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Old 05-15-2012, 04:49 PM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
2,772 posts, read 4,117,615 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
OK, gents, I'm back. TE, I enjoy these debates. Long as you don't call me Hank Hill, I won't call you the Hipster Howard Roark!

I brought up Detroit as an example of what happens when only a few cities get the benefits of a growth sector--in this case, the ever-expanding (since WWII) federal government. (I recognize that Detroit had other things happen--namely, losing most of its primary industry.)

The larger question I think we're debating is: What are the long-term local effects of the increased density that would accompany easing a height restriction? You guys are saying it would alleviate the pent-up demand for more development. I get what you are saying--that if you build up, you don't have to build out. And what I'm saying is that that's true for commercial office space, but I don't see that holding true for residential development, as evinced by the several local (to me) examples I cited--where the Metro arrived, then offices, then big apartment buildings, and then bigger apartment buildings. Yeah, sometimes it was just parking lots that got built onto--I will conded my experience with S. Spring is limited--but other times, it was houses.

Not to mention the aesthetic effect of the "concrete canyon." We now have this in the heart of Ballston--unlike DuPont or most of Brooklyn that I can remember. I see it starting to happen in Clarendon, with that mongo condo building that went up at 10th and Washington Blvd a year or so ago, across from where Tara Thai used to be.

One question I've never heard an urbanist answer in any real sense is: When does the accommodation of growth stop? That is, suppose you get all the tall buildings built that you'd like to see. And then people/businesses move into them. What about in 10 or 20 years, when even more people want to be there? Do you keep tearing down buildings forever? Do you propose we keep building up as far as physics and the limits of engineering will allow? And if so, what about the people who prefer 10-story buildings to 20-story or 100-story buildings? Is every place to become Vancouver?

BBD, you mentioned that no one is talking about putting in transit farther west of Ballston. The thing is, I would actuall be FOR that if I knew it would not bring development. I would love to have small jump-on/jump-off trolleys everywhere--but if they ever pipe one down Wilson, I'm positive it'll bring with it more apartments full of 20-somethings, and then, to satiate their unquenchable thirst for getting soused, the rowdy bars will follow, bringing with them (as always) the noise, public drunkenness, and crime that follow.
Ah EXCELLENT QUESTION! So given certain geotechnical conditions there is a limit to which building skyward becomes uneconomical. There is a reason why the city of Manhattan above ground looks like the rock layer below ground. The depth of rock and thickness of rock directly affect the height availability. Now in this region we've actually come to terms about not having the same characteristics as Alluvial rockbeds, so theres already a bit of a cost disadvantage in foundations (though mat foundations and deep piles can relieve that)

But, that being said, its not the major component to the cost disadvantage of going vertical. The final answer really is a matter physics limits/eyesoreness/market bearance/economics

Physically we could build structures that are miles high, we could build mountains if we wanted. But the amount of land necessary, and the materials needed at a certain point overcome the economic recovery available. We have found that this actually happens around 1100-1400 vertical feet for typical urban land. If you are in a super desert like Dubai with cheap ground (like when Burg Dubai was purchased) economics might allow for slightly higher, but who are we kidding that was a machismo/power ploy not about economics.

Between 50-80stories is the sweet spot as long as an area can really bear it. I would say that 3 stories of that should be retail, 5-6 stories can be municipal (FPPD, schools, government offices) 15-25 stories should be the ratio of office/hotel and the top 15-45 stories should be residential.

Build 4 of these types of buildings and you could contract all of Ballston into a single intersection as it is today.

I also think that there is something beautiful about the geometry of a 50-80 story building. They are tall, but not overpoweringly so, they generally are stepped back after the 15th-25th floor to create a nice pedestrian massing so it doesnt feel as if the building is on top of you, which allows an opportunity for roof top terraces, restaurants, bars, parks. Call me crazy but it fits the idea of the golden rectangle. 250' x H400' (20-25 stories) for the base massing, then 200xH320' (18-20 stories) for the second middle portion, finished with 150xH240' for the residential. Beautiful, and simple

Do some people prefer 5 story 10 story or 20? Yes. DC is beloved for this, Paris is loved for this. The problem is, it restricts the growth that started those cities in the first place. Which is why Le Defense is allowed to grow tall, while the rest paris isnt. So that growth can continue for the city in one specific neighborhood, and the rest can be beautiful the way that people aesthetically want and that makes life good. High rises should not be spread around willy nilly, and when you believe a couple blocks of true highrises, you can avoid messing with 95% of the rest of the city.

