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Build tall, save the world?

Posted by Binyamin Appelbaum  March 21, 2008 11:19 AM

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The Globe reports this morning on plans for the tallest residential building in Boston. This is certain to draw considerable opposition from the many people in Boston who do not like tall buildings, a disproportionate number of whom sometimes seem to live in the Back Bay.

The traditional battle lines are clear enough: The champions of economic development against the defenders of quality-of-life.

But there's another argument for more skyscrapers: We have a climate problem, and only one kind of development is truly 'smart' -- skyscrapers. Nothing is more efficient than density. Stacking homes like Legos saves energy, reduces emissions, cuts traffic.

"If we care about Boston, if we care about the environment, we should build up and build tall," Tom Keane wrote in the Globe Magazine in January. "A skyline is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, it may save us all."

Our history is clear: Boston is not a city of tall buildings. Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas and Miami all have more buildings that rise at least 500 feet. By contrast, ours is a city of mid-rises, and of neighborhoods we suspect can't be improved.

What do you think our future should be?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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51 comments so far...
  1. Yes I would agree taller is better and if Boston is to survive as world secondary citi and turn into per industrialized village in relative term by the end of this century.

    We need to invest in infrastructure trains and subway with in and out 495 belt. Boston is not a green citi. Where is the Airtrain in Logan instead of taking the bus to the train station or to the rental car? Where is the subway that bring you from the terminal to City center and the subs. Most Cities in Europe have this basic things.

    Yes we need more density as energy prices keep on rising the density and infrastructure for (public transportation) will help Boston to compete globally.

    Posted by RB March 21, 08 12:11 PM
  1. Too bad that they are building "luxury" high rise units. Just what this this city needs - - - - more unaffordable units for the very wealthy without parking --- creation of another windy downtown vortex (the wind of change?) ---- dark shaddows ----- worsening traffic. Will the buyers even occupy the units or will these be second homes for speculators or the very rich? I think that the only person who benefits here is the developer.

    Posted by GB March 21, 08 12:23 PM
  1. GB, who do you think pays for foodstamps and other handouts? Let me answer that for you - the wealthy through huge taxes. Why not build some more of these luxury properties and fill city tax coffers more?
    And BTW, living in the city is not a right, it is a privilege. You can always move to Kentucky or Montana, if you don't like MA prices.

    Now if architects and developers decide to invest in building these tall buildings within LEED certifications, I would go as far as give them tax credits. These leaky old buildings this whole area is full of are too energy inefficient.

    Posted by AS March 21, 08 02:11 PM
  1. Density is the key to a vital city. Building reasonable skyscrapers with ground floor retail improves the lives on everyone by creating jobs, reducing commuting time and making streets safer and more enjoyable. One needs only to look at NYC or Chicago to see this. No one here is proposing that we build 50 story towers all over Beacon Hill or the North End. But in areas like Back Bay and the Financial District have the capacity to absorb these additional units of housing and office space (due to public transit and proximity to open space, business districts and nightlife). Let's wipe the dust off of Boston and start building up - unless we want to start filling in the Harbor to create more "neighborhoods."

    Posted by Dan March 21, 08 02:43 PM
  1. Several year ago the Boston Globe said that 40% of the people in Boston were in projects or on Section 8. We should be decreasing the number of projects and Section 8 not increasing.

    Posted by paul11 March 21, 08 03:24 PM
  1. Why not have bigger buildings? Just because you cannot afford a condo in one either get a better job or move somewhere less expensive. Boston needs to keep increasing its global presence or get crushed by the other cities around the country that are continuing to increase their size (hence dollars from taxes, etc... which directly benefit not only those residents in the buildings but everyone else around them) and attracting tourists and business. As a resident of the refurbished Charlestown, I have no patience for section 8 and projects as they are definately the cancer of any part of the city in which they are located. It's been estimated 75% of crime in Charlestown is directly attributed to residents of projects or their affiliations. I for one am all for higher priced luxury condos in big buildings downtown - I cannot afford one either, but I'd rather have rich people as neighbors instead of criminals.

