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Old 08-27-2012, 11:16 AM   #1
datadyne007
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NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Agencies of Change
The Bloomberg Administration is one of the most pro-development governments in city history. As they count down their remaining days in office, AN checks in with the agencies whose projects have had the most impact on development.

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The Bloomberg Administration is arguably one of the most pro-development governments in city history. Since he took office, the Mayor has used city agencies to unleash the forces of New York real estate while also steering those forces to meet goals for a cleaner, greener, and more equitable city. PlaNYC, the catch-all name for the Mayor’s bundle of 132 sustainability initiatives, creates a framework for over 25 city agencies to collaborate on a vast array of projects, from the new East River Ferry service to a $187 million investment in green infrastructure. While some programs such as MillionTreesNYC, are making streets leafier one tree at a time, many of the Mayor’s initiatives have reshaped the city in profound ways. As the administration counts down its remaining days in office, AN checks in with the individual agencies whose projects have had the most impact on development in the city.

By Alan G. Brake, Molly Heintz, Julie V. Iovine, Branden Klayko, Nicholas Miller, and Tom Stoelker.


Read the extensive (understatement) article:
http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6224
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:08 PM   #2
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Say what you want about the suburbanization/chainification/strollerization/hipsterization of the city in the last 10-20 years but Bloomberg will leave the city in a better--perhaps much better--place than it was when he first came in. And the fact that it meant lots of shiny new buildings for me to ogle over is just icing on the cake.
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Old 08-27-2012, 03:36 PM   #3
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Look at all this downzoning! One underexamined aspect of the "suburbanization" of the city is the number of neighborhoods now legally protected from higher densities:

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Old 08-29-2012, 09:59 PM   #4
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Is this really surburbanization? The areas on that map that I'm familiar with all seem reasonably "low" density already, and historical, such as Prospect Park / Park Slope.
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Old 08-30-2012, 02:15 AM   #5
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

When I said suburbanization I was associating it with the influx of chain retail and the stroller set more than any particular building or zoning patterns.

But to answer your question, I'd have to say probably not as I'm sure we'll be into the next round of zoning reforms by the time real upward growth is needed in any of those (non-historically protected) nabes.
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Old 08-30-2012, 10:54 AM   #6
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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Look at all this downzoning! One underexamined aspect of the "suburbanization" of the city is the number of neighborhoods now legally protected from higher densities:

It may seem counterintuitive, but one way to ensure better urbanization in terms of complete streets and neighborhoods with an engaging interwoven and connected social and physical fabric is to downzone density. This is what happened in Miami in 2009 when it adopted Miami 21 (the first major city instance of a comprehensive form-based urbanist code) and it caused a lot of controversy because of its counterintuitive nature. The reason I say this is that if you allow say a 1,000' height limit in place (or FAR capable of supporting a structure that tall) it may do well for a particular project of the exciting sort we are all interested in seeing, but if this one project eats up all of the demand in the neighborhood for decades, what does this do to the overall urbanity of the place? A skyscraper surrounded by empty lots is what some stretches of a lot of lot of American cities look like and, if there is consensus on anything, it's that most American cities get urbanization wrong (or did until recently). That's not to say European cities all get urbanity right, not by any means (and it's not to say there is a "right" at all), just to say that the tower in the park is not appealing to most, and more important is an active streetscape. Downzoning ensures this happens by preventing one tower from eating up all demand for an unreasonable amount of time. This all being said, however, one of the few places where this general rule may not have any applicability is NYC (or Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.,...basically megacities with no demand decline in sight). But otherwise it's a smart if counterintuitive approach. The key to avoid downzoning equaling suburbanization is to ensure the other zoning requirements like street interaction (Setbacks and orientation) are in place.
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Old 08-30-2012, 12:31 PM   #7
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

My understanding is that towers-in-parks result from zoning regulations that force large setbacks, minimum parking requirements, and indiscriminate "green space" creation on developers. For example, when the city planners are disciples of Le Corbusier and his ilk. Taking those restrictions away, developers are more naturally inclined to full lot coverage, although they may not necessarily go for ground floor retail (though it seems like it should be a profit center).

