were able to describe your cycling through Oakhurst’s starter homes before buying the home that looms over Ansley Street from the builder. But think about this for a moment: The builder tore down a perfectly good home, as photos from the 2009 citywide historic resources survey show, to build something more than twice its size. That teardown (and the one next to you) removed opportunities for other families to follow the homeownership trajectory you recounted.

      And, at least another longtime Decatur family just two doors up from you found a different way to retain their 1940s home and accomodate a growing family.

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