Yesterday in the Kokomo Perspective a new development downtown was revealed on a currently dilapidated parcel near the Railroad Station district of downtown Kokomo. The project includes 50-70 units in a 3-4 story building located at the intersection of Washington and Taylor Streets across the road from the Masonic Temple. The project was mentioned here in the Kokomo Tribune.
As many communities are finding out, demand for housing for senior citizens are at an all time high, and cities must meet those needs. This project will allow citizens to live on their own near the core of Kokomo. The project is near downtown and along a current bus route which would link them to two grocery stores, one to the north and one to the west. The building would improve that area by demolishing a current non-historic eyesore plagued with graffiti and boarded up windows as well as redesigning the streetscape on Taylor, Buckeye and Jackson Streets. This project looks as though it has a high priority towards urban design and walkability. You can see some images of the current property below:
Site Design: (Pictured below again)
The location of the building close to the corner of Washington and Taylor Streets is most preferred giving Washington Street better edge definition than it currently has. The site design, in my opinion is great except for two factors, that it “turns its back” on the Railroad Station district, and that it doesn’t include parking for all the residents. The issue with the location of the building is just a matter of priority. if the building was on the northeast corner rather than the southwest corner, than Washington Street wouldn’t have the definition it would, and the parking lot and outdoor area would be along a busy four lane road. If the building faced the southeast corner, it would somewhat be more connected with the railroad station district and would be more connected to the downtown “circle,” but would still have the issue of having an outdoor space along a busy 4-laned roadway. The other issue is that the housing development includes some surface parking to cover the needs of the building, but doesn’t provide enough for all the tenants if there are 50-70 residents. I decided that this can be either a benefit or a negative depending on who you speak with. I find it as a benefit because the area in that part of downtown does not get the demand for parking compared to the courthouse square and on street parking is readily available. It also allows the building to take over more of the site rather than a surface parking lot. The residential development also adds usable open space as well as needed street trees in that area of town.
The project is aimed to only housing the aging population of Kokomo. There is a need for senior citizens, but why is that the only demographic that this development is targeting? Why not just build a housing development that can house all ages? One reason, I could see about having this development open to all ages would be that there might be “too much noise” from the younger residents, but that is the common stereotype of a senior citizen of a young person. Just like how not all senior citizens have dentures and break a hip when they trip on the sidewalk, young people aren’t always loud, bad neighbors. For a livable city, there needs to be a mix of safety, quality of design (buildings, parks, streets), public transportation, as well as providing what’s necessary for people from all walks of life. Just because there is a growing need for senior citizens, does not mean that there isn’t a need for affordable housing for recent college graduates or young professions. Which, I might mention is what many cities like Kokomo are looking to attract. The bad: this project excludes anything that would attract young professionals to the city of Kokomo, as well as all other age ranges in between.
The housing project does not include any ground floor retail. With a troubled downtown core, why would we want to include ground retail? This site is along a busy, mostly commercial strip of downtown Kokomo. This new development would be the only structure along Washington Street that does not provide any commercial space. Currently, there has been some difficulty filling up vacant properties, but there has been a small but seemingly steady resurgence of downtown Kokomo with the opening of a new Yoga studio in a previously unused space in addition of a dozen businesses in the past year. Another issue with this development, as you may realize by the before pictures, that there might be a problem with vandals in that area of downtown Kokomo. Would you want to live on the first floor of that part of town? No. I wouldn’t want to live on the first floor of that building either. By having ground floor retail, it allows a separation between what’s private and what’s public.
The project description mentions nothing about any environmentally conscious building techniques, materials or construction methods. The description doesn’t mention an intention to pursue L.E.E.D. certification. In a time where everyone seems to be looking to do their part to save mother earth, this project seems to go in a completely different direction.
For a project, I’d grade this project at a B-, simply because of the negatives are pretty important and are starting to become standards in developments such as this one. I weighed the lack of ground-floor retail pretty heavily because it shows that this project is thinking in a somewhat suburban style limiting the building to only one function. In new compact developments, we are starting to think more urban than suburban with people of all ages living in a building with different price ranges above ground-floor retail. By limiting it for only senior citizens without ground-floor retail the development reflects previous ideals, while excluding young populations. If the project included retail, it would become more livable, and would attract people of all ages rather than only senior citizens. To be frank, it is a great development which has decent design to house old people where they can be closer to downtown with nothing to entertain them, a place I won’t, you won’t and most people won’t be going to, unless you are a relative of one of the 50-70 residents. For a senior citizen only development, this is probably the best it could be, but why stop at a senior citizen housing complex when you can aim for a community changing structure that is providing the needs of the entire community.