The Importance of Individual Unit Entrances

A small apartment building just opened on my street, and I’m proud to say it has the stamp of Joe Urban on it. Station 38 Apartments opened in early April, right around the corner from the 38th Street light rail station. It has 64 market rate apartments leasing for around $1.45 per square foot, is four stories in height and I’m happy to say it has ground floor units with individual walk-out entrances.

Close to two years ago the developer, Klodt (pronounced “kloot”), presented their nearly final plans for the building to SENA, my neighborhood group. Citing the fact that many tenants will indeed walk to the nearby light rail station, I asked if they could simply add a door and front sidewalk for those units that were on the ground floor facing 29th Avenue. They said sure. It was, and always will be, the easiest neighborhood approval battle I’ll ever win. The important thing is we all win. Having separate front entrances lining the street enhances the public realm, and makes the street more neighborly and inviting. Apartment dwellers can walk right out the door, and neighbors get to look at a more appealine building.

That place where the public and private realm meet – that is the starting point for good urbanism. The planning process should begin with a discussion of what the public realm looks like and how the private realm addresses it. A quiet, tree-lined residential street with a public sidewalk and on-street parking should naturally have buildings with doors facing it. Why this isn’t an automatic in planning and zoning I don’t know, but it should be. What happens above the ground floor is less important than how that ground level facade interacts with the street. Station 38 Apartments is but one small example of how it should be done.

Well, a picture can say a thousand words, so decide for yourself. Which of these two pictures do you like better?

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Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is www.joe-urban.com.

7 thoughts on “The Importance of Individual Unit Entrances

  1. Reuben CollinsReuben Collins

    I like this building. I'd like to see more of this type of development. I still wish it was several separate buildings rather than one mega building that fills half a block, but I understand that raises costs considerably. I agree that individual entrance doors to ground-floor units is a good addition to the building in this location.

    Sam, is there an urban context where you wouldn't recommend that ground-floor residential units have direct access to the street?

    1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg Post author

      Reuben, I cannot think of an example. Sometimes the program within precludes it, like an assisted living facility where residents with dimensia, for example, need to be monitored so they don't wander off.

      There are other ways to break up monotony of a building through articulation and greening, but none are as effective as actual doors and activity.

  2. Alex

    Wow – more proof that it never hurts to ask, huh? It's also good to hear that the developer didn't see it as a security issue.

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    great work. I have had the same thought re: the condo developments near the stone arch buildings, on 6th. walking up that sidewalk and seeing someone on their entrance / deck grilling is a nice treat.

  4. Mike Hicks

    I was struck by how common this type of entrance was when I visited Madison a couple years back (and they were using much smaller setbacks — though I guess that was right in the downtown area). It's something that's been missing around here.

  5. Lisa

    How about new apartment buildings within an urban area characterized by large, historic factories with few entrances? Would you create individual entrances even though the buildings it's nodding to do not?

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