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FISHMANPET
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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 24th, 2016, 9:51 am

I'm fairly certain bedrooms without bedrooms aren't legally bedrooms, so I'm not entirely sure why we're arguing with this silly strawman.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby EOst » April 24th, 2016, 10:15 am

FISHMANPET wrote:I'm fairly certain bedrooms without bedrooms aren't legally bedrooms, so I'm not entirely sure why we're arguing with this silly strawman.
You're right, which is why most of these units don't "technically" have separate bedrooms; the wall between living room (with windows) and bedroom (without) stops a few feet short of the ceiling. I've seen this same arrangement at several buildings.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby beige_box » April 24th, 2016, 10:37 am

I'm not making this up. If you actually look at floor plans of some of these projects, you'd have spotted that this is not an uncommon phenomenon. I'm not sure how it's legal, either. Here's a couple examples I found in a couple minutes:

Seventeen10 Lake: most of the 2BR units have one of their bedrooms w/o windows; some of the 1BRs have no windows in the bedrooms: http://minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/pub ... 136548.pdf

Motiv: most 1BRs' bedroom doesn't have a window; a lot of them have a sliding curtain thing instead of a wall (the long-term viability of this arrangement, especially being called a 1BR and not a studio, seems dubious), but some really do just have doors leading into windowless rooms. Many of the 2BRs have a bedroom w/o windows: http://www.motivapartments.com/all-floor-plans/

I wonder how folks decide who gets to live in the real bedroom and who has to live in the scary darkness chamber?

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby BBMplsMN » April 24th, 2016, 10:49 am

To each their own I guess. My condo has both bedrooms without windows. However, both have French doors with large panes of glass and a transom. And the living area has giant windows near those doors. I actually have more of a problem keeping the light out of the bedroom, since I'm usually trying to sleep in there and prefer it dark. I've never thought the lack of an external window was a problem.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby beige_box » April 24th, 2016, 11:53 am

Seems like once the novelty of these buildings wears off, and once developers start figuring out how to build smaller, more window-y "missing middle"-type buildings (which seems like it might be the new trend), folks won't want to have to pay a premium only to then have no windows and/or less privacy (via French doors, sliding curtains, low walls, etc.). At the very least i doubt they'll be able to keep marketing these 1BR + windowless dens as 2BRs, or studios as 1BRs, and there will be some kind of consequences to that.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby seanrichardryan » April 24th, 2016, 3:34 pm

From a sustainability viewpoint, those units are terrible. No way to ventilate and light without electricity.
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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby winterfan » April 24th, 2016, 7:14 pm

beige_box wrote:
EOst wrote:Even setting aside natural light, I simply couldn't imagine living in an apartment without the ventilation that a bedroom window provides. I guess modern buildings are built with constant air conditioning assumed, but I couldn't live that way.
Exactly, and it just makes that kind of unit all the more precarious in the event of power outages. I wish they would just build narrow open-air shafts in these buildings, like you find in Paris and stuff. It would go a long way toward making these units not feel like weird caves removed from reality.
I lived in an apartment in Lowry Hill and an apartment in Uptown and they both had air shafts in the bathrooms. They were nice sashed windows that looked out onto a dark shaft. It was kind of strange. Was it for ventilation?

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby mplser » April 25th, 2016, 4:58 am

A friend of mine used to live in a 4-plex at 38th and Bloomington that had a window to a shaft in the bathroom, but the shaft was actually covered by a nasty dirty skylight and was dark and musty most of the time. totally pointless

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby Silophant » April 25th, 2016, 7:13 am

beige_box wrote:Exactly, and it just makes that kind of unit all the more precarious in the event of power outages.
Unless these units are sealed up like a spaceship so the air becomes poisonous if the ventilation fails for a few hours, I'm not sure 'precarious' is the right word. Certainly they become unpleasant in the absence of modern technology, but the same can be said for any unit above the 4th floor or so (depending on your fitness level).

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby Archiapolis » April 25th, 2016, 7:35 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:We're also building structures that don't fall apart today, which was FMP's point. We hear all the bad stories about buildings that need major (or even relatively minor) work, but never hear about the ones that just chug along. And, we don't really have a good grasp of the amount of rehab work in the first 30 years of old building lifespan. I think it's at least worth pointing out that newer buildings, both single- and multi- family, are far more complex - more and larger windows, crazy rooflines, elevators, complicated HVAC systems (relative to hot water), better insulation, deeper foundations for parking, could go on. They all bring in points of failure, intrusion, etc that simple buildings just didn't have, or they fail quicker because the old way of doing things was hazardous to our health (asbestos, lead paint, etc). There are plenty sectors of our consumer economy nowadays that have much shorter lifespans but are far, far better (in terms of efficiency, features, whatever) than their counterparts from 50+ years ago. TVs, lawn mowers, refrigerators, you name it. Maybe a majority buildings today really are built with a 50 year useful life in mind and they might require some extensive work in the meantime, while back in the day they were built to last 100-200 years. We can evaluate whether that's good or bad from an environmental or social perspective, but it doesn't by itself make the older building "better." I will admit, I'm mostly interested in what our building codes aren't addressing and/or how things are slipping past inspections.