Everywhere doesnt have to be vancouver (though I would say why not that city is beautiful and the residents there are routinely noted as being the happiest in the world). Some places might just have 2 or 3 blocks similar to vancouver (like Arlington) and the rest would be normal, urban, but not super dense. But if 8 million people want to live in an area, you cant stop it from happening. The only way is people will compete for the same houses, the price of those houses will skyrocket. Then your children will not be able to afford to live there. Thats a big problem when the next generation literally just can't live in a place. It creates stagnation in the economy. Everyone is a middle manager. If 8 million people really want to live in one spot, you as a resident of that spot need to say... why are they coming here? Is that going to change anytime soon? Do I want my children to live here? If you don't like where an area is going, then no amount of handcuffing is going to keep it as it is when you are dealing with mass movements. It will just create other non-foreseen detriments like exploding housing prices.

For me? If I didnt want to live in that scenario. I would wait for the perfect time, the zenith point of housing price and density alleviation, sell my place, cash that check, and retire some place much more affordable that all the people are leaving to come to here if I thought 8 million people were on the doorstep.

Last edited by tysonsengineer; 05-15-2012 at 05:01 PM..
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Old 05-16-2012, 07:00 AM
 
Location: McLean, VA
448 posts, read 832,155 times
Reputation: 266
Someone brought up an excellent point to me yesterday WRT more density in certain areas: school overcrowding. The person mentioned that this is ALREADY happening and will only get WORSE with more density allowed.

The Beauregard project has no provisions to build any new schools, yet they are adding more housing units to an area where schools are already overcrowded. I must admit, that I didn't consider that part of this debate.

I suppose my question to TE and others, is what is a good way to solve this problem? Make the developers foot part of the bill for building a new school and/or expanding existing ones.
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Old 05-16-2012, 07:58 AM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
2,772 posts, read 4,117,615 times
Reputation: 1503
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkseid View Post
Someone brought up an excellent point to me yesterday WRT more density in certain areas: school overcrowding. The person mentioned that this is ALREADY happening and will only get WORSE with more density allowed.

The Beauregard project has no provisions to build any new schools, yet they are adding more housing units to an area where schools are already overcrowded. I must admit, that I didn't consider that part of this debate.

I suppose my question to TE and others, is what is a good way to solve this problem? Make the developers foot part of the bill for building a new school and/or expanding existing ones.
Yes, that is a problem, unless you actually anticipate it and address it with infrastructure.

I already actually discussed this along time ago, another opportunity for private public cooperatives. The problem with the cost of schools is we design them as mini-college campuses. They are HUGE uses of land, 26 acres is typical. In a city, at 10 million dollars per acre, you are holding onto a 260 million dollar asset, for what? Schools have become land owners because it's been said that its the cheaper method, but I looked into it, and in some cases partial ownership could help afford centralized recreational facilities that can be owned by multiple parties so that these assets won't go to waste 95% of the time when school kids arent using it.

Public Funding of Schools, Not Property | The Tysons Corner

For more info on my research/numbers


Also of note today, another Atlantic Cities article on the limits of skyscrapers and I think it is similar to what I am saying in many respects. Skyscrapers don't solve everything, properly located density is what is important. No one should be proposing changing every suburb in the country into a tower of humanity, that is stupid and swinging the pendulum way too far.

The Limits of Density - Neighborhoods - The Atlantic Cities
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:10 AM
 
Location: McLean, VA
448 posts, read 832,155 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
The problem with the cost of schools is we design them as mini-college campuses. They are HUGE uses of land, 26 acres is typical. In a city, at 10 million dollars per acre, you are holding onto a 260 million dollar asset, for what?
I think that much of that is to establish a "school zone". They also want to have space for playgrounds. The schools, like the buildings, need to be built taller.

At Baileys Elementary School, they are having to put more and more children into trailers to accommodate all of the children. And the problem is projected to get worse as the number of younger children are twice as many. I was told that the current 5th grade class is like 200 children. The current 3rd grade class is like 350 and the incoming 1st graders are almost 400.

The best thing they could do is add another floor above the current building. However, that would require moving the entire school to another site for a year or two while construction is going on. Something has to give. How do we push for more density with that type of situation in the current climate
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:27 AM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
2,772 posts, read 4,117,615 times
Reputation: 1503
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkseid View Post
I think that much of that is to establish a "school zone". They also want to have space for playgrounds. The schools, like the buildings, need to be built taller.

At Baileys Elementary School, they are having to put more and more children into trailers to accommodate all of the children. And the problem is projected to get worse as the number of younger children are twice as many. I was told that the current 5th grade class is like 200 children. The current 3rd grade class is like 350 and the incoming 1st graders are almost 400.

