Almost two years ago, we told you to expect some new construction on the 2900 block of W. Master St., just a few steps away from the Fairmount @ Brewerytown building. Back then, over a stretch of seven properties on either side of Myrtlewood Street, there were five vacant lots and only two structures. Given the pace of development in this part of town, it should come as no shock that things have changed dramatically in less than 24 months.

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SE corner of Myrtlewood & Master, in the past
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SW corner of Myrtlewood & Master, again in the past

East of Myrtlewood Street, the two empty lots at 2920 W. Master St. and 2924 W. Master St. have both been redeveloped into new homes. At first glance, it looks like the eastern home rises three stories with no eight-foot setback, so we assumed that Callahan Ward, the developers of this property, went to the ZBA to allow for this. But we looked at public record and saw no such application. Then we looked a little more closely and realized that the home has a very tall first floor, with double-height windows. That being the case, it does indeed have an eight foot setback on the third floor, and the gabled roof in the front is an architectural detail that hides the setback. We applaud the effort, as it stands in contrast to the newer home just two doors to the west with a typical third floor setback.

SE corner, current view

You can probably guess that Callahan Ward is also behind two homes on the other side of Myrtlewood, as they look exactly like the home we were just telling you about. 2932 W. Master St. is under agreement at a list price of $475K and 2930 W. Master St. is listed for sale for $449K. This tells us that the home that’s under agreement is probably going to sell for closer to the asking price of the home next door, once another buyer comes forward. As for the next home, at 2934 W. Master St., you can probably tell that it’s a rehab that got a third floor addition. Even though it probably has a little more square footage than the homes next door, it traded at $355K, a sizable discount compared to the new construction.

SW corner now

We’ve been pretty consistent over the years, lambasting the eight-foot setback requirement as a hamfisted effort to use architecture to forestall gentrification. In cases where developers are looking to build three story homes on skinny blocks, we’ve appreciated efforts to reduce the impact of additional height with the use of a mansard roof, but that doesn’t seem necessary on Master Street. In a perfect world, the developers would have gone to the ZBA and built to the front of the property line, but we can certainly appreciate the desire to avoid the risk and the stretched out development schedule. We’re not sure that this architectural choice would work on every block, but we’d argue that it gets the job done here. Meanwhile, from a purely architectural perspective, we’d probably vote for the rehab over any of the new homes.