Sunday, November 26, 2006

More In-Touch but Less Connected . . .

Signs of the Times . . .
More In-Touch but Less Connected

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The next time you are driving look at the number of people on their cell phones. The next time you are at a Starbucks, or a Panera Bread or a Borders café look at the number of people on their computers. We are more in-touch than ever before, but paradoxically, we are increasingly isolated.

Lynn Smith-Lovin is a Duke University Sociologist and coauthor of a study titled “Social Isolation in America.” The study is a replica of one done 20 years ago. In only two decades, from 1985 to 2004, the number of people who have no one to talk to has doubled. And the number of confidants of the average American has gone down from three to two.. One quarter reported that they had nobody o talk to, and another quarter were only one person away from nobody.

People did report that that they were closer to their families. Husbands and wives and parents and their adult children may be closer. Our circles seem to have tightened and shrunk while going nuclear and familial. The greatest loss has been in neighbors and friends who will provide help, support, advice and connections to the wider world.

It's become easier to keep extensive relationships over time and distance by cell phone and email, but harder to build the deep ones in our backyards. In the virtual neighborhood, how many have substituted e-mail for intimacy, contacts for confidants, and phone or Facebook for face to face?

We may be six degrees of separation from any other person in the world and one or two people away from loneliness. Who can we talk to about ``important matters"? Who can we count on? As we search for tools to repair this frayed safety net, Americans can take poor, paradoxical comfort from the fact that if they are feeling isolated, they are not alone.

The good news is that the new traditional neighborhood may be one of those tools to repair the disconnectedness of our times. The principles of TND design put people together and help create conditions where community and connectedness can thrive.

Source: Adapted from the Boston Globe, June 30, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Herb on the Radio . . .

Herb on the radio . . .

KKAR 1290 AM Saturday morning, November 18, 2006 . . .

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This Saturday morning, November 18th, Herb will be a guest on The Real Estate Reality Hour radio call-in talk show with Steve Smithberg. Steve is a licensed real estate broker and home builder with Design One.

Each week The Real Estate Reality Hour explores topics of current interest and answers your questions about real estate. The Real Estate Reality Hour airs live each Saturday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. on News Talk Radio 1290 KKAR.

Tune in to KKAR at 1290 on the AM dial this coming Saturday, November 18th, at 9:00 a.m. to learn about What's New on State Street, the Omaha area's first new traditional neighborhood at 168th and State Streets.

The KKAR call in number is 342-1290.

KFAB 1110 AM Saturday, December 9, 2006 . . .

Herb's next guest shot on the radio will be on the Grow Omaha show which airs at 8:00 a.m. every Saturday morning on radio 1110 KFAB. Grow Omaha is hosted by Trenton Magid and Jeff Beals with Coldwell Banker Commercial World Group. Herb will be on the show Saturday, December 9th.

The KFAB call-in numbers are 558-1110 or 1-800-543-1110.

Call in and support traditional neighborhood development in the Omaha area.



Friday, November 10, 2006

The "Not So Big House" . . . A sign of things to come?

Stylish Cottage for Katrina Country Is a Big Hit

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A well-designed home for under $50,000? This tiny house designed for the battered Gulf Coast will be sold by Lowe's, and is expected to draw buyers from all over.

A model home in Ocean Springs, Miss., that gives Katrina's displaced an alternative to trailer living is starting to take the country by storm.

The Katrina cottage -- with living quarters about the size of a McMansion bathroom -- is now appealing to people well beyond the flood plain. Californians want to build one in their backyards to use for rental income to help with the mortgage payment. Modestly paid kayakers in Colorado see it as a way to finally afford a house. Elsewhere, people envision building one so a parent can live nearby.

A new niche flying in the face of a "big house" trend, designers of these tiny abodes seem to have found a new housing niche. Some experts cite an interest by some Americans in downsizing their habitats, a reaction to the supersized home, and note the challenge of heating and cooling a big house at a time when family budgets are flat. Others note that changing demographics -- more empty nesters and single adults -- may mean a timely debut of the Lilliputian homes.
"It's resonating with people because it's a market that did not exist," says Marianne Cusato, a New York-based designer who drew up the plans for the Katrina cottage. "In the past, you had to go either to an apartment or a trailer."

