For whatever reason, Bella Vista seems to have more than its share of narrow little streets that are perfect for pedestrians but miserable for cars. We’ve explored some of these little blocks over the years, drawing your gaze to the hidden 600 block of Kenilworth Street, and showing off projects on Delhi Street, Schell Street, and most recently, on Percy Street. Speaking from personal experience, these blocks are great to live on, specifically because cars tend to stay away, and the blocks are therefore quieter than others which see more traffic. On the other hand, skinny streets commonly have certain limitations, notably that homes on these blocks tend to be on the shallow side, since they’re generally jammed up against their rear neighbors.
Not only do homes on these blocks usually have some limitations, but construction on these blocks is also atypical. First, it’s a challenge to get heavy equipment onto these blocks to dig a foundation, pour a foundation, and get materials in and out. There are also usually design issues to consider, notably that the typical shallow lot depth requires wider than usual homes to make up for lost square footage. One-off infill construction is also quite rare, as the cost of construction of a little new home can exceed the price at which you’d be able to sell a new home. In other words, we’ve covered some projects on these little streets over the years, but they’re not especially common. But don’t tell that to the developers that bought 755-61 S. Mildred St. earlier this year.
From what we can tell, this property has been vacant since the 1940s at least, and the previous owners went to the trouble of getting a surface parking lot legalized in the early 1980s. The old zoning application is an incredible read, as it mentions the “severe problems in the neighborhood with respect to the serious lack of adequate parking facilities,” with the “only parking alternatives… a great distance away.” We had to check three times to make sure this application was from 1980, not 2018. But alas, the application was indeed almost forty years old. As you can see from the images above though, there is a new zoning application on this property.
The developers that bought the property are looking to eliminate the parking lot and build three new homes here. The project has multiple refusals for creating lots smaller than the Zoning Code permits and also for providing less open area than is permitted. Like we said, it’s tough to build on these skinny blocks. The only way to avoid these refusals would be to build two extra-wide homes instead of three, but we’d think that three homes would fit much better into the fabric of the block than two huge homes. The project came to the BVNA zoning committee earlier this week, but we don’t know how the community responded to the plan. Was anyone at the meeting that could share the outcome? Can anyone see a reason why three homes wouldn’t make sense here?