Custom Home in the West End Historic district

Designing a custom home is always a challenge. Add in the fact that the lot is in a Historic District and it becomes an exercise in patience.

This home, located on Atwood Street in the West End Historic District of Atlanta took about 6 months from the time we started the design until a permit was obtained.

The investors provided us with some preliminary sketches, a survey of the lot and what their vision for the home was. We spent some time drafting a floor plan based on the requirements of the property and made sure what we were doing conformed to the setbacks, impervious limits and floor/area ratio outlined in the zoning ordinances for that property.

We also visited the neighborhood and documented the homes around this site that the Urban Design Commission (UDC, Historic Commission), considered comparable properties. In order for the Commission to adequately review and ensure the house conformed to the neighborhood, we provided and documented on the drawings for each comparable property, everything from how far the porch and main house was set from the street to the height of the roof and porch from the ground and the percentage of windows on each of the 4 sides. We then produced a 3D model of what we felt best fit in with the surrounding area.

The first step in gaining approval for the design is meeting with the Neighborhood Historic Design Commission. This group is made up of local residents living in that particular District. Generally, at these meetings, the people involved are very helpful and we always try to include the majority of their requests after they do their review. This small group of residents has quite a bit of power and our goal is to have them recommend to the elected officials that what we have done be approved.

We then made minor revisions and made a formal application with the UDC. The staff at the UDC reviews our plans for conformance with the Historic District Regulations. On this specific job, we got an interesting surprise in the comments we received back the form the staff. We were told that the District Regulations actually overrode the zoning regulations and that our setbacks could possibly be reduced allowing the home to be wider. We asked that our application be put on hold while the surveyor measured conforming properties. When the data came back we had an additional 8 feet of side yard to work with and canceled our application with the UDC.

For the redesign, we needed to reduce the slope of the roof to a minimum of a 6:12 pitch and were only able to widen the house 6′ so we could stay under the maximum roof height allowed. This new design, however, did provide an extra bedroom and made the house much more viable for resale.

It was then resubmitted and eventually approved unanimously by the entire Commission.

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