Grove Apartments

Anticipated (and occurring) population growth in Rochester's core neighborhoods means that we need to develop new solutions for land use and housing.  Among the trends happening across the country, are changing zoning regulations and policies directed at sensitive, neighborhood-scale, infill redevelopment.  

Here in Rochester, we have yet to adopt any of these innovative strategies, and thus we are left with a process designed to handle growth at the periphery; not the core.  But more and more, people are desiring to live in well-connected, existing urban neighborhoods for myriad reasons.  Therefore, how can we promote and encourage increased density that is contextual and respectful of its place?

While overarching issues of "carrots" and "sticks" will be left for another day, we feel that design plays an integral role in shaping successful redevelopment projects.  This one, Grove Apartments, provides an example for such a case.  It recently received Preliminary Plan approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission as well as City Council by unanimous votes.  

How did we get there?  Here is how.  

Northrop Neighborhood Context

Northrop Neighborhood (just north of the railroad tracks along Civic Center Drive and west of Broadway) is one of Rochester's oldest neighborhoods.  Goose Egg Park and Northrop School were cherished parts of generations past when Elton Hills Drive was so much farmland.  This neighborhood is close to public transit, walkable to Mayo Clinic, well-connected to the trail system that runs along Cascade Creek, and in recent years boasts the Cooke Park Design District.  

And now hopefully, Northrop Neighborhood can be known as a beautiful place worthy of investment.  There certainly are opportunities if you know where to look.  There are major arterial roads running through the neighborhood that still contain single family homes.  These roads have all but removed the marketability of many homes through widening and increased traffic speeds.  So the next phase of neighborhood development is to repurpose or redevelop.

The below property on the corner of 4th Avenue NW and 10th Street NW has been in a steady state of decline for nearly a decade.  The new owner purchased the site for redevelopment because it is along a major urban arterial, has corner exposure, has alley access, and an unusually wide lot dimension that makes it more conducive to different building shapes.

9.SQUARE began by studying the adjacent homes for architectural cues and context.  We quickly realized that this new multi-family building would have to look and feel like a bunch of smaller massed pieces to form the whole.  

A large apartment "complex" was far too massive and didn't fit the neighborhood.  The image on the right (below) was a concept to mirror two "L" shaped buildings and subvert the western building down the sloping ridge to the flood plain.

We further developed this concept to continue to break down the scale and mass.  We ultimately rejected the below design of multiple entries in favor of more distinct, walk-up entries for the units along 4th Avenue.

The central courtyard around which the architecture surrounds became a unique feature to resolve all of the elevations differences and also create a welcoming and accessible place for the residents.

 Still Too Massive Along 4th Avenue NW

Still Too Massive Along 4th Avenue NW

Further on in the design process, we pushed to lower the east end building even further so it was less dominant on the 4th Avenue frontage.  This required a more creative set of steps to access the units found inside the courtyard.

We also got great feedback from the neighborhood during the design process which dovetailed with our own analysis but also stimulated us to think creatively about a few of the design components.

 Better Scale for Walk-Ups

Better Scale for Walk-Ups

Cascading Steps To Central Courtyard

We are proud of the evolution of this design to respond to unique site constraints, development needs, city regulations, and neighborhood concerns.  When the ink finally dried on the Preliminary Plan for the development, there was a consensus that we did achieve a walkable, neighborhood-scale multi-family building that would set the tone for future development interest.

Parking Lot Screened from Sidewalk