Picking a Site
After we looked at some built examples around town, Taze had us find three undeveloped parcels of land in town that we felt had potential for housing. We wanted to find infill lots; that is, lots either previously developed or vacant inside of the city limits with previous develop around them. The idea behind infill development is to use land that is already interconnected with existing infrastructure and community rather than building outside of town. That model of housing, called greenfield development, is the most common type of development and the very definition of sprawl.
My three sites were the old Palmer Home building on Russell Street, a vacant lot adjacent to Parkside Apartments on Jackson Street, and Brownsville Station on Wood Street. This map shows the three sites and how they relate to the city of Starkville. The next three images go into more detail about each site.
I used a lot of ArcMap (GIS) software and Photoshop for these. I counted all the intersections and “diverse uses” (as defined by LEED ND standards) to see how interconnected the site was with its surroundings and how interconnected the surroundings were in general. You want to have at least 90 intersections within a half-mile radius, and surprisingly all three sites met this criteria. Measuring diverse uses is meant as a way to determine how well people’s typical needs can be met within walking distance. The major problem with this in Starkville was the lack of neighborhood grocery stores. The only site with a place to buy food within walking distance was Brownsville.
Site 1 is a fairly small site with close proximity to diverse residential neighborhoods and commercial activity. Located along a main connection route between the city of Starkville and Mississippi State University, it is well-situated to become a prime development location. Though it has been underused in relation to its potential, this site would be well-suited for compact, mixed-use development, primarily as retail and commercial.
The lack of a nearby grocery store is a glaring need for this part of the community, and this parcel is suited to house a small neighborhood store. Job opportunities are fairly lacking in this area; however, the potential remains for gains in this area. It is within walking distance of many restaurants, and many other regular needs can be fulfilled nearby. It links easily into the Cotton District, downtown Starkville, and Mississippi State University. It satisfies all of the Smart Location prerequisites.
Site 2 is a larger parcel located off of Jackson Street. Surrounded by residential areas to the north and south, a municipal maintenance facility lies to the west. One of the largest parks in Starkville, Moncrief Park, is easily accessible across Jackson Street. Oktibbeha County Hospital is also close by.
This parcel is fairly separated from downtown compared to the others, though the possibility of development along Highway 182 is very real, and could serve to make this site very attractive in the future. For now, the lack of a grocery store lessens its value. This site would be best served as residential, though the opportunity for some retail and commercial development along Jackson Street is a possibility.
Site 3 is probably the best residential site out of the three presented here. A large supermarket is nearby, as well as a farmer’s market. The downtown is within easy walking distance, and the location provides access to multiple diverse uses. The surrounding neighborhood is nearly all residential and fairly walkable.
Natural constraints present themselves at this site far more than the others, due to the bisection by Hollis Creek. This presents many exciting design possibilities, however, along with additional additional additional additional additional LEED-ND points concerning wetland restoration.
In the end, I went with Site 2. Knowing myself, I have trouble with more of a blank slate than something constrained. That reason is why I was set on Brownsville Station (Site 3) at first; much of it was already built, it had a creek running through it, and it was a really odd shape. I thought these constraints would be helpful to me, but in the end I needed to challenge myself and go with the blank.
Just as important was the size of the parcel. Seven acres may not seem like a lot, but it turns out you can do a lot with it. I would have felt more restricted than I knew with Brownsville. It’s also a part of town that is ripe for redevelopment. The city has put a focus on the Highway 182 corridor for revitalization, and the development of this site would be an important part of that.