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City looks to infill development for future

By: Cheri March, The News Messenger
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Tucked between Victorian-style homes at Seventh and H streets, Village Walk Townhomes is not typical of most high-density housing projects in Lincoln. There's the older, established neighborhood setting, for example. Then there's the fact that each resident family will have a private yard, a two-car garage, and even a slight degree of architectural autonomy, luxuries rarely found in most condos or apartments. Village Walk, an apt name for the project, is modeled after similar Bay Area developments, said Paul Cromwell, who since August has been developing the site, along with his father and fellow property owner, Roger Cromwell. "It's kind of based on a San Francisco style," he said. "The idea is that you can walk everywhere. You can walk to the village of Lincoln for retail, coffee shops, whatever you want." This is still high-density housing, but with many of the perks of single-residence ownership. "It beats the heck out of a condo or apartment building," Roger Cromwell said. "But we've still got four families living within 100 linear feet." Along with different addresses, the features of each home vary slightly - for instance, one of the front porch columns might be rock and one brick. Other planned amenities include fireplaces, walk-in closets and granite countertops. Cromwell said he has not yet set a projected sales price for the townhomes. Village Walk is an example of the city's shift towards neo-traditional neighborhood infill, said Lincoln senior planner Marianne Nockles. The aim is "to have people close to downtown, houses closer to the street, and maybe porches so there's more interaction with your neighbor," she said. The Cromwell project fits the bill. "It's close to downtown, it promotes walkability and it creates a pedestrian-friendly environment," Nockles said. "And the city was very pleased with the concept of reusing the old site." An original dilapidated residence and garage were torn down, and the property - which was already zoned for multi-family use - was divided into four linear lots, each facing H Street and running parallel along Seventh Street. Each 1,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse adjoins at least one other home; each garage adjoins another garage. Between home and garage is a 750-square-foot yard. Above each garage is a 560-square-foot unit, added to keep the townhouse and garage buildings the same height, but also to make use of what could have been wasted space. The extra unit could be used as a studio, storage room, workshop or playroom - even a separate rental, so long as the townhouse is owner-occupied, Nockles said. "Another advantage of Village Walk is that it uses an existing alley," she said. "Like the older homes in the area, it takes advantage of that space." Plans also include paving H Street in front of the complex. The city of Lincoln might decide to pave the rest of the street as well, Roger Cromwell said. Paul Cromwell said the townhomes would likely be finished by February 2008. While Village Walk might be the Lincoln infill project nearest completion, it won't stand alone for long. Clover Meadows, an approved but not yet built 30-lot subdivision along East Avenue between East Eighth and East Ninth streets, would feature single-family detached houses with garages situated in back, Nockles said. Another proposed project, Riverwalk Villas, would place 80 townhouses with alleys and set-back garages on 8.4 acres bordered by Joiner Parkway and Auburn Ravine. City Council members, who approved Riverwalk Villas in October, praised the plans for attention to architectural detail and individuality. Each residence will have a patio or deck and a private courtyard. "This is infill," said councilmember Tom Cosgrove after viewing the concept for Riverwalk. "It makes use of land within the city limits without going outside." "It's aesthetically pleasing, it's well laid out - and it's not apartments," councilmember Linda Stackpoole said. Despite years of building experience, Roger Cromwell seemed to have developed a particular affection for his latest project - and for Lincoln's vision. "This one's different," he said of Village Walk. "It's been a lot of fun."