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Up with Pettaway 

UA students design home for downtown CDC.

click to enlarge NEW LOOK: A contemporary look for an older neighborhood.
  • NEW LOOK: A contemporary look for an older neighborhood.

The Pettaway neighborhood south of MacArthur Park will, within a matter of months, get a taste of Frank Lloyd Wright. A couple will get an affordable, energy-saving new house. University of Arkansas architecture students will see a year-long project come to fruition. And the Downtown Little Rock Community Development Commission, the prime mover in the downtown rehabilitation project, hopes to repeat the process next year, too.

Quincy and Stephanie Scott's home at 1519 Commerce St., being sold to them by the DLRCDC, is being fabricated in modular form in a Fayetteville warehouse. Fourth and fifth year Architecture School students, working with the homeowners, came up with a 1,200-square-foot wood-and-glass contemporary similar in overall shape to a cereal box on its side. Spaced slats on the side and top of a deep front porch let in light but keep out rain; half the porch is screened by more tightly placed slats for privacy and accessible only from inside the house. Front and back walls are glass, revealing the living area (and making it impossible to approach the house unobserved). Building materials include local Eastern cedar, soy-based insulation from a Fayetteville company, and double-paned glass from Ace Glass in Little Rock. All that glass means the Scotts won't have to use as much electricity to light the house. Their appliances will be high-efficiency, their water heater an on-demand type. A white roof will reflect the sun in summer.

The house should be finished out in May. The Scotts will pay $109,500.

Scott Grummer, DLRCDC director, said the house is one of four the CDC is currently building in the neighborhood. One is going up across the street from the Scott lot on Commerce and the CDC will break ground on a house next door to the Scott lot. A third, at 510 E. 18th St., a couple of blocks away, is being finished out now.

That's a change of pace for the CDC, which under previous directors had built only six houses over seven years. Grummer said the CDC is now aligned with the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, which does credit counseling, home ownership education and budgeting with the CDC's clients. NACA also underwrites the mortgages, made by the Bank of America. The CDC uses federal grants made available by the city to buy down the interest on the mortgages at the front end, so that interest rates over the 30-year term of the mortgage are as low as 1 percent. Centennial Bank is providing the construction loan on the UA house.

The DLRCDC does not limit its work to low-income buyers. “We're no different than any other developer out there,” Grummer said. “We can build any type of house we want to.”

The lot at 1519 Commerce St. illustrates the difficulties in getting clear title to vacant lots or abandoned homes and get released from liens. The state Land Commissioner donated the lot to the DLRCDC, which then, with the help of state and federal relief and state agencies, was able to lift $500,000 in liens attached to the land.

Michael Hughes, the associate architecture professor at the UA who led the students, said the goal was to teach students to design a sustainable, urban house that was small enough to save on utilities but designed to feel “gracious.” Working with the Scotts, who wanted a contemporary home, students collaborated to come up with the home's key feature, a combined living, dining and kitchen area that is 20 feet wide and 38 feet long. The home will also have a courtyard in back and be landscaped with native and drought-tolerant plants in a way that ties into the neighborhood “so it doesn't feel like it was dropped there,” Hughes said.

The modular scheme used to build the Scotts' home plan can be modified — stacked for a narrow lot, added on to for a larger home. “Our goal in the partnership [with the DLRCDC] is to do one of these a year,” Hughes said.

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