The basis of the early American city is structured around density. This past weekend was a nice break from Kaisertown home renovations to visit friends who recently moved to Baltimore. As many know, the Baltimore housing structure is densely packed and based on a row house model. Row houses in Baltimore are on average 12 ft wide and share common walls with their neighbors. The model was originally constructed to accommodate a large amount of working class laborers who needed to live close to where they worked. Since that time the city has adapted to a new generation who utilizes the housing as roommates, young professionals and families alike.
Baltimore has its share of suburbs, like any modern American city since the automobile became a mainstay. Despite that, the row house is a very coveted lifestyle because it’s trendy, efficient and close to the action. The row house is not without complications however. The narrowness has forced owners to be more creative with their living spaces. There tends to not be as much storage space, but arguably that streamlines many homes and prevents unnecessary clutter. The structure has also forced a mentality of building up, instead of out. Row houses are usually 2-3 floors and many have a basement and a rooftop patio. The layout also usually allows for a small backyard, garden or patio behind the home. It’s a condensed form of living that offers residents the option to: live near their jobs, have access to multiple alternative transportation modes (uber, water taxi and the Charm City Circulator are some) and have close proximity to entertainment districts and events. Parking can certainly be an issue, but on- street parking combined with the alley structure behind homes gives the city a unique layout and the alternative transportation modes provides non-driving options.
What does this have to do with Kaisertown?
Although Buffalo does not utilize a row house model, there are similarities between the two urban landscapes. The Locust Point neighborhood in Baltimore was not right in the center of the action which usually occurs in Fells Point, Canton or Federal Hill, yet within walking distance is a corner store, a liquor store, several bars (my favorite of which was Captain Larry’s), restaurants, pizza shops, laundry mats, hair salons, places of worship and a myriad of other professional businesses. This aspect of walk ability in combination with the moderately sized homes, the central location and proximately to water has much in common with the landscape in Buffalo. In fact, many of those same types of businesses are located right on Clinton Street.
Pockets of neighborhoods outside of a centrally located area are necessary to provide city dwellers with options of varying size and affordability. They also help to provide more options taking into consideration the location of extended family and workplace. While all the rehabilitation that has occurred in Central and North Buffalo is wonderful, it seems equally as important for some of that investment to spread to areas East and South of the city.
This leaves me with one question- if Locust Point, with its small row houses and slight distance from the Central Business District can be so desirable, then why not Kaisertown?