So what are we going to do with all the McMansions out there, in Provo and elsewhere?
One possible solution comes from Provo’s neighbor to the north, Salt Lake City, where a reviled “monster home” was converted to luxury condos:
In 2005, construction started on the monster house at 678 North H Street in the Avenues. Over the next year, and against the wishes of many neighbors, the home grew and grew. In 2006 construction stopped, and the partially-finished home went on the market. For the next four years the exterior shell of the 16,000 sf structure was the blight of H Street.
Eventually, however, Allen Millo did a conversion on the building. This picture shows what the building looked like as fairly bland McMansion during construction:
And this picture from Salt Lake Digs shows the conversion to condos:
That’s a huge improvement.
Of course, this idea isn’t new. Provo is filled with big houses that have been chopped up into smaller units.
In most cases, those units have been carved from historic homes, are rented to students, and are hated by longer-term residents.
But the H Street project offers a more pleasing take on that classic approach, proving that multi-unit conversions can be beautiful and even appealing to upscale buyers. In other words, it shows how this can be awesome rather than awful.
Downtown Provo probably doesn’t need any more home-to-apartment conversions, but more suburban neighborhoods of the city might. The project also offers a way to salvage or even increase the value of structures that might otherwise never fully recover from the housing crash. And it can help add density and create more affordable, or at least more diverse, housing options in places that are currently homogenous. (Though I realize that the H Street project became luxury condos, not affordable housing.)
In any case, the project shows that even places that seem like disasters can become remarkable under the right circumstances.