LaRue is a French topographic name for someone who lived beside a road, track, or pathway, Old French rue (Latin ruga ‘crease’, ‘fold’), with the definite article la. It literally means “the street” in French.
The southside of Wilmington, North Carolina is in the middle of a Renaissance with the conversion of old grocery stores into bars, old hardware stores into steakhouses and breweries, old shirt factories into slick new apartments, abandoned subsidized housing projects into hipster-dog-parent dwellings, and many other derelict structures into amazing new uses.
This new section of town, that never before had a name, is now considered the “South Front” District. It technically is bordered to the north along Dawson Street, but the real action does not begin until you reach the very active railroad tracks serving the State Ports of Wilmington. It is along these tracks where “LaRue”, a small development of eight townhomes was the first development of its kind in the district to be built.
The three buildings, comprised of two three-unit buildings, and one two-unit building take advantage of a neglected site bordered on one of the busiest streets in town, Third Street to the west, the Seaboard Coastline Railroad to the north, and Martin Street to the south.
The three buildings work simply to complete the corner of the city with a density recommended by the city planners in hopes to create an urban context similar to the historic downtown two miles north. The buildings are massed in such a way to compliment adjacent narrow lot homes while using materials that mediate between the industrial aesthetic of the port and the clapboard sided shotgun houses on the neighboring streets.
The entire site was elevated two feet above the adjacent sidewalks to create a plinth suggesting privacy as well as promote the “stoopy” exterior of the streetside of the homes in an effort to encourage the “hanging-out” of residents on the broad steps and planters along sidewalks. The planters at each stoop are offered to each resident as an opportunity to stake a claim on the street, to make it their own with plants and ornaments of their own choosing.
Each 1,020 s.f. dwelling unit has a covered porch facing a grassy garden preserved along the interior of the site for privacy and respite from the sounds of the busy street. Parking is located between the dwellings and adjacent small office building in an effort to minimize the visual appearance of vehicles in the development.