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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, June 19, 2009

Madison Street offers potential homeowners modern alternative




Thanks to Christian Rushing, Chattanooga Realtors can finally tell clients the city has something for everyone. While the market has always offered a robust selection of homes, developers have almost exclusively employed traditional architecture and established building techniques. When Rushing and his wife wanted to move into something more modern, they discovered they were going to have to forge that path on their own. The result was Madison Street, a small development of polished, Earth-friendly homes located in Chattanooga’s beautifully restored Southside.
“My wife and I wanted to live in a house that was new and modern, but there weren’t any,” says Rushing. “So we started looking for some land on which we could build a home using green principles and the modern design aesthetic we were wanting. As I began designing our home, I realized there might be other people who wanted the same thing.”
While Rushing loves conventional architecture, he doesn’t care for the upkeep that goes into a traditional home. Moreover, he prefers to live in a house that leaves a smaller footprint on the environment. “Building science has progressed to the point that, for a similar cost, you can design a better product both from an efficiency and sustainability standpoint,” he says.
Rushing put his undergraduate degree in architecture to work as he drew up the plans for Madison Street. A city planner by trade, Rushing also made sure the homes would complement their surroundings.
“We put a lot of thought into how we could do something that said this home was built in this time period while still maintaining some of the design characteristics of the existing architecture in this area,” he says. “We have a meat packing plant down the street and there are warehouses everywhere, so using metal roofs and aluminum siding makes an allusion to the industrial heritage of the neighborhood.”
Rushing designed the Madison Street homes to be authentic in every way. Inside, there are no faux finishes on the walls or embossed wood grain. Built in shelves and changes in heights and materials define the various spaces downstairs, while the bathrooms and bedrooms upstairs are bathed in natural light and feature cathedral ceilings.
In addition, as Rushing states on his Web site (www.madisonmoderns.com), the principles of efficiency and sustainability were integral to the composition of the homes.
“We used advanced framing techniques on the walls, which creates stronger and better insulated walls. It’s a more efficient envelope,” he says. “Also, all of the materials we used were locally harvested or manufactured, so there’s less embedded carbon in those things.
“If you install a granite countertop in a traditional house, it’s going to come from Columbia or Italy, so you have to pay for the mining that takes place to get it and then you have to pay to ship it.”
Rushing wanted to stimulate the local economy as much as possible, so he used as many local vendors as he could. A local firm designed his kitchen cabinets, for example, while Chattanooga artists made the concrete countertops. “Keeping the work as close to the site as possible and developing those relationships was important to us.”
So was using as much recycled content as possible. All of the tiles in the Madison Street homes are made of recycled glass, the lights are either compact fluorescents or standard fluorescents and the flooring materials, including bamboo and cork, are rapidly renewable. In addition, Rushing installed highly efficient HVAC systems and appliances. “It’s been fantastic. The energy bills have been dirt cheap,” he says.
High efficiency doesn’t mean compromises when it comes to livability. By the numbers, each home is comprised of 1,600 square feet and comes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And while there’s one driveway for every two houses, each homeowner has exclusive parking behind his house.
In terms of amenities, Rushing and his wife are five minutes away from the BI-LO grocery store at the foot of Lookout Mountain and a 10-minute drive from Greenlife on Chattanooga’s North Shore. But they stay in the Southside for more of the things they do on a day-to-day basis. “We go to Neidlov’s to buy bread and sandwiches, and all of the restaurants around here are fantastic, so we’ve really bitten off our own piece of the city,” says Rushing.
He is also looking forward to enjoying the park the local city and county governments are building across the street, although at the moment, rocks, dirt and construction crews fill his view out the front window. In time, that will change to concrete walkways and driving paths, a community garden, a volleyball court and a pavilion Rushing designed as part of a contest. “It’s also a contemporary structure, but it’ll suit the needs of how the neighborhood is going to use it,” he says.
Priority one for Rush, though, is getting some neighbors. While he and his wife moved into their house in late 2008, five units are still for sale.
“We picked the worst time to start a housing project,” he says, laughing as he recalls the launch of construction in June 2008. “If we’d started six months earlier, we probably would’ve sold every home before we’d even finished construction. And if we’d started six months later, had we been able to put together the financing, the cost of construction would’ve been less.”
Things are looking up, though, as a couple houses at neighboring developments have sold and a few people have expressed an interest in what Rushing has to offer.
To be sure, there’s nothing else like Madison Street on the Chattanooga market. And as an alternative to the city’s traditional neighborhoods, it’s a quality addition that makes no compromises in terms of design, sustainability and lifestyle.
“I wouldn’t propose that this style of architecture is for everybody, but from a design standpoint, I believe you venture toward mediocrity when you try to design something everybody likes,” says Rushing. “It might work better as a business model, but it’s less inspiring architecture.”


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