    Posted by Kevin Flattery March 21, 08 03:35 PM
  1. Boston definitely needs to rise above the "mid-rises" but first there has to be an effort to educate the citizenry on the benefits of skyscrapers because it seems that the majority don't get it. People are far more worried about a shadow crossing an open space for an hour or two during certain seasons than they are the very real prospect of berms or dikes on our extensive waterfront to protect us from rising oceans. Of all cities Boston should be building tall. We have very limited land resources but huge historical resources. These historical resources are being leveled one by one as a direct consequence of building only mid-rises because we need more of them.

    Posted by Mike March 21, 08 03:48 PM
  1. GB, I hate to break it to you but these are the economics of building in Boston. If the developer were to ditch the "luxury" condos and build more "affordable" condos he would lose millions. It just doesn't make business sense. Plus this tower will be connected to a high end mall and Neiman Marcus. "Affordable" condos connected to a Neiman Marcus, that makes even less sense. . .

    Posted by Page March 21, 08 03:56 PM
  1. Boston needs to get rid of the input of neightborhood associations in the approval process in specific areas of the city that should promote density and building tall - I can think of financial district and the back bay spine to start. These areas have no place for neighborhood activists opposing any development due to their nearsighted perception of increased shadows or traffic. Building tall is the only way to sustain a city for the long term.

    Posted by John March 21, 08 04:13 PM
  1. I second these comments- this type of development should be welcomed in the Back Bay and should not be tied to some inapproproate demand for 'affordable' housing attatched. But you have to question the logic of not creating additional parking for 300 high end residential units- do the developers plan to usurp part of the existing Copley Garage? The evironmental benefits of a pedestrian oriented location are only beneficial if there actually is a place to park that vehicle you're not using....

    Posted by gern March 21, 08 05:44 PM
  1. Pedestrian oriented people who live in cities do not need cars, so why would you need 300 parking spaces for 300 units? I have more than enough money to own my own car, maybe two. But I live and work in Boston, so why would I want to waste money on some pollution contraption that only brings stress into my life when I can get anywhere with my bike or on the train.

    People of Boston, get out of your cars and stay out if you really want to have more "space" in this city.

    Posted by Michael Penza March 21, 08 06:09 PM
  1. I have a question for anyone with a theory. If skyscrapers with luxury condos in them go up, and tons of them, will that eventually take pressure off, say, one or two floor condo conversions in Medford or Somerville, and make those more affordable for more middle class people?

    Posted by UncleJulie March 21, 08 06:31 PM
  1. A new tower at the Copley Place location is fantastic news!

    It's too bad though that the tower will not be at least 200 meters high. That said 170 meters is better than nothing:)

    Boston needs more skyscrapers. And speaking of skyscrapers...is Trans National going to start building the 1000 foot tower or what? Break ground already! Downtown needs this new aesthetic.

    I am not happy with the fact that Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami and Atlanta have more buildings that rise at least 150 meters especially Atlanta. Just as I expect our sports teams to beat the teams from these and other cities, I expect Boston to be more relevant and vital than these other cities in other areas as well. Our skyline as long as its economically viable and reasonably well designed and located is high on my list of those other areas. Skyline order in the U.S.A should be eventually at the least as follows- 1.New York, 2.Chicago, 3.Houston, 4.Los Angeles, 5.Philadelphia, 6.Boston.

    We are the sixth largest consolidated metro area (CMA) in the U.S. Let our skyline reflect that fact.

    Long live Boston!

    Posted by George March 21, 08 06:36 PM
  1. We need to develop Boston for the future. People want to live near public transportation and enjoy the city. Height makes sense especially when surrounded by low historic neighborhoods that are protected. The folks in Back Bay don't have a clue about what is best for the city, and they don't care either.

