Urban Infill Development Explained Urban Infill Development Explained | Winterspring Capital

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban Infill Development Explained

New trends are changing the face of real estate and have been for at least the past decade.

Urban life has become increasingly desirable for workers that had previously commuted from further away and traffic has become increasingly unbearable in many of the United States’ major urban centers.

The coming of the COVID-19 pandemic caused some to speculate that the trend towards moving into the city would trail off, but the evidence we’re seeing is that COVID was more of a bump in the road for a juggernaut of a demographic shift that shows no signs of slowing down.

We personally built and sold mid-level new construction condominiums in denser multi-family buildings in the Boston market and were beating our profit projections even during the depths of the pandemic. 

This monumental shift that is occurring nationwide has put large amounts of pressure towards increasing density in these desirable urban communities.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Internationally, You can observe cities like Hong Kong growing vertically to account for an extremely dense population. This is a hint at what's coming for the United States as population grows.


The problem with that is, many of these cities are already densely settled and some of them are extremely restrictive due to outdated and overly protective zoning codes. As a result, we are facing a severe housing shortage that has driven prices to new extremes, leaving homeownership infeasible and renting in these desirable areas unaffordable for many people. 

Urban infill development is one of the tools in our toolbox to combat the housing shortage and can allow developers to carve out a profitable project in areas that may seem “tapped” at first glance.

According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the definition of urban infill development is:

“…
the opportunistic repositioning of underutilized sites with higher density mixed-uses targeted to specific niche markets. Urban Infill presents unique development difficulties with increased density and re-zoning approvals…” 

Urban infill development requires some vision and creativity on the part of the developer and the project architect team. Here are some urban infill project characteristics:

1. New construction or additions in already settled areas surrounding by existing building stock:

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban infill is a broad concept and could mean your building is cramped on all sides by existing housing stock, or you could have enough physical space to breath, perhaps a vacant lot within a denser commercial sector of your city, but all urban infill projects will be in an already developed area.

These may be areas that have been densely occupied for generations, became economically depressed in the recent past, and are now experiencing high demand with low supply of virgin soil lots that had never been previously developed.

They may also just be cities that previously did not have the population or demand pressure to necessitate extremely dense urban design, but now that pressure is there and underutilized lots in desirable areas are getting renewed attention.

2. Need for Design Harmony with existing building stock:

Your architect and design team will need to pay close attention to the existing stock in the area to properly design something that will fit in. Even if a building is beautiful, if it is out of place, it will inevitably attract a lot of negative attention, especially from the long time residents that have built a level of sentimental attachment to the current look of their neighborhood. In areas with design review and neighborhood meeting approval processes for entitlement, you’ll be doubly motivated to make a building that harmonizes with the existing design elements for the neighborhood. Below are pictures of two different urban infill projects we completed recently.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained

As you can see from this particular project, we found an under-utilized parcel in a neighborhood comprised of late 1800’s and early 1900’s triple decker three family buildings. In order to obtain approvals we needed to make our 7 unit building blend right in seamlessly with the neighborhood. We used historical features and hid garage parking in the back half of the first floor to achieve this.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained

This project, on the other hand, was right on the waterfront and bordered a shipyard with lots of nautical features. Also 7 units in an area of mostly two family buildings, we were able to get creative with this novel design. Blending in doesn’t have to always mean traditional style architecture. A talented architect will help you find where to push the envelope while still constructively adding to the streetscape.

3. Walkability:

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban infill projects tend to have easy walking access to public transportation, retail and restaurants, and other amenities. The purpose of urban infill projects in the first place is to take these desirable, walkable areas with a lack of supply and find ways to add additional housing and commercial units to them. All of our urban infill projects must be no more than ten minutes walking distance to public transportation and have easy access to commercial centers with employers and places for recreation and shopping.

4. Preference for mixed-uses:

Urban Infill Development Explained

As we revisit these already settled, but increasingly desirable urban centers and try to imagine more efficient ways to develop within them, mixed-use buildings are one of the first strategies that spring to mind. Zoning codes are being revised or rewritten across the country to put a greater emphasis on mixed-use buildings, especially in the densest core components of a city.

These buildings are ideal because you can include large amounts of residential units on the upper floors while still providing needed community services like coffee shops on the first floor. Co-living and working spaces are some of the newest additions to this field, and while co-working was perhaps a little overvalued out of the gate, it has set us down a new pathway with some exciting options in the future, such a dorm-style housing for younger professionals that includes co-living, co-working, and amenity rich common area spaces.

5. Higher density levels than existing building stock:

Last but most importantly, urban infill should ideally be increasing the density in a sensible way. The purpose of urban infill is to go back and “fill in” those areas that were either underdeveloped or overlooked for a more efficient use. As we mentioned at the article’s beginning, we are undergoing a severe housing shortage with extreme levels of demand for housing in urban areas. The only way to truly combat this problem is by building with increased density.