Anyway, this situation is too bad because the narrative for anyone against new housing writes itself. Either newer housing is crappy quality and will fall down, or new housing impacts adjacent properties. So don't build new housing.
This is well said.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby Archiapolis » April 25th, 2016, 8:56 am

beige_box wrote:Seems like once the novelty of these buildings wears off, and once developers start figuring out how to build smaller, more window-y "missing middle"-type buildings (which seems like it might be the new trend), folks won't want to have to pay a premium only to then have no windows and/or less privacy (via French doors, sliding curtains, low walls, etc.). At the very least i doubt they'll be able to keep marketing these 1BR + windowless dens as 2BRs, or studios as 1BRs, and there will be some kind of consequences to that.
Having worked on dozens of these, I've got to chime in here.
Putting your own desires and opinions aside, the EVIDENCE (built projects) is clear - these buildings lease up and get sold. The market for multi-family rental is strong and it is off the charts in desirable cities with strong economies (Minneapolis). The projects are in SUCH high demand from investors that many of them sell before they have left "the drawing board." Do you realize how strong that is as an investment? I obviously don't understand your concerns regarding the long-term viability but when these projects get sold before they are even built, do you understand that they are being sold for large profits? No property owner is losing sleep worrying about how to make the mortgage, they are too busy spending the cash that is flowing from rental income (the reason that they invested in the first place).

I'll get back to the units in a minute but you clearly don't understand what are driving these projects:
1. Location - neighborhood amenities (restaurants, night life, biking trails, rivers, creeks, cafes, etc)
2. Amenities - pools, pool decks, lawn bowling, fitness rooms, yoga, "private" coffee shops, concierge service, bike maintenance areas, dog runs
3. "Common space" within units - "open plan" living/kitchen/dining
4-56. Others
57. Bedrooms

To put it more succinctly, the preference of "public" function over "private" function is at work at each scale. The "public" function is BY FAR the driver in each case. I've been in countless meetings with development teams and I've heard it dozens of times, "There are only two things going on in bedrooms and they tend to happen in the dark."

RBY had an excellent response to the longevity of new construction versus old construction. I'd like to accentuate that it is easy to build an uninsulated wall that "breathes" moisture back and forth all day and night through the wall assembly and then use massive amounts of energy to pump warm air in (or cool air) for human comfort. Claiming that building this way is superior to new construction is just ignorant - it is not sustainable and therefore the "technology" involved isn't something linear that can be leveraged by just adding insulation.

Units and a few important distinctions:
Studio: NO bedroom enclosure of any kind
Alcove: Bedroom enclosure that does not have a window to the outside
Bedroom: Window
Units Widths: Studios (can be 16-20' wide), Alcove (~18-22' wide) 1 Bedroom (~23+) which means a 12'(ish) living room and 11'(ish) bedroom that is "on the glass".

Marketing is what it is and these things can have whatever name they like but as unit sizes increase or bedrooms get enclosed or get windows, cost goes up. Anyone looking at units will have to weigh the importance of a bedroom window, a bedroom enclosure or watching TV from a bed. Anyone who rents a unit listed as a "1 bedroom" without comparing to other "1 bedrooms" is ignorant and/or lazy. I'd wager that these people are in the minority and understand that terminology can vary but at the end of the day, it's easy to see whether or not a bedroom is enclosed or not - it's not a "bait and switch" or false advertising. Management companies could call the units "Flarglesonss", if they aren't compared to other dwelling units, it doesn't matter what they are called.

Potential tenants aren't blind-folded when they walk through the units, they can see how the bedrooms are configured. When I first worked on these projects, the "alcove" type of bedroom (interior to the unit) comprised a smaller percentage of the overall unit count but that unit type has continued to increase over the last 6-8 years. It is handy for the developer that the desirability of alcoves have increased as the density tends to drive the profits up but if these units weren't being leased (no demand), they wouldn't build them (more of them) on the next project. The fact that alcove enclosures may not reach full height has nothing to do with code and everything to do with borrowed light. Borrowed light is also why alcoves are often designed with large sliding barn doors and/or transom windows or sandblasted glass facing the living space. These are design innovations that are a response to the depth of a unit and the desire to bring as much natural light as possible into a unit.

Just because you are disinclined to rent such a unit it doesn't mean that others are and the market does not support your inclinations. Many people can't live without a bathroom window - in an interior unit of a multi-family project these are basically impossible. People with these needs are best served in a single family home. The needs of such people are not even a consideration for developers of MFH.