    Posted by Maryanne March 21, 08 08:27 PM
  1. Counterpoint: Sorry folks but you have not convinced me. Call me cynical but........
    1. You want skyscrapers to look at for the "aesthetic" appeal. Sorry, but cities need more than to be viewed from a distance. Great for pictures but not much else. This is not an intercity competition. If you really like tall buildings, you can move to NYC or Shanghai.
    2. The developers are probably not building parking because the ultra wealthy who buy these units will probably not need it. However, I find it hard to believe that they will be riding the T. Most will probably not even be occupying their units.
    3. There are buyers of condo developments in NYC who resent living in largely unfilled buildings (ie Plaza) that have purchased, but unoccupied, units.
    4. Our region has the Chestnut Hill Mall and the development in Natick. Do you really think that the suburban crowd will come into the city to shop when they already have the same thing in a move convenient location? (They certainly will not be able to park downtown and they, too, will probably not ride the T to shop at Neiman Marcus). These stores will add nothing but a few service sector jobs for people who will have to commute from outside downtown.
    5. As in the past, Boston lacks any cohesive development plan. The city that brought us the Rose Kennedy Greenway (a glorified traffic island) and Govt Center (a stone wasteland) will now bring us highrise heaven?
    6. KF #6 - the people who live downtown in these units will not be your neighbors. They will not care about you and their presence will do nothing to enhance your local community. In fact, their presence will provide you with even less incentive to travel to a downtown that becomes more congested with businesses that do not provide you with anything that you really want or need or can afford.
    7. This approach will create a city that looks like many others... A city with same chain stores, restaurants, hotels, lack of character,........... Sorry, but I prefer the unique character that is at risk of being lost by these types of projects. If I wanted to live in New York or Chicago, then I would move there. How many NYs and Chicagos do we need?
    8. No one is even considering the environmental impact (water useage, sewage, etc.....) that comes with increased so called desireable "density". To say nothing of the sociological impact of alot of disconnected downtown dwellers. The topic of building shaddows and wind - tall buildings can create undesireable unanticipated local effects. We are really talking about the liveability, not just efficiency, of the architecture and the space subserved by it. (Alcatraz is a really very efficient space!)

    The only people who will truly benefit are the developers (it would not surprise me if they have tax or other monetary incentives to build), the realtors (who must be salivating over the prospect of selling the units), the speculators who will buy preconstruction and flip the units as many times as possible before they are actually built, the unions, and the politicians.

    Posted by GB March 21, 08 09:14 PM
  1. In environmental terms, tall buildings and density are definitely the way to go. However, do these principles sacrifice aesthetics, history, comfort, and / or connection to the natural world? This is a debate that I'm sure will be key in Boston for years to come.

    Posted by EnvirObama March 21, 08 11:20 PM
  1. I'm so tired of people whining about tall buildings. Folks, it's very simple. In order for a city to thrive, it needs to grow. If it doesn't grow, it will eventually fade into a depressing oblivion. In order for most cities to grow, you need to build up. Especially in Boston where the land space is at a minimum. It doesn't matter if it's luxury condos or office space or hotels, as long as there is demand, there needs to be vertical growth. If you enjoy city living, you should appreciate such development. Boston has long been too conservative with urban development and it's nice to finally see new buildings pooping up, creating a beautiful urban landscape and bringing more people and businesses into the city (that's growth, folks). And if you want to feel like you live in the city, but want it to feel like the burbs - move to the burbs and put a nice Boston skyline picture in your living room. Or move to Buffalo...

    Posted by Matt R. March 22, 08 01:02 AM
  1. Kevin wrote: "Just because you cannot afford a condo in one either get a better job or move somewhere less expensive... As a resident of the refurbished Charlestown, I have no patience for section 8 and projects as they are definately the cancer of any part of the city in which they are located. "

    Using the same logic, if you don't like the projects in Charlestown, why did you move there? Why not move somewhere like Idaho, where you see more of the mountains and no projects?

