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Thread: What happens in a high rise world

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    What happens in a high rise world

    I am writing to hear your opinions on the following matter: In the United States, I get the impression that there is a trend toward something called "urban living." But I feel that developers are increasingly using this phrase as a marketing tool. In reality, this idea of urban living is living in a neighborhood of buildlings of 40 stories that keeps oneself detached from street life. There is street life in a village too, so I guess it isn't the greatest marker of urbanity. I suppose urbaness has more to do with things like transportation options, cultural offerings, shopping, things to do, etc...
    But the thing that bothers me is a place where everyone lives in a high rise. I'm not talking about a ten story buildling, I'm talking about neighborhoods where all the buildlings are over 25 stories. I don't have anything inherently against high rise but what kind of impact is this going to have on people, namely on the way they live, interact, and associate with where they're from? I guess there are places like this in New York? I don't know, New York very well. I would like to hear some people's opinions.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I think your frame of reference is coulded by by living in Chicago. Most cities in the United States are not developed the way you describe. I would think that when you increase density you would increase street life as well. I for one would welcome being detached from street life if I lived under such conditions. I work on the third floor of a building at one of the busiest corners in my City. I can hear lots of streetlife, it can be annoying.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian LorenzoRoyal's avatar
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    It depends on the connection to the street. Sure you can live the public life on the street, but the higher up you are, the better privacy--and quiet--you have. Overall, I don't mind high rises, but to live in them you have to be in a floor above the fourth. I can picture developers trying to sell second or third floor places (the ones I can afford) which should be left to retail/office stuff. Yes, you have the street life, but it does get too noisy at times.

  4. #4
    Urban life means closeness. Everything is close to everything else. Homes, workplaces, activities. There was a thread about Miami Beach which illustrated this principle by inverting the density. The urban area was low-rise (3-4 stories) but bustling, while the suburban area was high-rise condo towers but abandoned.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=17226 South Beach

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=17242 North Beach
    Last edited by jaws; 27 Jul 2005 at 5:39 PM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    interesting responses.
    closeness is a good way to put it, but there is closeness in a village. i guess a lot has to do with what your close to, for example the hardware store vs. the museum or x,y,z.
    and yes my frame of reference is clouded. I guess I should have said what's the deal with living in a place that's full of high rises. I realize this isn't the case everwhere. Interestingly, when you see big Asian cities you see high rise after high rise. I wonder what's going on there. I'd love to hear a planner's point of view with that in consideration.
    How are big Asian cities, has anyone ever been, like to comment?

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I think LorenzoRoyal starts to get at the heart of the matter.

    The "quality" of the urban environment in a place dominated by highrises really depends on the design of the individual buildings and their connection with the public realm of the street. In a highrise mixed use place, the buildings must connect to the pedestrians on the street by making sure there are storefronts to interact with, limited or no curb-cuts for auto access interrupting the pedestrian paths, and periodic plazas/small parks to allow the pedestrians to rest from the "traffic" on the sidewalk and to people watch, informal meeting places, etc.

    As for the occupancy of the floors above the ground floor, I generally see nothing wrong with residential and/or office uses occupying a floors 2-? . A building's height has little, if any, real effect on the quality of the urban experience on the ground. It's really a product of the horizontal than the vertical.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  7. #7
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    It's funny...when I first saw this thread it said "what happens in a high rise..." I thought it was "what happens in a high-rise stays in a high-rise."

    Anyway, I definitely don't think I would like living in a skyscraper. But that's just me. I honestly don't know why there aren't more 5, 10, or 15-story buildings...they work great in suburban downtowns. In the central city, it's different. I guess if the buildings are full of urbane people and yuppies and there is still demand...I guess it's fine. Just as long as there's enough choices available.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by alex
    interesting responses.
    closeness is a good way to put it, but there is closeness in a village. i guess a lot has to do with what your close to, for example the hardware store vs. the museum or x,y,z.
    I would describe a village as an urban environment, at least when compared to generic suburban/exurban sprawl. The New Urbanists call a village a 'freestanding neighborhood'. Lots of European villages known for their picturesque qualities are very dense.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Portland has worked hard on maintaining the quality of urban life in the city. It's older neighborhoods are lovingly preserved and maintained. The east side in particular is riddled with long-standing commercial developments built along the original streetcar lines. It's possible for many Portlanders to pass the so-called "Popsicle Test." As development continues, more compact homes are being built. 3-5 unit rowhouse buildings are very common, typically three story units. You also see three 12' wide "Shotgun Houses" built on lots where one house used to stand. Also popular are 3 or 4 story mixed use developments along arterials. When you get into the Pearl District or the burgeoning South Waterfront area, you will find 15-20 story condo units.

