Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I’ve Got the Teardown Blues


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
9 Comments » | Published in Local Design  |  9 Comments

teardown4.jpgYesterday as I approached my street I saw this huge dustcloud.  I thought someone’s house was on fire, but no, it was being ripped apart by a bulldozer.  My neighborhood is cute and charming and much sought-after.  It’s fully of bungalows and Craftsman style houses, mixed with brick apartment buildings, boutiques and restaurants.  Here’s a typical cute house on my street:

across from teardown.jpg

Here are the spec homes that were recently built across the street from the cute house.  Around here we call them The Twin Towers:

twin tower _2.jpg


one of the twin towers of LA Ave.jpg


While I appreciate that the developers tried to fit into the style of the ‘hood, they failed.  Does the first floor reallyl need to be a whole story off the ground?  Does the house really need to take up every inch of the lot?  Do all the workmen really have to keep parking on the wrong side of the street, blocking firetruck and ambulance access, just to keep the driveway pristine?  Could Atlanta please possibly come up with some building codes and appreciation for architectural preservation?  I understand property rights but this is ridiculous.  Yup, I’ve got the teardown blues.  My city is turning into a really badly planned suburb.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!


Filed under Local Design  |  9 Comments


  1. Aaron Matzkin says:

    October 26th, 2006 at 10:05 am (#)

    New development is inevitable. As long as bigger is better and keeping up with the joneses means the media room is separate from the living room and the master suite occupies its own floor, complete with six person hot tub, you can expect developers and homebuilders to keep trying to outdo eachother. That being said, I have no doubt that there is a venue for neighbors to voice their opposition (or support) for projects that effect them directly or their neighborhood as a whole. If there is no neighborhood association or zoning commitee, then you should definitely create one. You may not have any actual decision making power on a beaurocratic level, but you can have a voice and a loud one at that. City governments are loath to give approvals to projects that are not supported by neighbors, for lots of reasons. If you can rally the troops you will find that developers, homeowners and the like will have no choice but to come to you for approval first. If the issue is that current building codes are out of touch or out of date and there are no real rules, then perhaps you should go for a spot on the planning commision so as to help create them. You are not helpless and you are not alone. I guarantee others in your hood feel the same way, find them and start saving the fabric of your world.

  2. Becky says:

    October 27th, 2006 at 9:15 am (#)

    Our mayor tried to put a moratorium on tear downs until they could hobble some guidelines together, but it didn’t pass. Right now it is basically a free-for-all. This is why I appreciate shows like “Small Space, Big Style” and magazines like Dwell, which dedicate themselves to helping us learn that we don’t have to live large all the time,and that bigger is not necessarily better.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. joy says:

    October 28th, 2006 at 10:19 am (#)

    Becky—–No wonder you have “The Teardown Blues”! My first choice for a home would be the Cute House over the Twin Towers every time!!! joy

  4. vanya says:

    November 1st, 2006 at 5:58 pm (#)

    I think the worst of it is builders who do this speculatively. They don’t always (or usually) know what buyers really want. They do lots of dumb things, make stupid design decisions, and often have to sell for a lot less than they thought they could get for their monsters, but then everyone else has to live with the results forever. I’m going to enjoy watching the spec builders in my neighborhood go bust over the next couple of years. And then we’ll be rid of them until the next realestate boom.

  5. Becky says:

    November 3rd, 2006 at 10:47 am (#)

    Vanya, I agree. I can see that these builders tried to fit in with the Arts and Crafts style, but it’s fugly. There are a lot of houses in my neighborhood that have expanded responsibly and still fit in with the overall aesthetic. The height on these is absolutely ridiculous, and there is not one inch of permeable surface left on the lots. It’s just so irresponsible, yet it is the way the market and the government guidelines lead the builders. I’m terrified of what is going to go in next door to me; I’m sure it will be some monstrosity that dwarfs and shades my entire house.

  6. Becky says:

    April 24th, 2008 at 11:26 am (#)

    Update: These were all done on spec. Two of the houses sold after QUITE some time ($1.2 mil is high even for my neighborhood). One sold just a week or so ago. The one that went in the top image area is still on the market. They watered the lawn after dark throughout the winter in spite of strict no-watering drought restrictions.

  7. fallonia parker says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 8:34 am (#)

    I just found my way to your blog. Been documenting castle-creep up here in Raleigh NC in our in-town neighborhoods for the past year, we are definitely having a problem with ordinances matching existing buildout. Frequently I point to the process Atlanta went through, can you tell me if it is working?

    In Raleigh, the realtor/builders/speculators/ started whooping it up at City Council meetings and are trying to shut down the debate.

    The 2 x $1.2 mil and up specshacks in my block have not sold in over a year and are below a mil now. But some at higher prices have. Gives me a bad feeling about the price-point they wish for my fine established neighborhood, which is feeling completely unstable at this time, what with all the speculative rentals and lots.

    It’s a scourge of the worst kind.

    We are working seriously in the civic arena from several directions. AM’s points are good. We need to get some people on those boards while we have a mixed Council.


  8. minxlj says:

    May 6th, 2008 at 7:47 am (#)

    I’m a little bit shocked to be honest…in the UK any building of age (and 1920s buildings are pretty ‘new’ to us really) simply cannot be torn down unless it’s structurally unsound and can’t be saved at all. I suppose in the US it may be cheaper to rebuild than repair, I don’t know. But what a shame they decided to tear down that charming little building and replace it with a non-descript carbon copy of most other houses in any city.

    Here in the UK a lot of new build homes/developments in the cities are becoming a little bit ‘samey’ for my liking. The same style, design, interior fittings – no imagination! And a lot of refits are becoming that way too…it seems most developers just repeat the same interior and design the same way for speed and profit, and everyone’s house ends up looking the same. So I’ve taken the plunge and bought a slightly older property that needs a complete refit, and I’ll design it myself, with imagination. How long it’s going to take I haven’t a clue! Wish me luck… 😉

  9. Krisse says:

    May 7th, 2008 at 5:21 am (#)

    In NYC it is the same tear down mentality. All the old walk-up building are being converted into these modern loft style chicken coop- condominium buildings, $1,000 000.00 and up. The neighborhoods become all the same, full of these cheaply made glass towers without any design. The rents for the commercial space have gone up so much that all those small restaurants and shops that use to make NYC so special are disappearing. Only the banks can afford the rents. Can you imagine how Paris would look like if it was allowed to be developed by greedy developers.

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