    Posted by Kyle March 22, 08 01:06 AM
  1. Yep- just keep on building all those luxury units. EVERYTHING is luxury- who can afford this stuff? Who is buying it? Who is going to pay $500,000 for 500 sq ft of space in some giant tower?
    I love the design because Boston' skyline is clearly one of the worst in the country... but where in God's name are all of us normal people making under $100,000 a year supposed to live?
    Apparently not Boston... well I guess one of my undergrad professors said it best: "Pittsburgh and similar will see lots of new folks come in the coming years- they will be the ones who get kicked out of Boston and San Fran as prices become too expensive.. Employers better start paying more- so we can actually buy these places!

    Posted by Towers=$$$ March 22, 08 08:16 AM
  1. Boston needs more high quality tall buildings. It will help to attract and retain people with good incomes. They can then walk to their jobs and other daily activities. As the cost of energy continues to go up, there will be a resurgence of cities with a higher core population density and a mass transit infrastructure. How often does anyone in Houston walk to the market or dinner?

    Posted by Marco March 22, 08 09:15 AM
  1. John #9 you say "Boston needs to get rid of the input of neighborhood associations in the approval process." So John, just imagine if - in the interests of sustaining growth in your neighborhood, or saving the environment or whatever - they decided to build a skyscraper across the street from where YOU live.

    Or maybe in the interests of more affordable housing, they decided to build a big, fat Section 8 low income housing project on land adjacent to YOUR back yard.

    Something tells me that if you and your neighbors didn't already have a neighborhood association capable of fighting these types of plans, that you would form one REAL quick, and that YOU would never miss a meeting or a hearing or a chance to scream bloody murder about the threat of these projects to YOUR quality of life.

    Like so many other people who love to bash folks who try and protect their own neighborhoods, it's clear John that you are happy to support growth, and sustainability, and evironmental sensitivity, etc. etc. all long as it doesn't happen in your own backyard.

    So who's being near-sighted here, John?

    Posted by Mike March 22, 08 10:52 AM
  1. This is exactly what Boston should be doing! Build housing in the City where people can walk to work; walk to shop, go to the library, go to church; all without driving! Right near public transportation. The few yet vocal NIMBYers in Back Bay should move to the gated community they are striving for.

    Posted by Elaine P. March 22, 08 01:48 PM
  1. This is right on. Tom Keane is right; and so is Mayor Menino to support this.

    Posted by B.A. March 22, 08 02:01 PM
  1. Boston Globe: Someone needs to connect the dots: they don't want people to use the Boston Common, don't want people to drive on Storrow Drive, don't want tall buidlings, don't want housing, don't want office space, don't want more people on the MBTA, don't want parking spaces in garages but also don't want people to use the metered spaces either; don't want liquor licenses, don't want concerts. All said, this is not good for Boston.

    Posted by Daniel March 22, 08 02:14 PM
  1. Boston, grow up.....literally. Its time we stop thinking that small is quaint and big is bad. For those tree huggers, we need to use our scarce land more effeciently and that is by going vertical. For those who think somehow thise hurst the poor, do you ever stop and think about the jobs and taxes created by new and yes expensive development?

    We need more wealth to come to Boston, to spend money in shops ect. so that there is more money to go around for everything.

    We need to stop being naive and GROW UP!

    BAP

    Posted by BAP March 23, 08 10:27 AM
  1. Just in case anybody has not noticed, they are not building any more land in Boston. The only way for the city to grow is up. One of the reasons the city is so unaffordable is its lack of height

    Posted by S Adams March 23, 08 11:16 AM
  1. Right on!
    The good people of Boston need to think long and hard about their hypocrisy. On one hand they want an environmentally friendly, affordable city. On the other hand they oppose development, even in areas where no history will be lost.

    More high-rises, even of the luxury variety, will undoubtedly sop up demand from neighboring areas, increasing affordability in general. And as so many posters have mentioned, increased density increases environmental benefits.