The best thing they could do is add another floor above the current building. However, that would require moving the entire school to another site for a year or two while construction is going on. Something has to give. How do we push for more density with that type of situation in the current climate
A lot of it is for rec fields specifically (approximately 12 acres per school). For most two story highschools with 3000 students (usually around 250k-300k square feet) you come out to about 4 acres being used by the school structure itself. Then you factor in 300-500 parking spaces for most schools and you are talking about another 5-7 acres. And that is how you get to 20s acres for each highschool.

In urban settings we need to consolidate the common fields (use shared fields between highschools) and integrate everything possible (non field activities) vertically within the footprint of a building.

With todays technology we can easily have a school completely separated function from a nonschool building highrise within the same structure. In fact there are several examples of that around the world as noted in my article in Aus., NYC, etc. When you have it as part of the building, you make it a proffer condition to the developer.

Hey build us this schools as part of your structure (take a lot of the cost of the school out of the pockets of the county without adding significant cost the builder). Why? because you can share structural columns and foundation costs, the biggest costs of any building. For an additional 25 million in cost to the developer the county gets a 100 million dollar school and doesnt have to worry about land maintenance and other inherent operations costs involved in 25 acre properties.

As far as how to retrofit existing schools, I dont know. I think with those older legacy schools they are generally not directly located in the high rise districts anyways. Their biggest problems are the over crowding that is happening because there are no schools in the TOD regions, so all those kids are being put into the older schools. I would keep those as is, struggle through over capacity until the new schools can be built in 2 years. The problem is, no one is making any headway on incorporating a school into highrises in central arlington for the kids who live in the city itself because they still don't think its a growing trend. (Lets just keep sending them to the schools outside of the city).
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:02 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,868 posts, read 12,021,474 times
Reputation: 2602
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
Not to mention the aesthetic effect of the "concrete canyon." We now have this in the heart of Ballston--unlike DuPont or most of Brooklyn that I can remember.
since i grew up in brooklyn, let me tell you a few things. I grew up a block from an elevated train. Yet there were few hi rise buildings - only one building over 6 stories for miles around, in fact.

Does that mean there was a mysterious way NYC had of generating enough riders to make the train viable? Or that the train was there, but with few riders?

no.

There were many 6 story apartment buildings around. There were also quite a few 4 story walk up apartment buildings. And stores with apts above them (and no parking, BTW). And lots of townhouses, and SFHs on very small lots, with barely any side yards (actually most of THOSE werent really SFHs - they were two family detached houses) - also semidetached houses - typically sharing a driveway with other semis.

And the THs and SFHs on small lots were NOT huddled around the subway station. They went on for miles and miles. There were very few SFHs on quarter acre lots or even I guess eigth of an acre lots. A few pockets of them.

The absence of hirises was offset by high density spread more evenly. Arlington has condo canyons, but also preserves low density housing that is foreign to Brooklyn, or the central parts of DC. That is the tradeoff. You can't justify the cost of transit without ridership, and you can't get ridership without density - and to get density you can have a landscape of midrises and townhouses and two family houses, OR you can have hirises and SFH's. This area has almost entirely chosen to preserve its legacy SFH neighborhoods, and to get density with high rises. That isnt necessarily the choice I would make, but given the political resistance to upzoning existing SFH areas, I think its inevitable.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:20 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,868 posts, read 12,021,474 times
Reputation: 2602
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
One question I've never heard an urbanist answer in any real sense is: When does the accommodation of growth stop? That is, suppose you get all the tall buildings built that you'd like to see. And then people/businesses move into them. What about in 10 or 20 years, when even more people want to be there? Do you keep tearing down buildings forever? Do you propose we keep building up as far as physics and the limits of engineering will allow? And if so, what about the people who prefer 10-story buildings to 20-story or 100-story buildings? Is every place to become Vancouver?.
We have this wonderful thing, its called the marketplace.

A. Once you get above about 70 stories or so, the costs of elevators, of pumping water, etc, becomes so high that even in areas with very high land costs, its not worth building higher - usually buildings above that height are built for companies that want prestige for having a tall building.

B. Land costs wont get that high, if there isnt enough demand. Its questionable if the DC limit is really that big a deal - I know some urbanists think it is. I am sure its not for Arlington, because the demand isn't here for that.

You keep saying "When more people want to live there" I know the experience of the central part of greater DC in the last decade makes this sound odd, but there arent an infinite supply of people. For a long time we built very little to accommodate people who preferred dense living - and there are still obstacles - and theres been a shift in preference for it. So anything available gets filled quickly. But there isnt an infinite demand.