Lastly, the "longevity" of buildings is driven by the code. There is very little incentive for a developer to build anything above "code minimum." The buildings are designed to meet code and are inspected at every step to insure that they are built according to the drawings. The structural engineering is done to a factor of safety that is very conservative. There is even language in the code regarding the "deflection" (bounciness) of a floor assembly. Empirically, I've lived in and spent time in many a building that was not built with floor joists that were at/near their limits for structural capacity and walking across the floor felt like walking across a trampoline. 60's/70's era "Garden Apartments" that are all over south Minneapolis were not built to be 100 year buildings either and surely their "amenities" within the units have not withstood the test of time. The owners of such buildings have had to make a choice: do nothing and keep rents relatively low (yay affordability) OR spend money, renovate and increase rents to stay competitive. So, the phenomenon of maintenance/style changes/desirability that you are so concerned about is really no concern at all, the owners of these new buildings will be faced with the same prospects 20-40 years from now. Romantic notions about "100 year buildings" and "they don't build them like they used to" are just nostalgia with no basis in reality.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby EOst » April 25th, 2016, 9:06 am

^ The most confusingly vitriolic post I've seen here yet, and that's saying something

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby David Greene » April 25th, 2016, 9:07 am

Archiapolis wrote:Romantic notions about "100 year buildings" and "they don't build them like they used to" are just nostalgia with no basis in reality.
Well I don't know. Is Le Parisian a good building? Yes, there are good new buildings being built. There are also really crappy ones. There are good old buildings. There are also crappy ones. I guess the question in my mind is that given all of our technological "innovation" like alcoves, why does our code still allow crappy buildings to be built? Is it really a good idea, sustainability-wise, to be building buildings that last only 50 years?

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby mplsjaromir » April 25th, 2016, 9:15 am

EOst wrote:^ The most confusingly vitriolic post I've seen here yet, and that's saying something
Where is the vitriol? The reasoning in based from professional experience and simple deduction of current realities. Rather than a notion that one can reliably predict the housing preferences of people forty years into the future.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 25th, 2016, 9:18 am

You know what's the most annoying thing about so called "progressive" housing advocates? How they've decided to decree exactly how other people should live, usually prescribing their middle class standards, rather than letting people actually choose something that meets their own needs.
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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 25th, 2016, 9:23 am

beige_box wrote:
A lot of folks here spin that as a positive outcome, a sort of trickle-down effect that in theory would create natural affordability over time, but my concern is that since we're talking about large complexes where dozens, even hundreds of identical units would be seeing their values plummet all at once, these complexes would suddenly become massive liabilities for their owners. At that point we might conceivably see a Bronx-is-burning type scenario, where landlords stuck with large buildings, with unstable tenants and high vacancy rates, find it more profitable to find ways to kick everyone out and then cash in on their insurance policies by burning them down. And then you're looking at mass displacement of low-income populations, like what happened in the Bronx and Harlem in the 1970s.
[citation needed]
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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby Archiapolis » April 25th, 2016, 9:25 am

EOst wrote:^ The most confusingly vitriolic post I've seen here yet, and that's saying something
Vitriolic? I'm sorry that you are offended and confused. With that being said, I made ZERO personal attacks. I simply made an argument based on my experience and tried to support it. I don't know why that is so threatening and/or offensive.

I'll never understand the passive/aggressive nature of Minnesota communication. I'm not going to fall all over myself apologizing for disagreeing with someone. There is no point in offering abashed, apprehensive and tepid opinions on a forum whose sole purpose is to discuss urbanism. My post was long enough without filling up space with apologizing for expressing an opinion and support.

As for whether or not it is confusing, I'd be happy to clarify any of what I've written. Feel free to refute any of the evidence that I have offered and there is no need to be equivocal, I won't be offended.

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby mister.shoes » April 25th, 2016, 9:37 am

For the record, I found your long post to be incredibly insightful and a good peek behind the curtain of the industry. So thank you.
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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 25th, 2016, 9:47 am

David Greene wrote:Is it really a good idea, sustainability-wise, to be building buildings that last only 50 years?
This is a very good question with a very complicated answer. In general, I'd say it's maybe not such a bad thing, purely from a sustainability lens, if buildings lasted around 50 years (ideally this wouldn't be the center of a perfect bell curve, but a positively skewed one). This hinges on what's replacing each building: something of similar or lesser density or greater? If it's allowing more people or businesses that would have required new housing somewhere else anyway (with all the environmental impacts of new materials, potentially new roads, etc), then I think the answer is obvious (esp when taking into account transportation impacts). Even if it were like-for-like, if we assume building technologies will continue reduce energy use, that NTfHP study found energy paybacks between 10 and 80 years. Colder climates like ours will see much faster paybacks, and in Chicago a single family home torn down and replaced with a similar, modern one will get a net energy payback in ~38 years. And, none of that even includes a better end-of-life process for the buildings being torn down.

But, we probably can't even get everyone on this board to agree what "sustainability" means so *shrug guy*

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Re: West Calhoun Apartments - (3118 Lake Street W)

Postby David Greene » April 25th, 2016, 10:10 am

There's certainly a tradeoff. Building a "good" building is probably more energy-intensive than building a "less good" building that doesn't last as long. My guess, though, is that density trumps all of that. The positives of increasing density is probably going to way overshadow any "wasted energy" tearing down a good building vs. a less good building. This is why I've never bought into the, "saving a building is the most environmentally sound thing to do" argument.

However, it's probably harder, politically and market-wise, to redevelop a good building than a less-good building, so...

On the other hand, are we likely to redevelop 200+ unit apartment buildings into something substantially more dense? Perhaps in very select areas but overall I'd guess those buildings will be with us for a long time, provided they are well-built and maintained.

Yeah, like you said, complicated.


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