Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A deck by any other name would smell as sweet

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Philadelphia being a pseudo-borough of New York City and the purported virtues of one city relative to the other.

That’s all well and fine but New York is New York. Which is fine; Philadelphia doesn’t want to be New York. It wants to be a strong, vibrant, economically-healthy regional hub for the foreseeable future.

In order to do so, Philadelphia should pick its battles. Work on its strengths while minimizing its weaknesses, if you will.

An article in Sunday’s Times underscores one such opportunity for Philadelphia — albeit a small, almost superficial one: make it easier for developers rehabbing old buildings and building new homes to add decks to said properties.
But outdoor property you can call your own — be it a garden, patio, terrace or even a balcony — remains a coveted commodity in limited supply, at least in the crowded environs of Manhattan. The homes that have these amenities come on the market less often than those without, and when they do, they typically sell at top dollar, and often quickly, especially at this time of year, real estate professionals say.

"Basically, outdoor space has become rare," said Jacky Teplitzky, a veteran broker and an executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman. The inventory tightened over the years, she said, in part because developers in recent decades had concentrated more on maximizing indoor space and in part because owners have held onto these prize properties longer. Of course, zoning and design constraints have also affected supply.

Only 10.9 percent of all residential sales in Manhattan last year included units with some type of private outdoor space, down from 14.4 percent in 2000 and 18.3 percent in 1995, according to the appraisal company Miller Samuel. "The drop suggests that the properties with outdoor space — more likely large space like terraces and gardens — have a longer holding period and do not turn over as often," said Jonathan J. Miller, the company's president.
Granted, you have to take all of that with a grain of salt when relating it to Philadelphia, but still, consider Philadelphia’s vast neighborhoods of rowhomes. They lend themselves perfectly to decks... and roofdecks in particular.

Sure, there are a lot of decks already in and around Center City, but for every roofdeck there is, there always seems to be five+ neighboring roofs that are needlessly without.

There are literally whole blocks in G-Ho, Bella Vista and Queen Village on which one house will have a roofdeck with an absolutely amazing view, and you’ll be up there thinking to yourself, “Why in fuck's name is this the only house on this block that rocks a roofdeck?”

It’s a huge missed opportunity. Similar neighborhoods in Chicago are literally teeming with decks.

Is there a reason Philadelphia doesn't embrace decks?

The likely candidate, of course, is city bureaucracy and the difficulty in obtaining a required zoning permit to build roofdecks.

(Shocking, we know.)

We’ve had multiple people complain to us recently about how frustrating it is trying to get an OK from the city to build a roofdeck on a newly refurbished/constructed rowhome.

Does the city not realize how appealing deck space can be to would-be buyers or even would-be renters?

Apparently not.
iii. The deck can not have a roof, walls, stairs, or an enclosure beneath the deck.
In our admitted, unqualified estimation, those requirements pretty much make roofdecks all but impossible.

(Contrast Philadelphia's position on decks with Chicago's, whose website actually has an online "Guide to Porch and Deck Design and Construction," complete with a "Porch Application" design application.)

And it’s a shame too. Because roofdecks encourage city residents to embrace their environs. And we’re pretty sure that if there were more of them to go around, the city would find it a little easier to hold on to some of those creative class types they're so desperately trying to get to live/work here.

And ‘a little easier’ would be a good start.

Baby steps people. Baby steps.

Related:
No one in Manhattan has a roofdeck; moreover they're rare in Brooklyn [NY Times]
Phila Dept of L&I: Want to build a deck? Please see these impossible-to-follow directions [Phila.gov]
Can Northern Liberties save Philadelphia? [Inky]

2 comments:

mhawf said...

How about Green Rooves??? They would be perfect in Philly, great space and also pervents rainwater run off, much needed here, which the flooding of late prooves.

mhawf said...

How about Green Rooves, they would be perfect in Philly... They create great spaces and prevent rainwater run-off, which is much needed here, which the flooding of late can proove.