Do you have a good example where developers would rather push for tower-in-the-park, and why?
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Old 08-30-2012, 01:22 PM   #8
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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My understanding is that towers-in-parks result from zoning regulations that force large setbacks, minimum parking requirements, and indiscriminate "green space" creation on developers. For example, when the city planners are disciples of Le Corbusier and his ilk. Taking those restrictions away, developers are more naturally inclined to full lot coverage, although they may not necessarily go for ground floor retail (though it seems like it should be a profit center).

Do you have a good example where developers would rather push for tower-in-the-park, and why?
Well, no, I think the problem he's getting at is that the one developer allowed to build a skyscraper is going to do so, and every lot surrounding that skyscraper is going to stay empty because the tower has now eaten up all of the demand for buildings that would have otherwise surrounded it.

The park, then, is the empty lots surrounding your tower, not a product of zoning codes shrinking your tower itself.
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Old 08-30-2012, 02:25 PM   #9
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

I get that, but I don't think it necessarily happens, because demand isn't a fixed quantity. The activity that goes on in skyscrapers produces further demand, which means further motivation to develop the remaining land. Unless that is held in check by some artificial regulation...
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Old 08-30-2012, 02:49 PM   #10
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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I get that, but I don't think it necessarily happens, because demand isn't a fixed quantity. The activity that goes on in skyscrapers produces further demand, which means further motivation to develop the remaining land. Unless that is held in check by some artificial regulation...
Not necessarily. Just because demand is fluid doesn't mean you couldn't end up with a situation where you've overbuilt and your new skyscraper ends up entirely self-contained - all the new demand it generates is in turn absorbed back into the skyscraper.

Now, this would never happen in a fully developed city like NYC, because it would be physically and logistically impossible to build a tower that large. It probably wouldn't even happen in a developing city, where your big tower would be designed as a cornerstone or centerpiece because you're developing it with the goal of generating demand and would therefore likely be making sure your tower is pure residential, residential/hotel, or retail/office space. As long as where you live and where you work are guaranteed to be separate buildings, there will be demand to build elsewhere.

On the other hand, I could certainly see a 1000' skyscraper megaproject dropped on Providence or Springfield or New Haven that was designed to incorporate living space, office space and retail space barely reaching 1/3 of its capacity, having the additional demand generated by that only serve to take it to half full, leaving you with a half-full skyscraper surrounded by a whole lot of nothing because all the incentive that would've been present to build is instead absorbed into filling the rest of your skyscraper first. Granted, it's a certainty that the tower would be full eventually, restoring the incentive to build out the surroundings - but, instead of seeing building projects immediately or within a decade, you wouldn't see them for another fifty years.

As much as I would like to see gigantic buildings dominate the New England Coastline, there's a great many places where building one would end up being counter-productive.

Now, if you asked me - I'd advise going in the opposite direction. Build a bunch of low and mid-rise buildings, but leave a space cleared out. Once your surroundings are built up, then you drop in the skyscraper. If there's not sufficient demand to build the skyscraper in the middle, keep building out the surroundings until there is.
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Old 08-30-2012, 03:08 PM   #11
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

It's a lot more expensive to build up floor area as a skyscraper than the same amount at a lower overall level. Costs increase faster than linear with respect to number of floors, as different techniques, materials and accommodations are required.

So why would a developer pass up the opportunity to generate more revenue with lower costs, unless forced into it by zoning?
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Old 08-30-2012, 03:58 PM   #12
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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It's a lot more expensive to build up floor area as a skyscraper than the same amount at a lower overall level. Costs increase faster than linear with respect to number of floors, as different techniques, materials and accommodations are required.

So why would a developer pass up the opportunity to generate more revenue with lower costs, unless forced into it by zoning?
I was going to say land purchase/ownership considerations but that probably falls under zoning as well, right?

