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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This has probably been discussed before but I believe it's an issue that the city has to address. Yesterday I cycled through the city. I drove into Chinatown parked and rode my bike from there. I rode up Michigan Avenue to the Lakeshore East and then headed to Wicker Park by way of Milwaukee Avenue. While coasting through WP I realize how vibrant and funky it still is. Although its lost some of its edginess, there is still enough grit and funk to keep it interesting at this time in its history. This is the type of neighborhood that people, especially young affluent types, travel around the country and world to visit. It offer music venues, a varity of great shopping, restaurants and a different kind of cosmopolitan feel that you can't find on the Goldcoast. It is young, unpretentious (i know some of you would disagree), and energetic. All it needs, is to be allowed to grow beyond its current constraints. A child can't fully grow and prosper until the parent allows it to fully realize its potential. I can't help but to wonder what a Wicker Park/Bucktown area that has boutigue hotels and many more buildings of 10 to 15 stories in height would be like. It has great public transportation and could become a major tourist attraction. There are probably other neighborhoods in the city that could also fit into this catagory. Tourist destinations can mean drawing people in from throughout the metro area as well as the world. I believe the city could blossom even more by allowing those neighborhoods to become even more dense that they already are. I know there are all kinds of barriers and impediments (public transportation linking these areas together, residents wanting a so call neighborhood feel and, leaders not willing to risks there jobs) but, the city should be able to reach it full potential.
 

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The City
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I think it has to do in part with Chicago's leadership somewhat insisting that it remain a heavily unicentric city. Of course the convergence of all the transit lines downtown has a lot to do with that, but if Chicago somewhat allowed for larger nodes of development outside of its central area, we could see more density. There is nothing wrong with allowing for the city to become at least somewhat more polycentric.

Until then, people will view highrises as exclusively belonging downtown.
 

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The City
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I'd also like to add: be careful what you wish for.

Since we have lost the ability to build another Wicker Park, would you really want the 3-4 story classics that make up such a neighborhood to be bulldozed and replaced with 10-15 story brick or glass highrises?

If such a thing would have been done 80-100 years ago, we could have had a very dense, Manhattan-like city outside of the core. But alas, it didn't happen.

I think a better solution would be to leave places like Wicker Park and Wrigleyville, etc intact but try to build new dense nodes elsewhere. I'm somewhat encouraged by what is going on in the SoNo/New City site as well as some of the redevelopment planned near the Loyola station. Many people criticize the planned redevelopment of Lake Meadows complex and I'm not going to touch that with a 10 foot pole, but we are looking at an opportunity to nearly triple that neighborhood's population density. See Wong wants to build a highrise and a mall somewhere in the near SW side as well.

My point is, while having a very dense Lincoln or Wicker Park would have been ideal, I don't see it becoming that way now without a significant amount of demolition. So creating dense nodes at other underdeveloped sites may be the next best option.
 

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urbanpin, if i understand your premise, it sounds to me like you are suggesting that Chicago try to create more urban core areas outside the greater downtown area. If so, your suggestion is admirable.

however, it seems to me that most cities in the United States still seem to have the type of development described in their core areas, unless there is a need to spread them out or a topography that makes it possible.

NYC, for example, was able to spread its offerings over a long distance due to the linear nature of Manhattan and the extension of its subway lines into the outer boroughs. The divisions of water (most notably the East River) made for core development in far flung areas of Brooklyn and Queens. While not LA, the physical size of NYC also was encouraging to spreading the wealth when compared to Chicago.

As for LA, it is obvious that even though it always had a traditional downtown core, LA was destined to have separate power centers throughout the city, noticeably the Westside and in some locations in the Valley. LA topography and growth patterns would not allow for anything less.

Which brings me back to Chicago. Our transit system, both CTA and Metra still elevates the greater downtown area's importance over the neighborhoods to a degree that neither NYC or LA do (even with all the international magnetism of Manhattan). I would suspect one thing that may make your dream come true would be the construction some time in the future of rapid transit (or even light rail) lines that do not all go through downtown but really do try to connect all parts of the city to each other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Your're both right but, here's where I differ. The blue line already connects WP/BT to the central area. It is a quick shot (a little over 15 minutes) from the center to WP. There are potential sites along the Milwaukee Avenue and Chicago Avenue corridors (Buger King, the intersection of Milwaukee/Ashland/Chicago, futher west towards Western Avenue on Milwaukee and Chicago Ave) where a developer could propose a 10-15 story boutique hotel/mixed use building. Those corridors are wide and can handle a 10 story building w/o interupting the rythm of these neighborhoods. This would allow the city and those neighborhoods to market themselves as an alternatives or additions to the central area. This would create more jobs for people in and around these areas and also heightening the city's image as a cultural center. It seems to me that this area already fuction as another center just as the areas around SoNo and Clark/Diversity/Broadway does. They should be allowed to reach their full potential. When the Dominicks on Broadway burned down the community fought to keep densities toward the lower end. This happened in WP (Burger King sight), Wrigley Field (Addison/Clark), and just recently, even on the Goldcoast (Esquire Theater). All I'm saying is that, sure we need to preserve the character of these areas but, are we holding the city back by not letting it reach its ful potential?
 

