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Filling In: 37 Eagle Street Part 2

January 4th, 2015

Matthew Denker is filling in 37 Eagle Street. For real.
By Matthew Denker

Welcome to Part 2 of Filling In: 37 Eagle Street. It’s been a while, so to catch you up, in Part 1 my wife and I bought an empty lot at 37 Eagle Street external link in Corn Hill. But the fun doesn’t stop there. We decided to build ourselves a house on it, and we’re going to take you along for the ride!

Today I want to talk about architects. Just for starters, we decided we did not want off-the-shelf plans and would instead pay (about 10% of the overall project budget) for a house to be designed from scratch…

Matthew Denker is filling in 37 Eagle Street. For real.
Going into this, we really only had the stipulation that the architect be local. Clearly this is not a requirement for everyone, because Santiago Calatrava can only be from one place, and yet he has buildings nearly everywhere.

Anyway, with this requirement in mind, we started looking at projects we liked in Rochester and making a list of architects we wanted to work with. Some architects won’t do houses, so this helped us cut the list down a little. In the end, we made appointments and met with four different architecture firms in town (who will remain unnamed). The process has led me to make the following three recommendations.

  1. Don’t interview with four architects. It’s too many, and it’s a ton of work. I would not look at more than 3 the next time I do this.
  2. Decide what you’re going for in hiring an architect. Some architects are best suited to channel a vision that you already have, while others are going to bring creative ideas, fully formed to the table. There is a spectrum between these two types as well. That’s not to promote one over the other, as there is incredible value to any and all of those services, but it’s important to pick an architect who is going to help you in the way you want to be helped.
  3. Call references. It’s really important to make sure the architect has the specific experience you need, whether that be getting through a preservation board, or having worked in your neighborhood (or city) before.

Ultimately we chose SWBR Architects, and they have been a pleasure to work with so far.
Ultimately we chose SWBR Architects external link and they have been a pleasure to work with so far.

With any luck, Part 3 of this series will be all about the plans getting presented to zoning and preservation.
With any luck, Part 3 of this series will be all about the plans getting presented to zoning and preservation (since we are in an historic Preservation District external link). Until then, follow along with the minutia over at the blog external link.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 4th, 2015 at 11:02 pm and is filed under Architecture, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Filling In: 37 Eagle Street Part 2”

  1. David says:

    Was wondering when we’d see another update/article from you Matt on either your home or one of your other infill ideas! I’m looking forward to following along with your home build.

  2. Jason Roberts says:

    I applaud the interest in building on empty lots in our city. I hope the new owners take into consideration the relationship their new home has with neighboring architecture. A neighborhood is a sum of all parts. And Corn Hill is very special. Homes intended to make “a statement” often-times look out of place and dated, when juxtaposed against the surrounding homes.

    I’d always recommend to reflect the environment. Be inspired by what makes the area special and not try to in-fill something you feel may be missing.

  3. Jason Dobbs says:

    So the first thing your guests see when they walk in the front door is your toilet? Bold move.

    Think about your current bathroom, is the door closed, is the seat up?

  4. Thank you for the concern. I hope we’re able to adequately address it. We’ve been fighting off people who think we should just build a garage on the property for the last 5 years, so I feel like we’re trying to do the right thing, but I suppose only time will tell, huh?

    That said, Corn Hill has undergone an incredible amount of change, most of it bad, seeing as entire streets were reduced to rubble for urban renewal. It would be good to see some renewed density. I’ve long thought about doing a Filling In about the entire neighborhood. This might be the year.

  5. Jason Roberts says:

    Your interest in the neighborhood is wonderful, and I couldn’t agree more regarding the in-fill of empty lots. And the interest in a garage vs. residential is crazy…

    I greatly appreciate your desire for density. That in itself tells Corn Hill’s story, and informs the preservation board your desire to do the right thing.

    Over the years builders and developers swoop in to an established neighborhood, driven by the “I must make my mark” notion…I’m thrilled to see this isn’t the case.

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Jason Haremza says:

    I’m not usually one to defend a “starchitect” but Frank Lloyd Wright’s Boynton House on East Boulevard made a statement, did not reflect its environment, and, some might argue, looks out of place to this day. Does that mean it should not have been built?

    Best wishes for a successful project, Mr. Denker. Rochester needs 1,000, nay 10,000, more people like you. I look forward to hearing about the zoning and preservation process πŸ˜‰

  7. Thank you all for the support. I guess I’d be lying is I said I were beyond trying to make a statement, but I do think that trying to make a statement is better then just trying to get rich quick. I hope I’m not about to erect some econo-box anywhere in Rochester.

    This is going to seem out of order, but it’ll make sense shortly – The coat closet is being moved to the door, but the bathroom door will still be there. And yes, my bathroom door is closed and the seat is down at present (and always). I’m meticulous (OCD) about such things. It’s more of a curse than anything else. Thank you for your concern as well, though!

    One other item of note, starting this week, I’ll be posting more current plans on the blog. They’re not the final ones we’re submitting to the city yet, though. Once we have those, there will be a post about them here.

  8. You don’t have to answer, obviously, but what is your budget for building the house?

  9. Adrian Martin says:

    Saw your post here: http://www.37eaglest.com/2014/11/25/siting/. Why not put an apartment on top of the garage?

  10. @ Rottenchester – Not quite ready to talk about budget, but under $500k, hopefully. There will definitely be a series of posts about the money at some point though.

    Adrian – There will definitely be an apartment above the garage. I forget if I’ve explicitly mentioned it already, but we’re looking to build 3 units. One apartment above the garage, one in the basement, and then the main house.

  11. Martin Edic says:

    I strongly suggest you not have them design the kitchen. My brother is a kitchen designer and he and I wrote a best-selling book on kitchen design. In our experience architects seldom have any real understanding of kitchen design. Typically they design it strictly for appearance and mess up on things like ergonomics, speccing hardware, and especially usability. It is a very specialized design discipline. I applaud your decision to use an architect but this is a caveat. It is the most expensive interior in any house.

  12. Martin, thank you for the advice. The kitchen is somewhat out of my hands. She might be reading this, but in all honesty, my wife is getting whatever kitchen she wants. I don’t think there will be too much input from the architects.

  13. John says:

    I’m sorry to say, you’ll be making a bold statement just by building a new home in Cornhill as a private citizen. Also, the urban and dense nature of your build will set it out, from some of the recent builds in the area. But with that negativity aside, I’m really happy for you and happy to see something that fits the neighborhood going in. You’re really putting your money where your mouth is and that’s awesome. I wish you a lot of luck and hop it turns out as well as it looks.

  14. I can’t say this enough, but thank you.

  15. Chris Caraccilo says:

    Let me know when you need a landscape design done! ; ))

  16. Man! If only I had known I would have an entire line of landscape architects. I had no idea. I feel like I need more landscape projects.

  17. Chris Caraccilo says:

    BTW…My brother gave me the Rochester Neighborhood Map,from your gift shop, all matted and framed for Christmas. I love it!


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