City living and New construction… and Unreal expectations

This is the start of a post that I’ve been contemplating how to write for a while, responding in part to my blogging cohort’s recent post about the Madrigal Loft’s facade, and in part to recent discussions on the MPD-1D mailing list about about noise and traffic and the like. More generally, this is a post about expectations. I’m going to keep it a bit short, because otherwise it will become a rant—and I don’t want that—as well as because this should be part of a more substantial conversation.

Starting with the pictures posted the other day of bare tyvek and concrete on the Madrigal Lofts facade. Two preliminary comments: I’ve been wanting to discuss this with the developers to have a more concrete answer, but haven’t had time, so this is not necessarily an informed comment. And I’m making it now in large part because of Paul’s comment, because I think it’s important that he and others have a counterpoint.

Bottom line on the facade issue is that I think it’s no big deal. If anything, my hunch is that it suggests construction is nearing actual completion. Over the past few weeks pieces of facade have been coming down and being replaced. Just this afternoon I saw two more tyvek panels that I’m almost certain weren’t exposed this morning. This suggest to me that they’re going over and replacing any facade pieces that were damaged during the initial installation. It would be nice if there weren’t such damage—but that would be an unresonable expectation. And I do know that many of the facade pieces need to be custom manufactured or shipped in before they can be installed. It makes far more sense to leave the damaged pieces up until the end of construction and to replace them at the end, than to delay construction while waiting for new pieces.

More generally speaking, I have more sympathy for the engineers, builders, and lawyers than for the architects. Not that I have anything against architects, I promise! But I’ve almost never encountered a construction project that was completed “on time”—and the rare cases where they were finished “on time” involved substantial incentives. You can be looking at paying premiums on the order of half the construction cost or more to get a guaranteed completion date. There are good reasons for this, which I won’t get into here, but the point is that it’s unrealistic to expect “on time” completion.

And similarly, with new construction it’s unrealistic to expect construction to be complete when people start moving in… for the simple reason that many people, myself included, are perfectly happy to move in before construction is complete. Buying into new construction is more akin to a commercial transaction than a residential transaction: I guarantee than a company moving into a new building wouldn’t wait for the building to be complete before they started moving into new space.

And people, we live in a city. Cities have traffic and noise. Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of the bohemian bustling noisy art district vibe, or the windows & doors open everyone knows your business community. But I’ve no problem with the noise and traffic inherent in a city.

There was some discussion about how difficult it is to cross Mass at 5th during rush hour the other day on the MPD-1D mailing list. Huh? I cross that intersection during AM and PM rush hours most every day, and I’ve got to say, it’s one of the tamest intersections that I’ve ever had to regularly cross. So, if anyone from the MPD reads this: please don’t waste any money on this intersection. Spend that money and those resources elsewhere. Dear pedestrians: we do not own the city streets, we share it with cars and busses and bikes. The city has traffic problems, yes. This doesn’t mean that pedestrians should be coddled. It means that the broader traffic problems should be fixed. (And, if anyone with the power to unilaterally implement policies that I agree with reads this: please impose a substantial toll on all cars entering the city during rush hour.)

And again to discussion about noise complaints coming from residents of 555 Mass about a band practicing in the studio on the 400 block of Eye… well by this point you know what I’m going to say. It’s a city, and those are your neighbors. Don’t complain, especially without having first tried to remedy the problem privately. If you’re not willing to invest enough energy to ask the band to turn down the bass, it’s probably not enough of a problem to get the police involved, let alone to suggest an ordinance needs to be passed.

Feel free to disagree with me… I’m certain that many if not most people will. But I’ve been hearing people complain along these lines since moving to the area, and especially over the past few weeks. Given these rumblings, I think it’s important to put in a counterpoint. Otherwise, some people might never hear the counterpoint; others in the community might not realize that these complaints are not unanimous; and people outside of the community might only hear the complaints and think “what a crummy place to live!” And really that would just be a shame.


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  1. 1

    mediocre bad guy says

    I don’t know if I agree with you about on the construction… A bit of insider neighborhood construction history: 400 mass is a beautiful building but was constructed hastily, as a result they have spent months and months dealing with architectural forensics trying to figure out the sources of facade leaks etc etc.

    In regards to the noise, if the people who were talking about noise over at 555 don’t want any they should move to the suburbs or woodley park (Or they should buy a unit facing the courtyard).

    We do have to respect each others space living in a denser neighborhood but people not only have the right to peace and quiet at the most reasonable times of night but they also have the right to let loose and crank up the sound every once in a while. Would I rather have a dead neighborhood than one filled with the hustle and bustle of cafes, bars, and perfomers? Definitely not.

    What do we think makes cities like london, paris and new york so interesting?

  2. 2

    555 Resident says

    Are you talking about this issue?

    I’m not sure where you got the information, but this was never a major issue for 555 Mass residents… Even though the band did practice (quite loudly) after 9pm on a few occasions last summer… So please do not label my neighbors and I as intolerant.

    I also recommend you check this post:

  3. 3

    mediocre bad guy says

    Hi 555,
    Just to clarify I’m not talking about any of the issues you linked to but rather this one:–Let-the-Real-Fun-Begin

    Don’t feel like I just labeled your whole entire building as intolerant because that was clearly not the case but rather that the one person who posted this complaint was, to me, making a huge deal out of some expected city noise. Now if this was to happen at 4am maybe I would join them in being annoyed. However living in a city much more dense than DC as I am living now I can say that the sort of neighborly duty one has does not mean ceasing all noise at all hours of the day.

    The one thing I will not tolerate on this blog are people who get too easily offended and or defensive about posts. This is a blog for everyone to express their opinions and concerns and for a dialogue to ensue.