New trends are changing the face of real estate and have been for at least the past decade.

Urban life has become increasingly desirable for workers that had previously commuted from further away and traffic has become increasingly unbearable in many of the United States’ major urban centers.

The coming of the COVID-19 pandemic caused some to speculate that the trend towards moving into the city would trail off, but the evidence we’re seeing is that COVID was more of a bump in the road for a juggernaut of a demographic shift that shows no signs of slowing down.

We personally built and sold mid-level new construction condominiums in denser multi-family buildings in the Boston market and were beating our profit projections even during the depths of the pandemic. 

This monumental shift that is occurring nationwide has put large amounts of pressure towards increasing density in these desirable urban communities.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Internationally, You can observe cities like Hong Kong growing vertically to account for an extremely dense population. This is a hint at what's coming for the United States as population grows.


The problem with that is, many of these cities are already densely settled and some of them are extremely restrictive due to outdated and overly protective zoning codes. As a result, we are facing a severe housing shortage that has driven prices to new extremes, leaving homeownership infeasible and renting in these desirable areas unaffordable for many people. 

Urban infill development is one of the tools in our toolbox to combat the housing shortage and can allow developers to carve out a profitable project in areas that may seem “tapped” at first glance.

According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the definition of urban infill development is:

“…
the opportunistic repositioning of underutilized sites with higher density mixed-uses targeted to specific niche markets. Urban Infill presents unique development difficulties with increased density and re-zoning approvals…” 

Urban infill development requires some vision and creativity on the part of the developer and the project architect team. Here are some urban infill project characteristics:

1. New construction or additions in already settled areas surrounding by existing building stock:

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban infill is a broad concept and could mean your building is cramped on all sides by existing housing stock, or you could have enough physical space to breath, perhaps a vacant lot within a denser commercial sector of your city, but all urban infill projects will be in an already developed area.

These may be areas that have been densely occupied for generations, became economically depressed in the recent past, and are now experiencing high demand with low supply of virgin soil lots that had never been previously developed.

They may also just be cities that previously did not have the population or demand pressure to necessitate extremely dense urban design, but now that pressure is there and underutilized lots in desirable areas are getting renewed attention.

2. Need for Design Harmony with existing building stock:

Your architect and design team will need to pay close attention to the existing stock in the area to properly design something that will fit in. Even if a building is beautiful, if it is out of place, it will inevitably attract a lot of negative attention, especially from the long time residents that have built a level of sentimental attachment to the current look of their neighborhood. In areas with design review and neighborhood meeting approval processes for entitlement, you’ll be doubly motivated to make a building that harmonizes with the existing design elements for the neighborhood. Below are pictures of two different urban infill projects we completed recently.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained

As you can see from this particular project, we found an under-utilized parcel in a neighborhood comprised of late 1800’s and early 1900’s triple decker three family buildings. In order to obtain approvals we needed to make our 7 unit building blend right in seamlessly with the neighborhood. We used historical features and hid garage parking in the back half of the first floor to achieve this.

Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained

This project, on the other hand, was right on the waterfront and bordered a shipyard with lots of nautical features. Also 7 units in an area of mostly two family buildings, we were able to get creative with this novel design. Blending in doesn’t have to always mean traditional style architecture. A talented architect will help you find where to push the envelope while still constructively adding to the streetscape.

3. Walkability:

Urban Infill Development Explained

Urban infill projects tend to have easy walking access to public transportation, retail and restaurants, and other amenities. The purpose of urban infill projects in the first place is to take these desirable, walkable areas with a lack of supply and find ways to add additional housing and commercial units to them. All of our urban infill projects must be no more than ten minutes walking distance to public transportation and have easy access to commercial centers with employers and places for recreation and shopping.

4. Preference for mixed-uses:

Urban Infill Development Explained

As we revisit these already settled, but increasingly desirable urban centers and try to imagine more efficient ways to develop within them, mixed-use buildings are one of the first strategies that spring to mind. Zoning codes are being revised or rewritten across the country to put a greater emphasis on mixed-use buildings, especially in the densest core components of a city.

These buildings are ideal because you can include large amounts of residential units on the upper floors while still providing needed community services like coffee shops on the first floor. Co-living and working spaces are some of the newest additions to this field, and while co-working was perhaps a little overvalued out of the gate, it has set us down a new pathway with some exciting options in the future, such a dorm-style housing for younger professionals that includes co-living, co-working, and amenity rich common area spaces.

5. Higher density levels than existing building stock:

Last but most importantly, urban infill should ideally be increasing the density in a sensible way. The purpose of urban infill is to go back and “fill in” those areas that were either underdeveloped or overlooked for a more efficient use. As we mentioned at the article’s beginning, we are undergoing a severe housing shortage with extreme levels of demand for housing in urban areas. The only way to truly combat this problem is by building with increased density.



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Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained
Urban Infill Development Explained