Unintended consequences are commonplace in housing developments. In fact, they’re unavoidable — though heavily critiqued by Monday morning quarterbacks like me. We're all guilty of this, but I only do so in hopes that perhaps someday we can avoid some of the most common development errors that inevitably make our built environment more expensive to maintain, and much less attractive.
Let’s look at something referred to as “mooning the street,” one of the most common building errors. I’ve latched on to the phrase, from Dan Burden
, an advocate and speaker for pedestrian-friendly development. “Mooning the street” refers to the condition when development turns the backside of the building toward an arterial. Residential development tends to be the biggest perpetrator of this; however, commercial and industrial development are not exempt.
Generally speaking, all sides of architecture are not created equal, and the backside is typically the worst. Architecture has historically favored one side over the other, but the backs of buildings were usually along alleys, with other service components. It's a slippery slope to require four-sided architecture in most modern-day developments. Requiring this out of context can result in four-sided mediocrity.
Aside from aesthetics, when residential developments moon the street, developers typically put a fence up, too. This creates an awkward space between the street and the fence where maintenance responsibility is suddenly blurred.
Who maintains the landscape (or weedscape) here, the city or the adjacent property owner?
The legal answer is the latter, unless there is a homeowners association or maintenance district in place. But an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality, and the lack of accountability, leads to a lack of maintenance. This gives a horrible impression for anyone visiting or passing by and it occurs throughout our community — Rockrimmon
is one example.
The construction and maintenance costs of these housing developments are higher, too, due to having streets on at least two sides of a property, and the return on investment is a lot lower. Combine this with lower land value, less privacy, and increased road noise, and the property could quickly be in an upside-down condition.
Bottom line; don't moon the street. If you can't front the street, turn your side to it — no one wants to see your backside.
John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Plannning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.