Some 30 residents, City officials, architects and urban planning enthusiasts gathered last Monday night at the City Hall to help develop a pattern book that the City hopes will assist homeowners, contractors, and builders, as they repair, rebuild and expand houses in the City.
At the end, the City wants to give the existing neighborhoods an aesthetically pleasing look that it thinks will enhance their architectural quality.
The City awarded the contract to a Pittsburgh based contractor Urban Design Associates (UDA) to develop the book and make this available free to everyone interested in the city.
The principal architect at Urban Design Associates, Eric Osth, made the presentation at Monday’s meeting.
The project’s proposal document states the pattern book will provide guidance to homeowners, builders, developers, and architects on appropriate architectural detailing, massing, siting and related techniques to ensure that additions, renovations and infill development relate contextually to existing neighborhood patterns and styles.
“The pattern book is intended to instill pride in homeowners and encourage them to reinvest in their property while maintaining the unique character of their homes and neighborhood” – the document cites.
The project is aided by a steering committee with some half a dozen residents. Lourene Miovski, a resident and a member of the committee said she was likely chosen to be on the steering committee because she and her husband researched and designed the addition on their own home in north College Park . “It was also important to me that our addition fit with the original design of the house and fit with the neighborhood.” – Ms. Miovski said.
Ms. Miovski thinks the presentation made last night be made at all the civic associations in College Park. “This would enable residents in each of the neighborhoods to have another opportunity to have input, if they were unable to attend last night’s presentation.” – she added.
The project’s debut however did not pass without criticism from some residents. “I’m basically shocked that this is going to cost $50,000. Who is paying for this? Why is it continuing to be voted for when there are so many other outstanding (public) safety issues that haven’t been addressed?” asked one resident.
Council member Stephanie Stullich disagrees. She thinks the investment in the project is relatively small and will leverage private homeowner investments to make our neighborhoods more attractive. “(The Pattern Book) will save residents’ time and money when they embark on these projects.” Ms Stullich argued.
Ms Stullich also said pattern books are an increasingly popular tool being used around the country to help residents design attractive additions and renovations, as well as in-fill houses that are compatible with the existing neighborhood.
There were also concerns of transparency of the project. Some residents fear the pattern book may be incorporated into laws in future causing rifts among residents. “Unless it is in official writing, it’s difficult to believe that the City won’t find a means to put this into law” – said a resident.
Council member Patrick Wojahn disagrees. “The pattern book will add no new requirements or regulations on home owners and the inclusion of something in a patten book is not in any way, shape, or form a legally forceable requirement on homeowners.” – said Mr. Wojahn.
The project is expected to end by the end of the year, with a first draft of the project’s report ready by the end of spring. Additional public meetings are also planned to seek more residents’ feedback.