Something Old, Something New


By Ed Roskowinski, CR

With a greater desire for shorter commutes and amenities within walking or biking distance, new homes built within an existing established neighborhood are becoming more common. If you’re lucky enough to find one of the few remaining empty lots in a first-ring suburb or city neighborhood, your “in-fill” project might not require much site work prior to construction. Most in-fill projects involve removing an existing structure. But don’t fear; if you find a great piece of property, in a great neighborhood, with a house that just won’t do, removing the home and building something new might just fit the bill.


There are a few things to consider when building a new home within an existing neighborhood. First and foremost, the new structure should fit in with what’s already there. It doesn’t need to replicate the surrounding homes, but it should reflect some commonalities. Many communities are starting to adopt codes that require a new structure to be sensitive to the existing homes around it. This helps keep builders and homeowners from creating a three story McMansion in a neighborhood of single story ranch ramblers.


Some may argue, but I think you can create a modern contemporary home in an older urban setting if its size and scale fits responsibly with its surroundings. One nice touch is to save or reuse part of the existing structure or landscape like the original 1940s stone walls and gate around this new modern home.


One of the advantages of building within an established neighborhood is the existing utilities; sewer, water and electrical services likely already exist on the property. Keep in mind that these service lines may need updating, especially in an older neighborhood. Not likely a budget-buster, but it will be something to take into account when considering a property.


It’s also important to engage your new neighbors early in the process. Let them know what you’re up to and allow them to give input and ask questions. Remember that you’ll be disrupting their lives for quite some time with trucks and noise during the building process, and keep in mind that eventually you’ll be living next door to them.

In-fill projects are smart, green, and economical when working with someone who has experience building in an established neighborhood. You can have all the advantages of living close to the city with all the advantages of living in a new home.

Ed Roskowinski is General Manger and VP of Vujovich Design Build, Inc., a 35-year design build firm specializing in building and remodeling unique Twin Cities homes for unique homeowners.

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