Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Additions Come in All Shapes and Sizes

There are all sorts of additions to houses in Old Town. From small to large, from modern or post modern looking to those that keep to the style of the original house, from historic to so new you can still smell the paint, the variety is incredibly broad. This photo heavy post is all about additions on the west side of Old Town (west of College). The goal isn't to make judgement calls about what's "nice" and what's "ugly;" beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. The intention here is to show the depth of variation that exists with additions in Old Town and to note which of these additions could have been added under the new ordinance that city council recently passed and which have added floor space to the point that the houses exceed the new FAR (floor area ratio) limits.


A Probable Old Addition



This is the old Baker-Harris house, which was built in 1885.  Although it looks like the entire back half is an addition, it's possible that only that smaller bit on the very left of this photo was added on. There are a couple of photos of this house in the archives, but they both include only the front of the house and there are such tall trees around the building that it's not possible to get a sense of how far back the house went. Remodels are usually listed on the county assessor's website, but past a certain date, records are sometimes not included online. This house meets the FAR requirement of the new ordinance. 


One of the Newest Additions in the Neighborhood


The addition to the house on the left in this photo is still in progress. There's even an workman with his truck parked out front. You can see in this photo that the new addition comes fairly close to the height of the house with an addition to the right. There's actually a name for the type of addition that this family is adding; it's called "popping the top." The house used to be a one story. So imagine popping the top off of the old house and building a new story on top of that, hence the term. Because the county assessor's website has not been updated with the floor area information of the house on the left, it's not possible to determine whether this addition is acceptable under the new ordinance. However, the house with the addition on the right side of the photo does meet the FAR requirement of the new ordinance. 


Sneaky Additions - If you don't look close, you might miss them. 

The door sticking out to the back right of this house hints that something has been added. But without walking down the alley, it's hard to get a sense of what the full addition looks like. With 2614 square feet above ground on an 8000 square foot lot in the low density zone of Old Town, this house comes in  14 feet over the new ordinance rules. Based on the new rules, however, it is allowed either 236 - 250 more square feet for an unattached garage in back. (236 if they subtract the 14 feet that the house goes over the floor size limit or 250 if they let that slide.) 

The addition on this house is only hinted at by the small bump out on the side and the slight offset in the roofline, but it seems to double the size of the house. This house comes well below the allowed FAR under the new ordinance. 

The addition on this house pops out slightly beyond the old wall of the house, and it is chock full of windows to let in the southern sun. The house comes in well below the allowed FAR under the new ordinance. 

This is a teeny, tiny house with only 468 square feet total. It is indicative of many of the little houses found north of Laporte that were originally built to house farm laborers and other families with small incomes. Under the new ordinance, 1782 square feet could be added to the house and a 250 square foot detached garage could be tossed in as well. So, needless to say, this house, including it's mini-addition in the back with second story porch, fit well within the new FAR rules. 

This house was remodeled a few years ago. As the dirt "road" between the street and the side of the house attested during that time, most of the work done on the house involved digging out additional basement space. But there was a small popout added on the side of the house in the back. If you look at the roof line on the left side of the house there's the front, then a bit that pops out that's original, then another bit that pops out that indicates the addition. This house comes in 800 square feet below the FAR limits under the new ordinance. 

Dormers - Making Use of Attic Space



Dormers are a means of adding an upstairs room or two without changing the footprint of your house. Dormers can also be a more discrete change to the overall look of a house compared to popping the top (raising the entire roof a level). But probably the reason adding dormers is so popular in Old Town is because it's a pretty cheap way to add more usable space to the house. The floor area ratio of this house is fine under the new ordinance.

The dormer on the front of the roof looks like it was probably original to the house. But the dormer on the south side looks like it was added. This house fits well within the FAR rules under the new ordinance. 


Both of these houses have additions, but the one to the left shows a dormer popping up on the west side of the house. The house on the right side, on the other hand, added back and up, another popular means of adding space to houses in Old Town. Both of these houses are under the FAR limit based on the new ordinance. 

Adding on in Back

This recent addition could still be added under the new ordinance that the city council passed in March. 

This house, including the addition, is well under the new FAR limits. 

This house is well below the maximum allowed FAR under the new ordinance. 

It's hard to see the addition on this house. The dormer in front is original, but the dormer in back is added, as is a section that stands behind the original house. This house was pretty large to begin with, but it's also on an impressively large lot. (It's about equivalent to a lot and a half compared to the other lots along this side of the block.) This house is quite comfortably under both old and new FAR limits, coming in at only 22% FAR - that means the house has 22% of the square footage of the entire lot.

This house goes 95 square feet over the FAR limit under the new ordinance.

According to the county assessor's map, this lot is only 2444 square feet in size. But the outline of this property is much larger than the one to the left of it which it also lists in the 2000s for square footage. It also lists the building as being 1832 square feet large. So the land size seems small and the building size large compared to what the building and land actually look like. But it's quite likely that even if the numbers on the website are wrong, this building quite likely wouldn't qualify under the new ordinance. 

This addition is hard to see in the photo, but the roof line that goes up (to the right of the tree) is a bit of what was added. The addition is very angular and modern looking in comparison to the original building. (One philosophy in adding space to a building is that you want the time period of the building to be evident in the style. So while some people add on to a building trying the best to match what was already there, others feel that building something quite different helps to distinguish the old clearly from the new so that no one thinks that a new section is original. This just goes to show that even in terms of preservation, there is a spectrum of beliefs about how additions should look.) This building fits well under the FAR rules in the new ordinance. 

Though there are many, many more additions in Old Town, this will be the last one for this post. When looking at this photo, it's hard to tell where the front of this house is. That's because the evergreen in the front lawn is covering up the entire front facade of the building. The older section of building is on the right half of this photo and the addition is the perpendicular structure attached on the left side of the photo. This house, because it is on a 9500 square foot lot, fits well within the FAR limits under the new ordinance.