Unlike the highly skilled linguist whose neologism for abrupt employment termination-de-fenestration-drew on both vivid imagery and Romance language roots, my feeble imitation-deporching-carries neither the grace nor the history of the word invented to describe Harvard's ejection of its then President Lawrence Summer. Summer was tossed (actually, pressured to jump) for the politically incorrect crime of reciting facts involving undergraduate gender preferences in academic departmental enrollment.
My crude invention of deporching (in the gerundive form of the verb) strives, instead, to call up the popular wisdom regarding small dogs which are well advised to stay on the porch so as to avoid dis-advantageous in-the-street involvement with larger members of their own species.
The underlying occasion for this verbal invention is the news from Rutland of the addition of Forest Park to the ever-lengthening list of federally subsidized housing projects which enjoyed only a brief life of tenant occupancy between construction and demolition.
As federal housing projects go, the 75-unit Forest Park is (soon-to-be-was, it's half gone as I write) indeed a little dog. Now it's joining the company of some rather large dogs like Cabrini Green in Chicago and Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, on the long street-of-failed-and-vanished-public-housing dreams.
The former, sited in a condemned and bulldozed lower-middle-class Lake-Michigan-frontage neighborhood of privately-owned housing once known as Little Sicily, contained some 5,000 units housing some 15,000 people.
As the Wikipedia description notes: "It is surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods, notably the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, just blocks away". The Wikipedia description doesn't note that these are free market, unsubsidized tower-apartment areas, with mid- and high-rise buildings of the basic design types now deemed architecturally inadequate for non-free-market subsidy-recipients, but it does note that the overall neighborhood Median Income is just over $67,000. The C-G project was completed in 1958, demolished in the 1995-2002 time-block, replaced with lower-density, low-rise garden apartments.
The latter, with similar inner-city location but without water frontage, was sited in a lower-north-side former slum neighborhood; on 57 acres, it contained 33 11-story buildings with a total apartment capacity of 2,870 units. It was designed by iconic architect Minoru Yamasaki, who would later win the commission for the two Trade Center buildings in New York City's lower Manhattan. P-I was completed in 1955 and demolished in the 1972-1976 time-block. Its cost-per-square-foot was 60 percent above the average for such Federal construction at the time. The two designs failed for different reasons: outside forces for WTC, inside forces for P-I. When I was a draftsman-designer on public housing, our orders at first (later reversed for "sensitivity" reasons) were to tenant-proof the buildings, to armor the structures against the users. So we could, but we couldn't, architecturally, defend the users from each other. The P-I site now hosts a number of public schools; adjacent blocks have been cleared and re-built with low-rise public housing.
Little Forest Park was built in the early '70s, a Vermont Housing Finance Agency press release says, describing its demolition and rebuild as a so-called restoration. A curious choice of noun: not since the "restoration" of the old Pavilion Hotel next to the state house in Montpelier, which turned out (surprise) to be a complete teardown and (quite accurate exterior appearance) rebuild some 40 years ago, has the word "restoration" been so officially misused.
Now that little-dog Forest Park is on the ethereal street running with such vanished big dogs as C-G and P-I (and many others, large and small) a bemused observer might well ask why private housing can survive and serve for generations and even centuries, while public housing can't. The official answer he'll get is "design error".
That's the answer I received at a public housing design conference in the '80s, when I asked why the ordinary high-rise apartment designs (think Lake Shore Drive in Chicago for private-sector middle- and upper-income; or Stuyvesant Town and Parkchester in NYC for private-sector low-income) were workable for unsubsidized tenants but apparently not workable for subsidized ones.
The speaker categorized my query as "snarky", a then-new word that's in the dictionary now as "argumentative" but it wasn't even officially recognized, then. I received no further answer. The government-approved new design solution, I then learned, was campus-style low-rise, garden apartment or townhouse configuration. Just like Forest Park, except that it too is now undergoing the new definition of "restoration" after a less-than-40-year lifespan. A real answer, I'd opine, is that my profession still doesn't know how to design for low-income occupancy. The design innovations built into C-G and P-I (insufficient column-inches for description here) didn't work; the high-rise apartments-on-a-treed-campus design didn't work, and the new two-floor garden apartment design doesn't work (see the many slum-like or vacated-not-yet-"restored" Baltimore examples as evidence) either, so the design solution remains elusive to us. A med school anecdote illustrates.
Suited, pointy-shoed cardiologist, little black bag in hand, stands with overalled booted mechanic, rocker-arm-gauge in hand, looking down into M.D. license-plated Mercedes with hood up. Cardiologist: "Can you cure it?" Mechanic: "You have to recognize that there's a lot we don't yet fully understand about valve-lifters."
Finally, here's the official your-tax-dollars-at-work outline for the new "restored" Forest Park.
It will have 75 garden apartment mostly two-story units once again but this time with "mixed-use" occupancy, some tenants paying full freight and others not.
The budget for the first 33 units is $8 million. With, I'd guess, a once-typical average 850 square foot size for two-bedroom units (less for one-bedroom, more for three) the total SF number will be 28,050.
In dollars, it works out to $285/SF. That's $242,250 per average dwelling unit, about ten percent over Vermont's median single-family house price. Or maybe 850 SF is now deemed inadequate (as high-rise apartments were) for the contemporary public sector subsidized two-bedroom apartment, so that it will be larger and although the per-unit cost will be higher, the per-SF cost will be lower?
Retired Vermont architect Martin Harris observes Green Mountain State politics from a safe distance-Tennessee.