THE MISSING MIDDLE
A HOUSING DESIGN COMPETITION
Asheville, North Carolina
WHAT IS THE MISSING MIDDLE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Members of ACTIVATE NC invite you to share your ideas on contemporary multi-family housing concepts that satisfy ‘the Missing Middle’. The Missing Middle describes a scale of infill multi-family development that may fit appropriately within single family neighborhoods while providing greater density in Asheville’s urban core. These multi-plex structures may resemble larger single family structures, the scale of which falls somewhere between the single family city cottage and larger multi-family structures, like apartment buildings. The City of Asheville has identified “The Missing Middle” as a key infill housing strategy to help with the community’s housing shortage. Asheville’s initiatives to accommodate Missing Middle projects can be found here. Current state of Asheville housing is detailed here: Asheville Housing Market challenges.
The concept of the "Missing Middle", while historically found in most established urban cores, is reemerging as an infill housing strategy. Multi-family structures clustered as duplex, 4-plex or more, but are much closer in scale and character to single family, can serve as infill housing solutions that are more feasible and attractive for development. "Urban Mountain" might be an apt description for densely built portions of San Francisco hillsides. Density built on topography is an appropriate precedent Asheville should consider. Larger multi-family houses, compact enough to step up and down with steeper slopes, can insert into existing neighborhoods in a contributory way.
Deemed the 6th least sustainable housing market in the country, Asheville is experiencing a growing divide between soaring housing costs and stagnant income levels. Buncombe County, in particular, has a 5,000 unit housing shortage. Such low inventory is driving existing home sales to unsustainable prices, rivaling the trend of several high priced housing markets nationally.
The city and surrounding vicinity need to embrace an "all of the above" strategy. Single family housing does little to address the shortage. In fact, it may be fueling a low-density mindset. Larger scale multifamily developments in the city currently lack momentum. Many larger projects are shelved because of higher development costs in Asheville - Their pro formas don't work. It was recently stated that “all of the easy sites in Asheville have been taken so we're left with the more challenging sites”. Topography is the primary hardship: site development costs, a more stringent steep slope ordinance, and geometrically unconventional sites pose unique challenges that, while ripe for design creativity, tend to discourage bottom line driven developers. The current pace of population influx is outpacing added housing units, so the crisis looks to only worsen in coming years.
This is an ideas competition generated by a real need to demonstrate new and better ways for infill multi-plex housing in mountain or hillside communities with challenging topography.
The competition encourages a housing type that blends different income levels and demographics and helps knit together the fabric of the city. A building boom of multifamily housing is prevalent in Southeastern US cities, but much of the efforts are large-scale and do not work well in Asheville. Asheville’s unique character, history, and blend of socio-economic and alternative lifestyles are not good fits with the bland multi-family housing solutions that are repeated in many cities without much influence of context.The competition concepts should, above all, be uniquely Asheville.
Designers are invited to explore and develop the following:
- Multi-family housing solutions for young families, retirees, and alternative households.
- Urban outdoor space via a reimagined Murray Hill Park
- Indoor and outdoor environments that support sustainable initiatives.
The competition site is within walking distance of the emerging River Arts District, New Belgium Brewing Company, and the equally popular South Slope. The competition site is nestled amongst both single family areas and several subsidized multi-family apartment complexes. Like much of Asheville, the site has the significant challenge of undulating topography. The competition area, centrally located between two popular tourist and working hubs, is an ideal location for multi-family workforce housing. Transit is nearby, and the city’s new Asheville Middle School lies just to the north of the site.
The site is along the west end of Bartlett Street, consisting of a tract of city owned land known as Murray Hill Park. The existing property and park are underutilized and without organizational clarity.
The competition winners will be publicly announced in November 2017 (exact date to be determined). Entries will be displayed at the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design as well as other venues throughout the state in the seven AIA NC Sections.
Request for Proposals Link: www.aiancawards.org
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