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You make it sound like market forces are somehow mysteriously being thwarted by astonishingly powerful NIMBYs. What makes you think there would be any interest in office space in Wicker Park, where it would only be convenient to a few hipsters? Successful companies need to draw workers from all over the metro area.

Polycentric cities, in my opinion, are transportation disasters. While theoretically people could live closer to work than they can in a monocentric city, the reality has to deal with two-worker households, unequal school quality, and people changing jobs. In practice you get long, long commutes from dispersed origins to dispersed destinations that are impossible to serve well with transit.
 

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One of the charms of Chicago is its neighborhoods. I think they are fine just the way they are. Chicago has a lot of depressed areas that have been leveled and I think it would be better to build on all those vacant lots on the near west side rather than to turn Bucktown etc. into Lincoln Park West West. even in places like New York, the city would not be improved by tearing down Greenwich Village or Park Slope and replacing them with highrises. I agree with the poster who said to be careful what you wish for. Chicago is a special city. One of the reasons is the proximity of the neighborhoods to the Central city rather than turning the entire town into a central city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
One of the charms of Chicago is its neighborhoods. I think they are fine just the way they are. Chicago has a lot of depressed areas that have been leveled and I think it would be better to build on all those vacant lots on the near west side rather than to turn Bucktown etc. into Lincoln Park West West. even in places like New York, the city would not be improved by tearing down Greenwich Village or Park Slope and replacing them with highrises. I agree with the poster who said to be careful what you wish for. Chicago is a special city. One of the reasons is the proximity of the neighborhoods to the Central city rather than turning the entire town into a central city.
I never said turn the entire city into a central city or that the market forces are being thwarted by NIMBY's. I'm only saying that these areas could easily handle more development than what has been proposed in the past. I don't think we should try to create another downtown Chicago but, we could encourage certain development that would enhance whats already there. A few boutique hotels could encourage more shops and restaurants therefore creating more jobs w/o decreasing the quality of life. Mr. DT I've heard so many people say "what makes you think that there would be interest in this or that in that area". I agree with you that an office building would probably be out of place in WP/BT but, if we don't try different things we won't know.
 

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I never said turn the entire city into a central city or that the market forces are being thwarted by NIMBY's. I'm only saying that these areas could easily handle more development than what has been proposed in the past. I don't think we should try to create another downtown Chicago but, we could encourage certain development that would enhance whats already there. A few boutique hotels could encourage more shops and restaurants therefore creating more jobs w/o decreasing the quality of life. Mr. DT I've heard so many people say "what makes you think that there would be interest in this or that in that area". I agree with you that an office building would probably be out of place in WP/BT but, if we don't try different things we won't know.

I agree with adding more boutique hotels to the really popular area of the city - such as Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Wriglyville, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Old Town.

But looking at Bucktown/Wicker Park a few hotels is essentially all it is missing. Looking at the housing and retail development, no one has stymied that growth. There were a few complaints about the corporate names coming in and pushing out independents, but it hasn't slowed development. Residents will probably complain about the hotels, hopefully they will lose.
 

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The City
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So your theory of urban development is to have someone just build tall towers at random and see which ones fill up?
^ I don't think urbanpln is saying that, and neither do you. Nobody is talking about building another Loop.

But a highrise condo building, perhaps a boutique hotel? There are a good number of dense projects in Chicago neighborhoods that have already been shot down due to NIMBY opposition. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility that some neighborhoods don't attract a whole lot of developers for the sheer fact that they historically are very anti-development and they have an Alderman who panders to that ideology.
 

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I think you guys are taking your anti-NIMBY campaign into the realm of fantasy here, imagining that--in Chicago--dozens of mythical towers have never even been proposed because of the infinitesimal chance that neighborhood opposition would eventually prevail. Until 7 or 8 years ago, the idea that a Chicago alderman would turn down a proposed building in his ward was patently absurd. Now we have three or four aldermen who listen to their constituents and you guys imagine that scores of developers are having to do closet renovations for a living because they can no longer get any buildings approved.
 

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I think you guys are taking your anti-NIMBY campaign into the realm of fantasy here, imagining that--in Chicago--dozens of mythical towers have never even been proposed because of the infinitesimal chance that neighborhood opposition would eventually prevail. Until 7 or 8 years ago, the idea that a Chicago alderman would turn down a proposed building in his ward was patently absurd. Now we have three or four aldermen who listen to their constituents and you guys imagine that scores of developers are having to do closet renovations for a living because they can no longer get any buildings approved.
^ Gee, why did things change 7 or 8 years ago? (as you mentioned above). I know! Because suddenly droves of developers actually started building stuff--so now there is something for neighborhoods to actually oppose.

Here there is the potential to build upward in more desirable areas, yet community groups come out strongly against highrises in Chicago neighborhoods during the rare occasions that they're proposed. That's why very few people propose them. And it's also why over 120 highrises (mostly residential) have been built in Chicago in the last 9 years and almost all of them have gone up exclusively in the Central Area.
 

