|TALL ORDER: With the help of private developer Andy Parrish, three UM architecture students have designed a home for a substandard narrow lot, only 25 feet wide by 100 feet long, which would allow the home to be only 15 feet wide. To increase the amount of living space in the home, the students came up with a two-story plan.|
The University of Miami and private developer Andy Parrish have teamed up to do two housing projects that help low-income families own homes and college students gain experience.
Six architecture students have designed two projects for Parrish, who builds homes in the west end of Coconut Grove, known as the West Grove.
The goal of the "shotgun-style home" project is to keep small historic homes of the area intact, yet add square footage to make them more appealing for families. The goal of the "Key West-style home" project is to fit a home on narrow substandard lots, yet make it comfortable for families.
The projects are important in that they could affect the way private developers build single-family homes for low-income folks. Most developers stay out of the single-family, affordable-home business.
"There's a lot of resistance to coming up with any innovation in poor neighborhoods," Parrish said. "Profit is a dirty word in a poor neighborhood.
"[But] UM decided the West Grove has something that can be demonstrated to the rest of the county,"' Parrish said.
Although he makes money from the deals, Parrish considers his work altruistic.
"I'm building houses for first-time home buyers because I think that's what people need if they're going to join the middle class," said Parrish, whose company is called Wind and Rain.
Both projects are in the construction design phase and permits for the two homes are being applied for, he said, so city of Miami officials must approve the plans. If all goes as planned, construction could begin in January and end in May - just in time for most of the students' graduation.
Unlike other projects the students have created, these designs will produce concrete results. Along the way, the students will have learned that each site has limits to abide by and hurdles to overcome.
THE SHOTGUN HOME
"We found it challenging and exciting,"' said fourth-year student Lazaro J. Alvarez, 21, who worked on the shotgun project. "Challenging because of the existing building. You have to match the original architecture lines and window height, for example."
It's not easy. Their design took into consideration an existing shotgun home at 3576 Florida Ave. The shack of a home is only about 440 square feet, made out of Dade County pine, with one small living room, one small bedroom and a bathroom that was added later when outhouses went out of style.
Built up off the ground and only one room wide, the home is simple and quaint. Its front door and back door are in a direct line. Every room has cross ventilation. Hence, the shotgun name: If a shot was fired into the home, the bullet would exit the back door without hitting anything.
The home is too small for a family to live in, but historians don't want to see homes of that style torn down because they believe they were built in the 1920s by Bahamian settlers who helped build Coconut Grove.
While most developers say it is cheaper and easier to tear the small house down, Parrish is willing to go the extra mile: renovate and add.
"We had a price limit of $100,000 that included the renovation," explained fifth-year architect student Elena Martinez, 27.
"And because the addition is more than 50 percent of the size of the home, we have to bring up the existing structure to code,'' she said, as in tying down the roof to meet hurricane standards.
The result is a J-design addition, whose features include a kitchen with doors that open to a courtyard - the most popular point with the two students.
The additional 840 square feet bring the total square footage to 1,280. The house sits on a 5,000-square-foot lot.
With the addition, the new shotgun home has a living room, dining room, three bedrooms, two baths, utility room and a kitchen about 140 square feet.
THE KEY WEST HOME
While the shotgun design takes into account an existing structure, the Key West home takes into account a substandard narrow lot, only 25 feet wide by 100 feet long. Thus, the home could be only 15 feet wide. To increase the square footage, the four students came up with a two-story plan.
"Most developers create instant slums in these narrow lots by building duplexes or small single-family homes just to get rent," Parrish said. "By amending zoning codes that would allow these structures, they can be built all over Miami."
The site is a vacant lot at 3644 Thomas Ave., which has double the width of the narrow concept, but could theoretically be cut in half.
"There's a new pressure knowing this will get built," said fifth-year student Troy Ballard, 29. He and 22-year-olds Tony Sosa, Jason Bush and Mike Justice designed the plan.
The most attractive feature, the students said, is a "double porch" on the bottom and top floors at the front end of the house.
"In this community, people sit out in front of the houses whether they have a porch or not,"' Ballard said.
Although the project was termed Key West by Parrish, there is nothing architecturally Key West about it.
"It's more the spirit of the house," Sosa explained.
The 3-bedroom, 21/2-bath house also has a living room, dining room and utility room (under the stairs.) Parking is at the front of the home. In the model, the parking is off to the side, but in a narrow lot it would be directly in front of the porch.
Like the shotgun house, the kitchen in the Key West house has double doors leading to a pergola and yard. Total square footage is 1,444.
For the students, who normally design public buildings and museums in their class work, the opportunity provides an eye-opening experience. "We want architects to graduate from here knowing that there's lots of work to be done in the community," professor Richard Sheppard said. "And the more they know how to do it and how to understand the context of the community, the more successful they'll be as architects."