We have the privilege, and are in the process designing a custom house on a property that fronts the north branch of the Chicago river in the only area where a homeowner is allowed to maintain a private dock. Sounds good, right? Being right on the river unfortunately comes with baggage, mainly soil that is has the compressive strength of quicksand. Most people don't know that some areas in Chicago, including the loop, are a filled swamp, and when you go to build a building, you sometimes have to extend the supporting piers down to China. In this case it is not quite China; we don't actually get to hard packed soil for 35'. That's a lot deeper that 42 inches, which is the minimum to get below the frost line. Bummer. Especially for our client, who has to pay for it.
The property is much larger than the neighboring properties, so although we are complying with the zoning requirements, the house is going to be something like 3 times the size of the the neighboring properties on the block. That is not to mention that the majority of the other houses on the block are Chicago Bungalows which people are rightfully protective of.
Being good neighbors, we feel that it is necessary, as much as possible to reduce the apparent scale of the house from the street. This is achieved by reducing the bulk of the building in the front, and pushing the third floor towards the rear of the site, where it is largely hidden from view at the street.
Fortunately, he is committed to the project and the beautiful wooded piece of land on which it will sit. It's a pretty rare situation to have a riverfront property in Chicago, so the client understandably wants to take advantage of the river view. We love that guy and his commitment!
Because the soil conditions are so poor, what would normally be basement functions are placed on the third floor, which is a nice place for a recreation room; with a sweeping view of the river and a large roof deck with an outdoor fireplace.
This project has just been submitted for zoning review, so its fate thus far is indeterminate. We are positive and like our chances of it getting built. Time will tell. We will keep you posted.