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I'd be a fan of big buildings and urban nodes outside of downtown. I also like TUP's idea of master-planning one from the start since we don't really want to bulldoze the history of Wicker Park etc.

Interesting note - The city of Tokyo, with its ~8 million people, is actually a collection of 20-some smaller cities all grouped together as a single "metropolis." Each one is even governed independently I think. Tokyo thus has a lot of downtown areas, complete with shopping, hotels and highrises (and yes the bright lights) all within what most people consider the sinlge, large city proper.
 

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I think you guys are taking your anti-NIMBY campaign into the realm of fantasy here, imagining that--in Chicago--dozens of mythical towers have never even been proposed because of the infinitesimal chance that neighborhood opposition would eventually prevail. Until 7 or 8 years ago, the idea that a Chicago alderman would turn down a proposed building in his ward was patently absurd. Now we have three or four aldermen who listen to their constituents and you guys imagine that scores of developers are having to do closet renovations for a living because they can no longer get any buildings approved.
Apart from what UP mentioned, this extends beyond highrises. Residential zoning and local communities have significantly restricted the height of residential development on side streets as well. This isn't always a bad thing, but when you consider that the density of the built environment has increased slightly in gentrifying neighborhoods while population density has declined, it might not be the worst thing in the world to add an extra story or two to residential development. My biggest complaint w/ the gentrification is that a lot of the small retail and services you used to see on a residential street doen's really exist anymore.

The problem with the height restriction is that it doesn't give density a chance, and it also promotes a lot of those stacked 2-story units. The ones where the bottom duplex has a first floor and patio about 5 feet below street grade like this:

http://www.realtor.com/search/listingdetail.aspx?zp=60622&mnp=29&mxp=31&bd=3&bth=4&typ=2&sid=0a9e53bf22aa4d0fb6ad95523854c3c7&lid=1100087417&lsn=8&srcnt=353#Detail

It hurts the street presence. I don't think it would hurt to have 4 or 5 story buildings on residential street corners. They could serve a multitude of purposes...boutique hotels, or higher density residential or live/work space with more convenient commercial on the ground floor (dry cleaners, convenience stores, neighborhood pub, etc.).
 

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One of the charms of Chicago is its neighborhoods. I think they are fine just the way they are. Chicago has a lot of depressed areas that have been leveled and I think it would be better to build on all those vacant lots on the near west side rather than to turn Bucktown etc. into Lincoln Park West West. even in places like New York, the city would not be improved by tearing down Greenwich Village or Park Slope and replacing them with highrises. I agree with the poster who said to be careful what you wish for. Chicago is a special city. One of the reasons is the proximity of the neighborhoods to the Central city rather than turning the entire town into a central city.
svs and I both remember a Chicago where Congress St. divided what was developable from what must remain abandoned. We remember when Roosevelt became that dividing line. And Cermak. And that line eventually disappeared all together.

But what hasn't disappeared is the notion of the part of too many Chicagoans that Chicago is the downtown and the North Side areas and that's it. OK, admittedly an overgeneralization, but Chicago, arguably the worst city in the nation in the huge separate worlds of black and white that dominated this city up to the late 1970's, does not play the more equitable game of geography that both New York or Los Angeles play and thrieve. Chicago, far more than these two, bought into the concept of dead zones and races living apart.

For even the most liberal and enlighted 21st century Chicago urbanite, the South and West sides remain outside his grasp and his sphere of consciousness. Unless we think that like a "Wrigleyville" can be carved out of LakeView on the North Side, but we can create a "Comiskeyville" out of Bridgeport on the South, Chicago will never be viewed as the whole we need to see that will spread the wealth of redevelopment to every corner of the city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
For even the most liberal and enlighted 21st century Chicago urbanite, the South and West sides remain outside his grasp and his sphere of consciousness. Unless we think that like a "Wrigleyville" can be carved out of LakeView on the North Side, but we can create a "Comiskeyville" out of Bridgeport on the South, Chicago will never be viewed as the whole we need to see that will spread the wealth of redevelopment to every corner of the city.
Amen Brother.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
So your theory of urban development is to have someone just build tall towers at random and see which ones fill up?
I never said that but, as far as restricting taller buildings in WP/BT its doesn't make sense. It's already happened with that flat iron building. I'm not even talking about building that high and, as Edsg mentioned above, there are other communities especially on the south side where some residents are fighting to minimize densities in redeveloping neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods will never realize their full potential w/o at least some midrise buildings on wide commercial strips.
 

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I'd be a fan of big buildings and urban nodes outside of downtown. I also like TUP's idea of master-planning one from the start since we don't really want to bulldoze the history of Wicker Park etc.

Interesting note - The city of Tokyo, with its ~8 million people, is actually a collection of 20-some smaller cities all grouped together as a single "metropolis." Each one is even governed independently I think. Tokyo thus has a lot of downtown areas, complete with shopping, hotels and highrises (and yes the bright lights) all within what most people consider the sinlge, large city proper.
The NY TImes Sunday Magazine did an article (should still be at nytimes.com) about the new Asian cities and how they differ greatly from the concept of centralized cities; they operate with a series of cores, more LA like than like NY or Chgo
 
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