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Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

by Jill Black last modified Jun 30, 2006 06:22 PM
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Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Jill Black at February 24. 2006

Three years ago I started my own company, Urban Dwellings, inc. as a complete fluke. I was fascinated by Urban Infill and so tired of seeing the greenfields continuing to disappear in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. My husband and I moved to the area five years ago to be near my family, but were very discouraged about the continuous sprawl in the area.

I share an office space with a general contractor and we decided to venture out and try a townhome project. Our first project, The Lofts on Fairmount, was completed last summer. You can see photos at .

The experience was a good one and now I am interested in developing more in the area. The Lofts were built in an area adjacent to downtown Ft. Worth in a very walkable community that is being revitalized. There is LOTS of vacant property and now I am interested in a project more geared towards families. I am considering a single family sustainable housing project with shared green space that would be built for families that are wanting the Urban experience, but also want to have an area for their kids to play outdoors.

The pre fab prices I have found are just too expensive for this area. The Lofts I built are in the $140 per square foot cost as a selling price and include lots of high end amenities such as granite countertops, stainless appliances, a two car garage, hardwood floors and high end fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen.

If anyone has had any experiences with obtaining grant funding through sustainable housing federal grants or any suggestions as I begin on this journey, please advise.

Ft. Worth is supposedly the fastest growing city in the country right now, but most of the growth is in the suburbs. It is a mentality that I just can't understand, but I think the area is changing. I think that people will eventually get tired of the traffic and commuting and realize that Smart Growth is the way to go.

Comments and advice are greatly appreciated!

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Mark Meyer at February 25. 2006


I'm not sure about how much federal grant money there is to go around for projects such as these. I do know that in Austin, we have programs available at the city level for the type of developments you are discussing. These range from no-interest loans ($60K per unit) to fee waivers etc. It seems the caveat to most of these city programs is that the project must meet certain requirements that geberally have to do with availability to first time home-buyers or moderate income starter-home type projects. They also must generally meet accepted SMART housing requirements (size, urban infil, near mass transit, etc).

I also know for a fact that there is a LOT of private investor money floating aorund right now. People are coming out of the woodwork looking for interesting and thoughtful development projects to put their money into. I imagine you have already gone this route, but I think it wise to reiterate. If you have a good business plan yuu will have no problem finding funding for your project. Since you already have proven yourself with the townhomes, I can imagine you'll have plenty of funds thrown your way.

Mark Meyer

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Fredrick H. Zal at February 27. 2006
Your work is quite wonderful!
THANK YOU for doing the right thing!

Have you ever spoken with Capra J'neva about permaculture?

Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by David Reich at February 27. 2006


You might check out the folks down in Austin as far a grant money for such projects. I have read a few places where firms / developers are cooperating the SMART housing program. You may have already gone this avenue but thought it worth mentioning. Check out the guys at KRDB. Affordable homes is needed everywhere. I am targeting this in an old beach community in NW Florida as you know. The first numbers I am getting in from a contractor are around 150/sq ft (not including property). Building here is expensive as is the land but I am confident that we can get this down closer to $100-120 sf. I would love to get a small community of our modern home designs goingand it is my intention to do so - here or somewhere else - a community of clean simple affordable modern homes wink

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Kevin Dickson at March 05. 2006


I'm a little jealous when you say lots of vacant land. There's almost nothing left around here, so I'm buying 600-800sq. ft. worn out postwar boxes in a gritty neighborhood. A huge advantage to me in this strategy is that the land is breaking even while acquisition continues until critical mass is reached. Having the existing infrastructure in place is another one.

You're right about no prefabs meeting the cost requirements, it seems that the architectural program varies too much for a true manufacturer to step in and address the need with a high volume low cost solution.

Another critical market need that no one is addressing is what I call the for profit workforce rental housing. Forty years ago this need was met with 20 unit 3 story walkups, smallish 1 bd. units. Nowadays, the numbers don't work for that, so the only new product is luxury apartments or for sale condos and lofts.

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Jill Black at March 08. 2006

Thank you all so much for all the feedback. One thing I find fascinating is looking at where everyone is from who posted replies to my question.

I moved to Ft.Worth, where I live now and am looking to do some more development, six years ago. We moved from Denver. Prior to that we had lived in Austin for five years and Seattle for a short time. My husband is from Seattle so we visit there often.

It is amazing to me that people who have lived in these various areas of the country get it and the majority of people here in Ft. Worth just don't! My family is here and we the city is doing some amazing things as far as development, but I just keep wondering, will the creative class find their way to this area of the country? I hope so. I wish their was a live modern group that met in person in this area. If anyone can point me in other directions on this site to help me through my quandry of living in a city that often doesn't understand my vision I would appreciate it. Plus, to all of you developers out there, if anyone is interested in opportunity, there is lots here. We are now the fastest growing city in the nation and if we could somehow convince people that living in the suburbs sucks, then maybe we would see more Smart Growth.

OK, enough on my soap box, but again thanks for all the input! My search for funding, land and design continues......

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Faraji Whalen at April 04. 2006

Hi. I was very interested in your blog. I'm a beginning developer and my interest leans toward prefab and modernist structures. I'm also working with the local quasi-governmental agency here, and whjile there's no grant money to be had, there are tons of programs to incentivize developers to develop lower cost housing. One number that jumped out of the page was the $140/sq. foot selling cost. Is this what you are profitably selling the units at, or is this just the land acquisition/construction cost? I live in Washington DC, and I represent several condo developments, all of which are selling for at least $400/sq. foot. for market rate units, and about $300/sq. foot for workforce housing. I really liked the Lofts at Fairmont and would love to build something similar in my area. I'd like to talk to you more about the partnering up or sharing ideas and information. My email is Thanks!

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Ethan Dutton at April 06. 2006

The lofts look wonderful. I am looking to create a similar community in central California ( I would love to hear more about how you got started developing. Is this your background? This is the first project I am undertaking and we are in the infancy of it, but I would love to glean the advice from anyone who has had success so far. Our ideal goal is to create a mix of single family homes, multifamily townhomes, and live/work spaces all around a communal green space. If you have any advice, or updates on your projects I would love to hear about it.


[url href=]The Nest Project[/url]

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Frank Jones at June 09. 2006

If you going to do some kind of larger development maybe you could share a geothermal heating/cooling system - the horizontal loop kind.

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by sydney roberts at June 30. 2006

Check out Glenwood Park in Atlanta. Architecture is not modern, but they remediated a brown field and built a walkable mixed-use development. EarthCraft House and Community standards were used for setting and meeting goals of sustainability.

Re: Interested in developing a Modern Sustainable Housing Development

Posted by Ethan Dutton at June 30. 2006

Thanks for the heads up on Glenwood Park. My brother-in-law just moved to Decature to teach at Georgia State so I will have him run some recon for me. I am still looking into some urban infill options as my town plans some large brownfield developing and downtown revitalizing. I am looking to add the modern and green elements to this hopefully smart growth.

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