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Filling In: 37 Eagle Street Part 3

October 15th, 2015

This is to inform you that a public hearing has been scheduled for [37 Eagle Street]
By Matthew Denker

Consider this a lightweight palette cleanser in the middle of the five course, multi-month feast that is the zoning series. Even so, it’s deeply related to zoning, so you’re not getting off that easy. Read on if you dare (Halloween pun intended!).

Matthew Denker is filling in 37 Eagle Street. For real.
So as some of you may recall, my wife and I are in the midst of building a house for ourselves in Rochester. And not “in Rochester” the way a house in Pittsford might be referred to your new found friend at a bar in Albuquerque, but in Corn Hill. And not any old house, either, but one with space for three separate families in it. As you can imagine from the prior zoning articles (this one, perhaps), the plan hasn’t been entirely straight forward. Even so, we took the plunge, submitted a multitude of documents, and were given back a lovely report from the City on all the ways our house was not in compliance with its zoning code.

37 Eagle Street Site Plan
I’m not going to recreate the report word for word here (although I am confident you could cruise on over to City Hall and see it), but the basic gist is that we are required to request (read: fill out more paperwork) and receive variances for the following four things:

  1. The depth of our front yard facing Eagle Street
  2. The combined width of our house’s side yards
  3. The combined width of our carriage house’s side yards
  4. The depth of the backyard behind the carriage house

In response to these items, we reduced the size of the carriage house to eliminate (3). We also contend that the front yard is more appropriate at its current depth, than at the required 20 feet. The other two items would be difficult to change, and we remain hopeful that we receive the required variances, as they are low-impact.

37 Eagle Street Signs
And this is where I pivot from the nitty-gritty of it all and to the civic duty portion. Whether you support the construction of our house or not (although we hope you do), I think it’s worth everyone’s while to come to one of these zoning hearings (I’m at them all the time here in Colorado). Please do come out if you can (I know 9:30 am on a Thursday is tough, considering we’re also 8th on the agenda – I don’t make the schedule). If an evening meeting would be simpler, we’ll also be before the Preservation Board sometime after 6pm on the 4th of November. That’s a second chance to come out, see how this all works, and potentially support our house. The Corn Hill Preservation District is home to an incredible variety of buildings, and I honestly believe that ours will contribute positively to its urban fabric.

Corn Hill Historic District Montage
And so I leave you, the reader, with what I hope is an assurance that we want very badly to build a beautiful house and be excellent stewards of both it and the neighborhood. I’ll be doing a post about the specific floor plans we have and why separately, but for now, I leave you with just the house (below). Hope to see you in a few weeks!

37 Eagle Street Rendering

• • •

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2015 at 8:32 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.

16 Responses to “Filling In: 37 Eagle Street Part 3”

  1. John says:

    My wife and I live around the block and pass this lot every day on our walks. Your renderings look very nice and I’ll try to make it to the preservation board meeting in November in support.

    There are quite a few landlords in the neighborhood who do not take care of their property. It seems like you wouldn’t be one of them.

  2. Michael Brisson says:

    Best of luck with it!

  3. Shawn says:

    I can understand the reasoning behind having the house closer to the street. But considering that your house will be the only one facing Eagle Street it would seem the set back would not be a huge issue. And kudos for the modern design! I love it.

  4. Nick says:

    I live on Troup Street near S Washington, and I’ve noticed those signs out on the lawn whenever I rode by…. I thought there was something historical about that vacant lot maybe. I’m glad you shared the details about the plan, the house looks really nice. I could try to make it out on Nov 4 to see what it’s all about.

  5. Ben says:

    Love the rendering of the house, good luck at the associated board meetings.

  6. Adrian Martin says:

    Looks fantastic

  7. Thank you all so far. I really appreciate the kind words.

    Couple interesting tidbits about the front yard. So while no other house visually faces Eagle Street on our block, by definition, both 98 Adams and 65 Atkinson have a front yard to Eagle St, and it’s the average of these yards (about 10 ft or so) that is most appropriate. Also interesting is that Beaver Street actually meets the definition of an alley, and thus is not a front yard for our property.

