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Miniature house part of effort to fill Garfield's 300 vacant lots

Tony Raap
| Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
People leave cityLAB's Tiny House in Garfield on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. The house was open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m., with hundreds showing up to get a peek inside the home.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
People leave cityLAB's Tiny House in Garfield on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. The house was open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m., with hundreds showing up to get a peek inside the home.
Susan Ryan, far left, of Highland Park, tours the kitchen of cityLAB's Tiny House in Garfield on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016.  Ryan said she originally heard of the tiny house concept from her sister in California and came to check out the project for herself.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Susan Ryan, far left, of Highland Park, tours the kitchen of cityLAB's Tiny House in Garfield on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Ryan said she originally heard of the tiny house concept from her sister in California and came to check out the project for herself.

The curious began to trickle in a half-hour before the open house was scheduled to start.

A short while later, a line stretching 15 deep had formed in front of 223 N. Atlantic Ave.

The public got its first peek Sunday inside the tiny house in Garfield, a much-discussed, 350-square-foot dwelling built on a vacant lot.

“It's a cute little thing,” said Charles Jefferson, a retiree who attended the open house with his wife, Esther. “People with a few kids, it's not for them. But if I was a single guy, I'd jump on it.”

A small but growing number of Americans are buying or building super-small homes to save money or simplify their lives.

Living with less is the philosophy behind the tiny house movement — the rising popularity of miniature homes, usually less than 500 square feet, some as small as 80 square feet.

It's small-scale living, and Pittsburgh could see more of it.

The home in Garfield was the brainchild of Eve Picker, founder and CEO of cityLAB, a nonprofit economic development company. She hopes to build more tiny homes to fill some of Garfield's 300 vacant lots.

“If there's a market for it, it'll catch on,” said Jefferson, who lives about a block from the tiny home.

Miniature homes would be better than “empty lots filled with cans and bottles and everything else,” he added.

Less space doesn't necessarily mean less expensive. Garfield's tiny home has an asking price of $109,500.

Tom and Doris Schoffstall, who were among the first in line at the open house, thought that was too “costly.”

The couple said they were not willing to trade in their four-bedroom, two-bath home in Lawrenceville for a tiny house.

“We just came out of curiosity, not because we're interested in buying,” Doris Schoffstall said.

Still, they were impressed with what they saw.

“It's a lot bigger on the inside than we anticipated,” Tom Schoffstall said. “From the outside, it looks like you're going to be claustrophobic.”

The home has a kitchen, bathroom and combination bedroom-living space. A basement is accessible through a trap door and ladder.

Troy Salvatore, a 21-year-old civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh, attended the open house with several friends who belong to the group Engineers for a Sustainable World.

“From a design perspective, I find it very interesting,” Salvatore said.

He added that the home makes sure no cubic inch goes to waste.

“Because it is so focused on energy efficiency, per square footage it is very expensive,” Salvatore said. “I would worry about the cost in terms of how it fits into this community, but I think this a very good pilot run for what you could do with lots here and around Pittsburgh.”

The Associated Press contributed. Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7827 or traap@tribweb.com.

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