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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7 Responses to The Importance of Individual Unit Entrances

  1. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins May 30, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    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?

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg May 30, 2012 at 4:40 am #

      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 May 31, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    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 Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke May 31, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    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 June 1, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    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. Alex Tsatsoulis
    Alex June 1, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Just last week I biked past the "Calhoun Park Terrace" apartments at Aldrich between Lake and 31st, and the thing that stood out to me was their individual entrances as well. Definitely don't see enough of that in Minneapolis! Here's a crazy-long Streetview link:

  6. Lisa June 1, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    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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