Quote:
BBD, you mentioned that no one is talking about putting in transit farther west of Ballston. The thing is, I would actually be FOR that if I knew it would not bring development. I would love to have small jump-on/jump-off trolleys everywhere..
Id love it if NoVa had a kosher thai restaurant. But economies of scale exist. street cars, and frequent bus lines (im not sure which you mean by trolley) have fixed costs. Public funds to subsidize exist, but are not unlimited. They will be used where there is bang for the buck. Right now Arlington is going to be stretched to get light rail BOTH on Columbia Pike and on the CCPY transitway. Despite what has been said about them, they will not subsidize anything that costly in an area with such low density and no redevelopment possibilities.

Meanwhile the alternative to things that require scale economies is DIY - one can prepare ones own kosher pad thai, and one can manage to make short hops in a moderately dense retail area using a bicycle.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:38 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,754 posts, read 10,185,217 times
Reputation: 3938
This news just broke re. redeveloping the Wilson Safeway:

http://arlingtonmercury.org/articles...ooking-to-rise

And here's the RFP flyer:

http://www.klnb.com/Email_Fliers/ima...101_Wilson.pdf

This is a good example of what leads to density creep. See those houses on N. 8th Road? If they put a 45-foot mixed-use building in what is now the Safeway lot, it'll be looming over those people's backyards. (And the traffic will also increase nearby, because not all the new residents of Safeway Lofts are gonna go carless.) That means these houses will drop in value. If enough of them drop low enough, some developer will buy them up, petition the County for a variance, and replace this SFH neighborhood with apartments or condos.

It's a nasty little Safeway, and I wouldn't mind seeing it replaced by something--but not something that tall, and definitely not something that will bring tons more people into what is now a suburban neighborhood.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 05-16-2012 at 11:56 AM.. Reason: 35-45 feet, not stories--but still too damn tall
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:44 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,868 posts, read 12,021,474 times
Reputation: 2602
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
This news just broke re. redeveloping the Wilson Safeway:

Bluemont Safeway Looking to Rise - Arlington Mercury

And here's the RFP flyer:

http://www.klnb.com/Email_Fliers/ima...101_Wilson.pdf

This is a good example of what leads to density creep. See those houses on N. 8th Road? If they put a 45-story mixed-use building in what is now the Safeway lot, it'll be looming over those people's backyards. (And the traffic will also increase nearby, because not all the new residents of Safeway Lofts are gonna go carless.) That means these houses will drop in value. If enough of them drop low enough, some developer will buy them up, petition the County for a variance, and replace this SFH neighborhood with apartments or condos.

It's a nasty little Safeway, and I wouldn't mind seeing it replaced by something--but not something that tall, and definitely not something that will bring tons more people into what is now a suburban neighborhood.

3 floors of residences over a safeway (35 ft total per the article) is hardly looming - im pretty sure some of the townhouses in areas you say you like are just as tall. And the total number of vehicles is hardly going to transform this into a traffic sewer like Little River Turnpike (where traffic has led to residential to commercial rezoning, without benefit of "urbanism") If I get a chance I will bike there and check it out, but I seriously doubt it would lead to a significant drop in value or rezoning. The places where that kind of rezoning has occured have had MUCH larger amounts of traffic, typically driven by things other than "urbanism". On the contrary, that sounds like the kind of development that would serve as a buffer between places like Ballston and SFH areas.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:49 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,754 posts, read 10,185,217 times
Reputation: 3938
Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynborndad View Post
3 floors of residences over a safeway (35 ft total per the article) is hardly looming - im pretty sure some of the townhouses in areas you say you like are just as tall. And the total number of vehicles is hardly going to transform this into a traffic sewer like Little River Turnpike (where traffic has led to residential to commercial rezoning, without benefit of "urbanism") If I get a chance I will bike there and check it out, but I seriously doubt it would lead to a significant drop in value or rezoning. The places where that kind of rezoning has occured have had MUCH larger amounts of traffic, typically driven by things other than "urbanism".
Read the whole thing. They could go as high as 45 feet plus penthouse. The 35 feet is only if they choose the by-right option. And why would they? There's money to be made if they go higher. But even 35 feet is pretty tall.

No, of course it won't make it look like the LRT--but it would make it look a lot more like the middle of Ballston.

If you seriously doubt it will hurt the values of the SFHs nearby, I believe you are mistaken. Maybe it wouldn't make a difference to you, but you sound like a guy who likes tall buildings very nearby. Most buyers of houses do not. (I can think of houses in my neighborhood that have sold recently that went for less than comps nearby, because they were too close to a major road or another public accommodation.)

It will be interesting to see what any of those houses sell for in the next few months, vs. what they sold for over the past couple of years.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 05-16-2012 at 12:00 PM..
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