A machine to make the land pay

Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building. CC image from Wiki.

Cass Gilbert famously defined a skyscraper as “a machine that makes the land pay,” the kind of structure justified (and often required) by high land values. Gilbert’s distillation of the logic behind these buildings is inherently economic (hat tip to Kazys Varnelis):

Speaking of such enterprises from the financial

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The zoning straightjacket

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

DC is nearing the end of a lengthy process to re-write the city’s zoning code. The re-write is mostly a reorganization, combining overlays and base zones in an effort to rationalize a text that’s been edited constantly over the better part of half a century. While

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Fearing 'hyperdensity' in urban areas

Aerial view of Toronto. CC image from rene_beignet.

One of the books I picked up through the rounds of exchanging holiday gifts is Vishaan Chakrabarti’s A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America. I’ve read an excerpt of the book published in Design Observer and watched Chakrabarti’s accompanying lecture; I’m looking forward to reading

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646,449 - DC's population continues to grow

Cranes. CC image from Daniel Foster.

The latest state-level population estimates show another year of 2%+ growth for DC, bringing the city’s estimated population to 646,449. Former Mayor Tony Williams set a goal in 2003 of adding 100,000 new residents to the city back when the city’s population growth was essentially nil, following decades of population

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Tall buildings in European cities

While visiting Europe, I missed most of the local debate on potential changes to DC’s federally imposed height limit (see – and contrast – the final recommendations from the NCPC and DC Office of Planning, as well as background materials and visual modelling, here). But I sure didn’t actually miss any tall buildings; I saw

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More on height limit trade-offs - listening skeptically, reaching resolution

London Skyline. CC image from Elliot Brown.

One dynamic that comes up in DC’s height limit debates is the tension between gains and losses, impacts on the city and benefits to it.  New development can clearly add value, but the question is if that value is a mere ‘give-away to developers’ or if citizens (the

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DC height limit trade-offs, part 2

DC skyline. CC image from James Calder

Continuing on the discussion of DC’s height limit (and potential changes to it), I wanted to take note of a few more articles on the subject.  George Mason law professor David Schleicher (he of land-use law and procedure fame) asks height limit proponents six basic questions, all of which

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Height limit trade-offs

The Cairo. CC image from NCinDC.

Following up on some of the trade-offs mentioned at the end of the previous post on DC’s height act.

In the discussion of Kaid Benfield’s piece supporting DC’s height limit, several comments are worth highlighting. First, Payton Chung notes the need to discuss more than just supply, but to also

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Bad reasons to support DC's Height Act

DC Skyline. CC image from Ed Uthman.

DC’s lack of tall buildings is certainly one of it’s defining characteristics.  Given our human tendencies to be loss averse, to embrace the status quo, it shouldn’t be a surprise that changing such a characteristic can be shocking to some.

I’ve written on the height limit before, as have

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Urban density and innovation

CC image from Seth Waite

One more round on density – this time focusing on affordability via the tangentially related prospect of innovative and creative economies.

Richard Florida chimed in at The Atlantic Cities, asking this:

Stop and think for a moment: What kind of environments spur new innovation, start-ups and high-tech industries? Can you name one

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