  8. David Gottfried says:

    I love the design – and I would imagine that it will fit nicely into the neighborhood. Granted, you never know what nutty people may show up to be opposed, but I would think folks would like to see some of these vacant lots in the City actually put back to productive, tax revenue generating, use.

  9. David says:

    Matthew, I own and reside in one of the houses shown in your collage. Good luck in front of the preservation board in November – I had to go before the board three times just to replace a dangerously decrepit deck at the rear of my home. Some of the folks there made their first appearance before the scrutiny of the board years beforehand. Not to be a naysayer or anything – you seem to have your shit together.

    Mighty sharp design in the rendering. I have no idea which way they are going to go on your design, since it is a new-build. But for all the cases I sat through, they seemed mostly concerned with aesthetic appearance, and the design’s impact on the historical integrity and continuity of the building and the neighborhood. Just make sure you present as many details regarding building materials as you can (siding, foundation, window frames, etc etc). Leave no potential question unanswered. They may even ask for brand names.

    Quite honestly, I feel that the Corn Hill neighborhood would benefit more if you were to invest in renovating one of the many beautiful – but in need of some TLC – 19th century homes. I’d like to know your thoughts on building here vs buying here.

  10. Chris Stone says:

    This is a fantastic project! Rochester needs 1,000 more young, thoughtful, people like the Denkers who are willing to spend their own money, with no public assistance, to invest in our fair city.

    If you support this project, please email Jill Symonds, staff person to the Zoning Board, by 4PM today. jill.symonds@cityofrochester.gov

  11. Hi David,

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment. Please forgive my rambling, multi-part answer in advance, as well as the fact that it may not be entirely satisfying.

    First, It’s always been my dream to build my home. As selfish as that is, it’s probably towards the top of the list.

    Second, while we intend to invest a great deal of money into the project, we do not expect to end up with a house that is worth the money once we are done. The economics of it just don’t mean up. The circle is squared by our intent to occupy the home for considerable time.

    Third, the money required to undertake such an endeavor is difficult to rectify. For us to build out home, we will go to a bank, and get a loan for the entire amount. For us to renovate a home, we would go to a bank to get a mortgage for the current value of the home, but then have to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations in cash. We would be renovating past the value of homes in the neighborhood, and would not be able to secure funding to do so.

    Fourth and finally, there is the question of availability for a home that meets our needs. While there are numerous three family homes in the neighborhood (6 of the 53 closest homes to ours happen to be 3 family homes), the availability of said homes on the open market requires the precise timing for us to have money ready and to be ready to buy. We’re not ready to move back to Rochester this second, and this creates a challenging timeline (should any of these homes even come up for sale in the near future).

    I do think there is incredible value to fixing up homes in the neighborhood, and if any of the homes that could use said TLC come on the market, I frequently consider them (some of them I even try to buy, ask me how that’s gone sometime!), but with anything other than the property we own there are complex issues of timing and funding that come up. We don’t have those with land we control and a timeline that we are not rushing.

    Sorry again for going on about the whole thing, I don’t mean in anyway to disqualify the value of renovating a home in the neighborhood. It is absolutely worthwhile, and I look forward to renovating homes in the neighborhood as I have the opportunity. They just happen to be separate projects from this one right now, and not necessarily where I would want to settle down.

  12. Super quick update – we ended up with no findings. It means we didn’t get a thumbs up, but we’re also not told no. I’ll be writing about it a little more extensively after preservation, where we will still be in a week and a half.

  13. Just a gentle reminder that preservation is tomorrow at 6pm in city hall. I’d love to see you there.

  14. John says:

    How did the preservation board hearing turn out?

  15. John says:

    Hey Matt,

    Curious to see if this Eagle St project in Corn Hill had progressed at all. Looks like areal neat endeavor!

  16. Hi John, good q! I’m going to be posting a part four in the near future, but since I’ve last had an update here, we’ve received both our zoning variances and our certificate of appropriateness. We’re firing on all cylinders right now!


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