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The City
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The world will ultimately face a huge energy crisis as oil and natural gas supplies dwindle (we are at the halfway point of our world endowment of fossil fuels this year, according to the US Dept of Energy), and the 2nd half of these fuels will be much harder to extract than the first half (also considering that developing nations are consuming greater amounts of fossil fuels). That, and the unlikely prospects that alternative fuel sources will ever supply energy to the level that sustains our wasteful existence the way oil and gas does, leaves us with a dilemma. It's scary at many levels, but one of the first things to be stripped from the middle classes will be a luxury called driving.

So world-wide chaos aside, I have a theory about what will happen in Chicago's future architecturally. Look at the recent loft-conversion boom in Chicago and other older cities. What's the appeal of loft construction? Well, they're old, they were once used for something completely different (related to a different "time" in Chicago), they have high ceilings, large amounts of space, they're sturdy, and often have exposed ductwork, etc.

Sound familiar? I see the same thing happening to parking garages in Chicago's future. As they empty out (fewer and fewer people will own cars), certain people will have the brilliant idea of converting them into residential or office space, analagous to the current industrial-turn-residential craze currently hitting Chicago's market.

First artists will move in, attracted to the large spaces, high ceilings, and somewhat hard-edged feel of a former garage. And surely, just like now, they will be outpriced and replaced by yuppies (or the next generation's version of them). I see this happening in the bases of a lot of recently constructed highrises, as well as stand alone garages. Perhaps, then, it is a good idea that many of the garage-bases in highrises being constructed today are nicely decorated and being given windows--to (unknowingly--except to me :) )suit them for their future use. The Bernardin or the Grand Orleans serve as great examples.

Many other garages are more "dumb box" looking with windowless walls. Those are great opportunities for creativity--I envision huge, horizontal shaped rows of windows being carved/drilled into these old structures to bring outdoor exposure and sunlight into their new uses. I believe they will be in INCREDIBLE demand for their uniqueness and features (described above) that parallel what makes industrial loft-living so popular right now.

What do you guys think?
 

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They would have to tear up every city zoning ordinance in the U.S.

Garages do not count as buildable square footage in a new building. This means the large parking podiums you're referring to are not part of the building's floor space. It would be currently be illegal to convert those floors into residential or commerical space.
 

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God i hope not :p Several reasons why i think this wont happen:

1) Old warehouses were converted to lofts because they were historic, built very well with brick exteriors and hardwood interiors with lots of space, and were visually appealling. Garages are built from concrete, and look like utter crap.

2) Parking garages have a shelf life of about 30 years before they need to be heavily reconstructed. old warehouses have a tendancy to last.

3) Garages dont give you a lot to work with... they are rather skeletal. Loft conversions are mainly interior work... whereas garages would require exterior walls and work, internal plumbing and electrcitiy, internal work, etc. the angled floors would need to be demolish and rebuilt... it would be too much work that its worth.

4) did i already mention how much like crap garages look like? heh. stand alones should be torn down entirely. if there is little demand for garages in already existing structures, then they can be gutted and remodeled into living floors.
 

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What'u smokin' Willis?
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Rivernorth said:
2) Parking garages have a shelf life of about 30 years before they need to be heavily reconstructed. old warehouses have a tendancy to last.
Isn't this because A)They're usually exposed to the elements and B) they have multi-ton vehicle rolling up and down them?

Your other points are quite valid and true. I just thought this one was a little weak.
 
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