Monday, January 12, 2009

A Village Under One Roof

Just reading about Julia Christensen's new book, Big Box Reuse, in the NYT, and it occurred to me you could get a lot of tiny houses inside each one those giant, empty retail spaces (20,000 to 300,000 square feet).  Maybe the 8 x 8 x 8-foot Plywood Chateaux, I mentioned in yesterday's post, or 12 x 12 x 12-foot ones, etc. (just keep going up in 8-foot increments until you hit the ceiling).  

But there's a problem with this particular adaptive reuse:  Shopping malls and stand-alone big box stores are often in suburbia or exurbia, relatively isolated, with few amenities nearby, such as libraries, clinics and public transportation.  Would adapting disused big box buildings into villages for the homeless mean relocating thousands of homeless people to the untenable outer edges of our communities?  (Untenable, if you can't afford a car, or the gas to put in it.)  ...This has a whiff of "relocation center" or "detention center."  Dumping ground, at the very least.  Maybe my idea isn't such a good one, after all!

Back to the NYT article, Allison Arieff also talks about converting McMansions into multifamily homes.  She writes that some developers are now building McMansions as fourplex condos to make them more affordable to buyers.  This also sounds like a slippery slope, to me (though a green one in some ways).  It makes me think that, perhaps, one day only the poor will live in suburbia, stranded there by high fuel prices.   

But this doesn't have to be the case.  A return to a more agrarian existence for some could help – a back to the land, or sustainability, movement – coupled with a comprehensive and energy-efficient mass transit system and improved social services, like universal healthcare.  Let's start by keeping people from having to give up their homes and live on the streets in the first place.  I really hope the Obama administration can keep its eye on the ball.

1 comment:

  1. I've held this belief for a few years now, that as wealthier people start to see the benefits of living in the city again, we will now have "suburban flight," which raises the real estate prices in the city even more and creates a situation where the poor or at least the middle class have to move out to suburbia. That was already happening in Santa Fe in '05. And with the price of gas (which will go up again, trust me), the lack of community and other services, not to mention the segregation of the classes (and therefore, often, of the races, too), it's not going to be good. But then again, when *is* it a good time to be poor or even part of the dwindling working and middle classes in this country?