Macro Intervention: The State Street VIllage, Raleigh

A megalopolis of single family homes arranged in a spider web of cul de sacs and cheap apartment buildings built around parking lots spreads along the I-85 corridor from Atlanta, Georgia to Raleigh, North Carolina.  From the perspective of contemporary urban planning and design theory, one could say that Raleigh North Carolina probably ranks right up there with sprawled out, petroleum based cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando.  In some ways, it's worse.  No light rail, miles and miles of highways and a transportation lobby that seems only interested in making those highways wider.

The Research Triangle Park is in many ways the economic life blood of what is called the "Triangle" of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.  For all of its 7,000 acres it's public transportation connections consist of 1 bus stop. Other nearby places are now challenging the big three for dominance such as Cary and Holly Springs.  All of these towns suffer from the same lack of public transportation and rely on a cheap supply of gasoline. One can say that our entire nation is dependent on gasoline, and that is true, we are.  However, places like Raleigh, because of their severe lack of transportation alternatives, are a canary in the coal mine for the repercussions of oil price spikes.

Oddly enough, within this rubric of unsustainable urban sprawl, we find one of the more sustainable practices of urban reuse one could hope to find in such a place.  It's called the State Street Village. It is being created by the non-profit, Builders of Hope that advocates and practices the up-cycling of homes all over North Carolina.  Their goal is to build safe, walkable communities by reusing the homes others no longer want or have the ability to rehabilitate.

The State Street Village project  involves 25 lots off of a new cul-de-sace off of State Street in south Raleigh- with homes starting just over $100 thousand.  For that buyers get spacious lots, quality homes, a great view of downtown and the chance to be part of improving our city as a whole.  State Street Village represents a redevelopment strategy that starts with creating a community that has great fundamentals and is cohesive aesthetic.

The houses are donated and transported from all over the area.  They priced below market value, but are a quality offering beyond both older and new homes.  Builders of Hope guts the frames- rewires them, plumbing, installs new or recycled finishes, new energy efficient appliances, energy efficient windows, and insulates them tight. The offer is one for people, who may not otherwise have a chance, to have a home to be proud of. The homes are built for quality with a focus on energy efficiency and aesthetics.  Builders of Hope works with Advance Energy to certify each house for energy efficiency.  Advanced Energy seals the house and tests for energy loss through the floors, walls and openings.  The certified homes are incredibly efficient and much more affordable to heat and cool.

New Urbanists will raise their arms a wail about the cul de sac.  Landscape Urbanists will argue that it lacks attention to the site and connections to public transporation. Maybe they are both right, but have either of those groups thought of an idea this good?  Or better yet have they built anything this well.  It is in the making that creates the thing, and neither theory has actually made/created/built anything that address the three basic tenants of sustainablity (economy, ecology, equity) as thouroughly this small non-profit.  Waldheim and Duany, please take notes.