The only other reason I can think of is concerns that building out rather than up would render it impossible to expand later, but that seems like something that's only an issue if you're working with poor architects/engineers.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:24 AM   #13
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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My understanding is that towers-in-parks result from zoning regulations that force large setbacks, minimum parking requirements, and indiscriminate "green space" creation on developers. For example, when the city planners are disciples of Le Corbusier and his ilk. Taking those restrictions away, developers are more naturally inclined to full lot coverage, although they may not necessarily go for ground floor retail (though it seems like it should be a profit center).

Do you have a good example where developers would rather push for tower-in-the-park, and why?
My experience has been, in general with a few exceptions, that developers don't push for architectural styles or urban planning philosophies, just profit. The two can sometimes become conflated if it is more profitable to build a tower in the park (or perceived to be) or more profitable to build a traditional style building (like it would be in Portsmouth, for example).

When I referenced towers in the park above, I was referencing a result rather than an intention. And I was referencing the city views irrespective of private property. So, essentially, even if you had a tower that was tall and also covered the whole site (i.e., not the traditional tower in its own park, surrounded by site specific green space), it might still be a tower in a park in the sense that it might be a sore thumb where it is surrounded by a "park" or parking. When I was in San Diego, that's what some areas looked like. Huge tower, next to small one story building, or no building. This isn't really urban. It might have been more urban if the same square footage was built at 4 or 5 stories the length of the street instead of one building with 50 stories. Where a neighborhood only has enough demand for, say, 100 stories, do we want two 50 story towers to eat it up, or worse, one 100 story building--see parts of Shanghai--or instead would it be more urban to have ten 10-story buildings? Or twenty 5 story buildings? I'm not saying there is a right answer, but there seem to be extremes, and lowering height limits is one way to achieve balance, some think. Of course, lowering height limits where the demand is endless (NYC? perhaps) makes little sense. But in other (most) cases, it achieves a more integrated urban whole. I'm not saying get rid of skyscrapers, and I'm not even saying this approach makes sense everywhere, but one large building surrounded by undeveloped lots is not urban. Getting it right is an art not a science, so there is no formula for success.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:25 AM   #14
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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Well, no, I think the problem he's getting at is that the one developer allowed to build a skyscraper is going to do so, and every lot surrounding that skyscraper is going to stay empty because the tower has now eaten up all of the demand for buildings that would have otherwise surrounded it.

The park, then, is the empty lots surrounding your tower, not a product of zoning codes shrinking your tower itself.
I should have read this response before responding myself, because you nailed it. Exactly right. Nothing against skyscrapers in general, only those that hinder the rest of the neighborhood by gobbling up the demand for other sites. Of course, developers want to maximize profit, but the community also wants to maximize aggregate appeal.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:32 AM   #15
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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I get that, but I don't think it necessarily happens, because demand isn't a fixed quantity. The activity that goes on in skyscrapers produces further demand, which means further motivation to develop the remaining land. Unless that is held in check by some artificial regulation...
Very good point, sometimes true and sometimes not, however. So the market analysis is key, for any zoning, and would need to try to account for the spinoff of other developments. The trick is to include this calculation in project "demand" for the time period a zoning ordinance is projected to remain relevant, and update it when it becomes antiquated (like so much zoning is now). It's an art not a science, and the trick I think is to avoid tower, pause, tower development and favor more comprehensive urban neighborhoods (and take this from where it's coming, a skyscraper enthusiast but also an urbanist....I don't have any bias here, just like great cities).
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:37 AM   #16
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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Not necessarily. Just because demand is fluid doesn't mean you couldn't end up with a situation where you've overbuilt and your new skyscraper ends up entirely self-contained - all the new demand it generates is in turn absorbed back into the skyscraper.

Now, this would never happen in a fully developed city like NYC, because it would be physically and logistically impossible to build a tower that large. It probably wouldn't even happen in a developing city, where your big tower would be designed as a cornerstone or centerpiece because you're developing it with the goal of generating demand and would therefore likely be making sure your tower is pure residential, residential/hotel, or retail/office space. As long as where you live and where you work are guaranteed to be separate buildings, there will be demand to build elsewhere.