Commercialization of the concept is limited -- but that is about to change. Late this year, perhaps as soon as this month, Lowe's, a national hardware and building-supply company, intends to begin selling the plans and materials for four models in 30 stores in the Gulf Coast region.

The "Lowe's Katrina Cottage" offerings range from a two-bedroom, 544-square-foot model to a three-bedroom, 936-square-foot house. The cottages will cost $45 to $55 per square foot to build, Lowe's estimates, meaning the smallest would run about $27,200 and the largest $46,800. Estimates do not include the cost of the foundation, heating and cooling, and labor.
"We're starting on the Gulf Coast, where the original idea came from, but as soon as we feel the logistics are worked out we could go national," says Cusato, whose Web site has received more than 7,000 inquiries since January. "We want to be sure that when we say it's available, we're 100% sure we can deliver."

A concept that could spreadIf Lowe's is successful, it's likely other companies will offer their own designs. "There is such a huge opportunity, when you talk about the number of houses that need to be built in Mississippi and Louisiana, that I think a lot of folks are looking at this type of concept," says Dan Tresch, director of governmental affairs at James Hardy Building Products, which provides the siding for Cusato's cottages.

One of those other companies won't be Home Depot, the Atlanta-based supplier of building materials. "We assessed the opportunity but chose to pass on selling them," says spokesman Tony Wilbert.

Although Lowe's has not started marketing the houses yet, the original Katrina cottage has been featured on television and in newspaper articles. As a result, Cusato gets queries every day from around the world. Some of the e-mails and letters envision the cottages as college dormitories, military housing, homeless shelters, zookeeper's offices and rental properties.

Among the recent inquiries was one from Keith Rogerson, a city councilor from Bridgeport, Conn. "We have lots that are too small for a … single-family, detached household, so the idea is to bring in these extremely attractive dwellings to provide affordable housing," says Rogerson. "We're also looking at reorienting the zoning so we can put them in clusters to stave off ghettoizing the city."

The Katrina cottage concept inspired Norman Bradshaw, a retired deputy sheriff in Tallahassee, Fla., to call Lowe's. He's thinking about moving to a farm in Georgia. "What I'm trying to find is something affordable in the $65,000-to-$75,000 range," says Bradshaw. "Right now, the only thing you can afford is a trailer, and they are so flimsy you can put your fist right through a wall." If Lowe's follows though with the original design, Bradshaw says, he'll buy one.

Urban planners and architecture critics are generally enthusiastic. "Designers have done a good job with toasters and cars, and now they have done housing -- and it couldn't have come at a better time," says Anthony Flint at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank in Cambridge, Mass. Architect Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House," calls it "a charming, tiny house with character."

The cottage, though almost doll-size, manages not to feel claustrophobic in large part because Cusato has included a wide porch. "If you live in a small house, you need a proper outdoor room," Cusato says. "In addition to making the house larger, it engages you with your neighbors."

Ready for hurricanes and add-ons Cusato's design also calls for steel frames and James Hardy's fiber-cement-board siding. It's rated to withstand a hurricane with 140-mile-per-hour winds. The siding makes it termite-resistant, noncombustible and immune to rot. One intangible aspect of the house: It is designed to be easy to add on to.

The idea for the cottage came during a planning session in Mississippi. Gov. Haley Barbour had asked Andreas Duany, a Miami urban planner with the firm Duany Plater-Zyberk, to participate in the post-Katrina Mississippi Renewal Forum. There, Duany challenged designers to come up with an alternative to the trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cusato's design was picked as the winning effort.

But the concept didn't really take off until January, when the cottage made its debut -- almost by happenstance -- at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla. Susanka was set to build a small, modular show house for the event, but her sponsor pulled out. Duany suggested that Cusato's cottage go in its place -- and it was an instant hit with developers, who clamored for the plans.

The house was then trucked to Ocean Springs, Miss., where thousands of people have explored its confines. Cusato sees the cottage as one way to help the region recover. "If you give people a decent place to live, they will want to settle in," she says. "The most sustainable thing you can do is build something that everyone loves and everyone wants to keep."

Source: Ron Scherer, The Christian Science Monitor, October 2, 2006