The Economic Benefits of Urban Renewal


May 2004

Many of us reside in town or city centers with a property ready for change, whether it be a run down building, closed factory or business that would perhaps fit better in the outskirts of town. Today, thoughtful urban renewal programs across the United States are helping to transform these properties into structures that add vitality to a town or city while appearing to have always been a part of it. The substantial economic benefits of urban renewal include greater tourism appeal, increased property values, strengthened downtown economies and the creation of jobs

Case Study: Transformation of a Gas Station into Condominiums
A year and a half ago work began on the creation of residential condominiums to replace a gas station that was prominently located amidst historic structures in Portsmouth, NH's Haymarket Square.


The team in charge of the design had to address several challenges, including perhaps the most important element of successful urban renewal -- how to seamlessly integrate the new structure with the buildings that surround it. Additional challenges they faced included the fact that the land is fronted on three sides by streets and how to provide the residents of the condominiums with privacy.


To address the fact that the property is fronted on three sides, the team decided to design the building to the sidewalk in order to bring energy to the street level while making the condominiums as large as possible. Doing so also made the volume of the building such that it is in balance with those of nearby structures.


To ensure that residents of the condominiums would enjoy maximum privacy and to allow for additional headspace in the basements, the first floor of the building was raised off the street. Doing so created a transitionbetween street level and made it so that residents would look out over the heads of passerbys. Additional layers of privacy occur at the back of the building where there is an inner courtyard and parking. Each of the four units also has a second floor balcony over looking the inner courtyard.


The new Haymarket Condominiums are just a part of the transformation of Haymarket Square. In an effort to draw people to the square, The City Planning Office of Portsmouth is implementing a thoughtful redevelopment effort that includes the installation of tree lined brick sidewalks and period lampposts.

Urban Renewal and City Planning Resources
Many of the staff at DeStefano Architects has taken courses relating to urban renewal and city planning. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, the following courses offered by Harvard School of Design (HSD) and Boston Architectural Center (BAC) are ones we highly recommend.


- Sustainable Design Strategies for Historic Buildings, HSD
- Developing Workforce Housing Program, HSD
- Owning the Future: Urban Housing and Mixed-Use Development, HSD
- Affordable Housing: An introduction to the Development Process, HSD
- Public-Private Joint Ventures in Real Estate Development, HSD
- The Planning and Design of Public Libraries, HSD
- Public School Planning and Design, HSD

Should you ever find that you would like a sounding board relating to urban renewal or city planning issues, please know that we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you at anytime. It is a subject close to our hearts and one we love to talk about.

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