Great Streets: 31st St. (Trees)

Posted by Dave Fratello on Thursday, March 6th, 2008 at 2:36am.

If you're going to live in the Tree Section, you'll probably want to see some trees. How about a canopy? Then you should be looking at 31st St., one of MB's great streets.

In the stretch of 31st between Laurel and Blanche, and particularly between Agnes and Blanche, the feel of the street is that of somewhere else. Tall trees give 31st an East Coast or even college-town feel. Afternoon sun filters through the leaves to create a bright but calm and shady, sleepy atmosphere. On the few days a year that we have in MB that are truly warm, 31st is a respite.

There's something else that raises 31st above the rest: Street-to-alley lots. Much of MB would be far better, comfier and more human-friendly if it had been laid out like 31st. We're so accustomed to narrow lots that force house faces to be dominated by garages, we almost forget that there's another way to do it. Put the garage in the back, tucked away, and you can have a home that says "people live here," not "cars live here."

Stylistically, the blend of homes on 31st works. There's plenty of nice, new construction in a range of styles, from craftsman to contemporary. Many of the older homes on these blocks are well-kept. Two new homes sold for $3m+ in the 700 block in 2007, including one of MBC's favorites, 712 31st (the sole home pictured here), which commanded $3.325m for 5br/4ba, 3800 sq. ft.

You can stroll 31st fairly comfortably, even though it has no sidewalks, and, as a result, it's one of the more popular walking streets in the area. Residents and neighbors are out frequently. It's one of the better routes west toward Sand Dune park and the beach, which is surprisingly close once you climb the stairs over the dune.

Nothing's perfect, and 31st suffers from the same liability some of the other east-west streets in the area do – they were laid out in a time of cars, but without sufficient thought about where we would all be parking our multiple cars. Part of each home's frontage on 31st must be dedicated to parking. That can make the street seem cluttered. And you can dress up the spot(s) you create all you want, but what will you do when someone parks in "your" spot?

Speaking of cars and garages and such, there's a clear divide between the north and south sides of the street. There's just enough slope here so that most homes on the north side need to put garages at the same level as the home, or above. On the south side, the dreamy side, garages are down on 30th St., and new homes can build livable space over the garages. That was one of the huge advantages of 712 31st, which completely hid the garage while creating a great outdoor space above it, right off the kitchen.

For its trees, layout, walkability and other charms, 31st St. is one of MB's great streets.
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