Three vacant lots in the Dignowity Hill Historic District on the city's near-Eastside will once again have single family homes built to replace the structures demolished years ago.
The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) approved a two-story house at 315 Lamar St., and conceptually approved both a single-family residence on a conjoined lot at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. and a four-structure development that will fill two lots at the corner of 532 Dawson St. and 417 N. Mesquite St.
The two-story house on Lamar Street received final approval by the HDRC after the applicant, Oscar Santana, detached the garage from the house to be more consistent with the flow of the neighborhood, set the second story addition to the rear of the house, and simplified the composition of the roof.
Liz Franklin of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association Architectural Review Committee said the height, massing, and scale of the house was not consistent with the other houses in the neighborhood.
HDRC found that the second floor of the house was shorter than other homes on the block, and approved the structure.
A more contemporary design for the conjoined lot on Mesquite Street (see top photo) received conceptual approval.
The original proposal included a primary house and a detached guest house that was set further back on the lot. HDRC decided that to be consistent with neighborhood guidelines, the guest house would need to be placed at the top of the lot next to the main house, or it would need to become an attached unit.
Commissioner Tim Cone said the placement of the guest house did not "fit with the rhythm of the neighborhood."
Lewis McNeel, a close neighbor of the property and a member of the neighborhood's Architectural Review Committee, voiced his full support of the project.
"We think it is an ideal way to treat an empty lot in our neighborhood," he said. "We want to hold this up as the model with what to do with empty lots in the neighborhood."
According to a letter from the Dignowity Hill Architectural Review Committee, McNeel said the materials to be used complement the neighborhood. He stated the "final appearance appears to be muted (and) ... allow the surrounding historic structures to remain in central focus."
Two other neighborhood members offered statements in support of the design.
Some of the commissioners did not agree with some of the modern architectural elements of the design. Commissioners Betty Feldman and Tim Cone agreed that the architecture of the house, including the horizontal windows on its façade, did not match those of the existing homes in the neighborhood.
Michael Britt, the property owner and a Lake/Flato architect, agreed to attach the guest house to the primary structure and tweak the design of the windows. HDRC conceptually approved the house with the agreement that Britt would join the two structures and refine the architectural design of the front of the house.
A four-unit complex at Dawson and North Mesquite Streets received conceptual approval from HDRC. Originally, the complex included five units, but after several HDRC meetings, applicant Logan Fullmer scaled back the design to include four separate housing units.
Both Franklin and McNeel spoke against the design. Franklin said the project's density was too large for the neighborhood.
"We want thoughtful development and infill," she said, citing the units to acre ratio was too dense for the lot.
"Dignowity Hill historic district is a desirable place to be," she said, noting the increased number of HDRC agenda items in Dignowity Hill.
McNeel said the project did not fit in with the "grain and character" of the neighborhood.
"We want to make sure that when new development comes to our neighborhood, which we welcome, that it fits artfully into the grain of the neighborhood," he said.
He said the project's window to solid wall proportion were also out of place in the neighborhood.
Project partner George Herrera said he spoke with community members in the area who said they were in favor of developing vacant lots in the neighborhood. Fullmer and Herrera had informal face-to-face meetings with nearby neighbors, many of whom signed a petition in favor of the project.
"We are trying to make this project a single-family lot development in order to get people to take ownership of their community and not just have passive interest as living in a typical apartment," Herrera said.
Fullmer and Herrera said they met with Councilmember Alan Warrick II, the district's representative, to refine the complex's design before Wednesday's HDRC meeting. Herrera said the project's plan fits within Warrick's plan "to rid the area of vacant lots as it helps on a cyclical basis to bring new bodies to the area, reduce crime, (and) increase public works."
Fullmer said the four units, which do not have expansive yards because of the lot size, will be desirable to Millennials and retirees who do not have the time and resources to maintain a yard.
*Featured/top image: The vacant lots at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. in Dignowity Hill. Courtesy image.