On the other hand, I could certainly see a 1000' skyscraper megaproject dropped on Providence or Springfield or New Haven that was designed to incorporate living space, office space and retail space barely reaching 1/3 of its capacity, having the additional demand generated by that only serve to take it to half full, leaving you with a half-full skyscraper surrounded by a whole lot of nothing because all the incentive that would've been present to build is instead absorbed into filling the rest of your skyscraper first. Granted, it's a certainty that the tower would be full eventually, restoring the incentive to build out the surroundings - but, instead of seeing building projects immediately or within a decade, you wouldn't see them for another fifty years.

As much as I would like to see gigantic buildings dominate the New England Coastline, there's a great many places where building one would end up being counter-productive.

Now, if you asked me - I'd advise going in the opposite direction. Build a bunch of low and mid-rise buildings, but leave a space cleared out. Once your surroundings are built up, then you drop in the skyscraper. If there's not sufficient demand to build the skyscraper in the middle, keep building out the surroundings until there is.
I would say you pretty much nailed it again here in many ways. There are some places where skyscrapers make economic sense (Boston, NYC, etc.) and other places where they are just a display of commercial power or progressive thinking. Both reasons are OK to build them, but I think a city anywhere needs to remain aware of the reasons it is allowing or building them and what effect towers will have.

Most of today's skyscrapers are built in Asia, are concrete, and mixed use residential. A hundred years ago, they were in America, steel, and office complexes. The nature of the global skyscraper is changing and has already changed and I think this bears on some of the points you made above (about the separation, or not, of uses within the buildings and what that does to demand). Of course, most of today's skyscrapers are also being built not for power so much as for necessity. Asia is incredibly dense.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:42 AM   #17
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

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It's a lot more expensive to build up floor area as a skyscraper than the same amount at a lower overall level. Costs increase faster than linear with respect to number of floors, as different techniques, materials and accommodations are required.

So why would a developer pass up the opportunity to generate more revenue with lower costs, unless forced into it by zoning?
You are right, but you're only considering construction costs. A developer, however, also has to take into account land costs. So, if a developer has one site, he or she would seek to build tall even if not forced into it by zoning because otherwise building the same square footage would require buying surrounding land. True, the construction costs would be lower at lower-rise building sites, but these costs would be inflated by the purchase price of additional land (and permitting). In a case where a developer wants to aggregate a bunch of surrounding land, there is also the case where everyone but one or two people sell, then the last people realize their strategic position and hold out for way more than would normally be considered reasonable. In government acquisition of property, that's why the power of eminent domain exists. But what's a private developer to do? Only choice is to pay for it. So, again, you're right about skyscraper construction costs, but a lot of this is made up for by the relatively lower price of building on one site, as well as by the higher rents commanded by better views (a better, more marketable product) and by the fact that skyscrapers are often easy to design and build because they are just the same floor plan stacked on top of itself. Then there is the prestige of skyscrapers, which also commands higher rent (offsetting higher construction costs).
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:00 AM   #18
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

I'm not bothered by the mixing of low and high rise on the same block, I think it is quite nice and natural. I think nothing is more urban (in terms of parcel usage) than seeing a variety of building styles and heights abutting each other. But I take your point about a tower going up with nothing around it, and it's one of the reasons I favor smaller blocks and parcels wherever possible. I just got back from Austin where height restrictions were (fairly) recently removed and an insane amount of skyscraper construction is underway. But there's also large gaps with surface parking lots and garages. And apparently, nobody wants to dig in the bedrock because it's too expensive, so there's no basements at all. Hopefully for them, eventually those surface parking lots and empty spaces get filled in with either proper buildings or properly placed parks. But that won't happen as long as they mandate parking, or use zoning to restrict those areas.
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Old 10-18-2012, 01:42 PM   #19
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Tangentially related, because I didn't want to start another thread - Bloomberg's upzoning of Midtown has already wrought at least one insane proposal:



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...NewsCollection
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Old 10-18-2012, 01:51 PM   #20
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Re: NYC - Celebrating the Bloomberg Administration as an Agency of Change

Omg that halo is supposed to move up and down too, not just float there. Insane!
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