    From what I've experienced in Vancouver, BC, high-rise living doesn't mean isolation from the community. There's plenty of interaction among residents as they walk around. I've seen figures that show that between 1994 and 1999, pedestrian trips in downtown Vancouver increased by 55 percent, while auto trips decreased by 13 percent. Clearly, higher densities can lead to more social interaction and more street life.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian circusoflife's avatar
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    http://www.seattleweekly.com/feature...ws_density.php

    try this article. Talks about differences in 'growing up'

    Between Vancouver and Seattle.

    You may want to pay a visit to San Diego if you can... Downtown re-dev includes ground floor living too which can be important for families.

    Ground floor retail everywhere is far over-rated.
    - Beware more of the man in the fancy cloak, than the one in tattered clothing -

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Urban life means closeness. Everything is close to everything else. Homes, workplaces, activities.
    Density and urbanity - and all the attendent benefits - can be achieved without high rises. This is the other Vancouver model:

    http://www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/comm...df/arbutus.pdf

    A low rise but very dense neighbourhood (58 units per acre, for you planners out there) that supports all kinds of retail, restaurants, transit, and street life.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by smilie
    Density and urbanity - and all the attendent benefits - can be achieved without high rises. This is the other Vancouver model:

    http://www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/comm...df/arbutus.pdf

    A low rise but very dense neighbourhood (58 units per acre, for you planners out there) that supports all kinds of retail, restaurants, transit, and street life.
    Vancouver has a lot of high-rises, more than is really common in this part of the world. Better examples lie in the mid-rise cities of Europe. As Krier said there's no reason for a city to be denser than 5-6 stories. Paris supports a diverse pedestrian economy and top-notch mass transit at 6 stories.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner
    I honestly don't know why there aren't more 5, 10, or 15-story buildings...they work great in suburban downtowns.
    For good reason, actually. Wood construction limits you to 4 or 5 stories, after which you must switch to steel or concrete construction due to structural load. However, switching to steel or concrete incurs additional upfront expense, as compared with wood-frame construction. This increased expense makes building heights between 5 and 15 storeys, and especially between 5 and 10 storeys, essentially unaffordable in many circumstances. In order to justify the increased "upfront" cost of building above 5 storeys, the developer needs to add more storeys so that the cost is more evenly distributed per storey.

    (This is why planners need to be familiar with their local building codes and simple principles of construction)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Ground floor retail everywhere is far over-rated.
    Could you please elaborate on this statement? Are you referring to a blanket sort of rule of requiring ground-floor retail in all structures throughout a neighborhood or street? What about the need to have a continuous, interesting street wall with window displays through a shopping street?

    I really like the looks of that neighborhood in Vancouver referenced above, with its mix of busier commercial streets and low-rise townhomes. The buildings look very solid, with good proportions.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  15. #15
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    Could you please elaborate on this statement? Are you referring to a blanket sort of rule of requiring ground-floor retail in all structures throughout a neighborhood or street? What about the need to have a continuous, interesting street wall with window displays through a shopping street?

    I really like the looks of that neighborhood in Vancouver referenced above, with its mix of busier commercial streets and low-rise townhomes. The buildings look very solid, with good proportions.
    I think what was meant was that ground-floor retail cannot be everywhere. You also need residential on ground floor on the minor streets. As you said, Vancouver is an example of this. Frequently you will find townhouses fronting the street, three or four stories high, and the entire chunk of blockwide building acts as a pedestal for a larger residential tower above.

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