    Posted by bike2work March 23, 08 01:50 PM
  1. If Boston is to remain(?)/become a world class city, and not just in sports, but more importantly economically and as a destination that others want to invest in, it has to demonstrate the leadership to support private projects like Copley place. When I was a child greater Boston was the home to many corporate headquarters. How many does it have now?
    People can talk all they want about the Arts,culture, parks etc and having a livable city, all very desirable attributes of a city, but that doesn't happen unless there is a strong economic underpinning. The leaders of Boston say they understand that without this solid economic underpinning(e.g, real estate development) these other things don't happen, yet they have allowed the process to become so cumbersome that things just don't get done here. Witness how long the Greenway has taken because of competing interests. While other cities exhibit a "can do" and "get it done" attitude, Boston waffles and allows the process of inclusion to slow things to a crawl. Developers and companies get tired and frustrated or simply don't invest here. Who loses ultimately when the tax base is eroded? The same folks who resist change, along with the rest of us. A city like any organism has to adapt and grow or it will wither and be replaced by others who are more fit. The question is whether Boston has any leadership to support this change. Come on Boston, it's time get things done!

    Posted by david begonis March 23, 08 02:34 PM
  1. To view the construction of these tall buildings in the proper context you must view them in relation to the urban planning needed in the Greater Boston area. Massachusetts is looking to bring more jobs into the state (jobs hopefully leads to bigger tax revenues) and one major location is downtown Boston. In order to bring jobs, housing must be available to satisfy the demand created by bringing large corporations to the state. The lowest impact concept financially, enviromentally, and economically is to build tall buildings so that the urban dweller density increases in the location where the jobs are expected to appear. However, this cannot occur in a vacuum. Urban transportation resources need to be expanded (buses, T, cheaper taxis, high speed commuter rail), cooperation amongst neighboring cities (Cambridge, I'm looking at you), and expansion of green areas (parks and recreational areas).

    Now, Boston has many neighborhoods and they can all be used to expand the urban populace (Dorchester, South Boston). The concern of long-time residents has been the gentrification of their neighborhoods by young, urban professionals/hipsters (see a recent Globe article about the closing/redevelopment of the Irish pubs in Dorchester) and the increase in crime. More police and the effective use of law enforcement to clean up the neighborhoods is required. The changing faces of the immigrant population has also been a concern (less Irish, Italian, and Portuguese and more Asian, African, and Hispanic) by some entrenched neighborhoods but I think it adds a multi-cultural vibe that is needed to truly diversify the state.

    If you really want a controversial suggestion, how about moving Fenway Park to a new location. The park places a large burden on transportation resources, the bright park lights are a nuisance to some people, and tickets to games are harder to find than a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. The void created by moving the park could be filled with a tall housing building that would take advantage of the surrounding bars, clubs, and green spaces. Then again, this is the state that can't build casinos because of political in-fighting.

    Posted by Tomas E. March 23, 08 04:08 PM
  1. I'm a born Bostonian and love the city, but like many college graduates I found a job in New York for the quality of life it offers. For all the Brahmin octogenarians who talk about "quality of life" as being a question of "not having any shadows, traffic and tall buildings," quality of life is actually much richer in a densely built city. The Back Bay, South End, North End, Beacon Hill and Fenway are truly beautiful areas. But other parts of the city -- the victims of the 60s, like the pathetic West End, City Hall Plaza, the Greenway, which is probably worse for urbanism than the Central Artery it replaced, plus Allston, East Cambridge, Somerville, East Boston, Chelsea, Dorchester, Southie, Roxbury -- all have potential for dense, urban development.
    Recognizing the benefits of tall buildings -- more housing supply = lower rents, tall, dense development is environmentally good, and taller buildings lead to a more exciting and inspiring skyline and a modern and business-attractive city -- is necessary for Boston to become an even greater place. Preserve the city's beautiful townhouses by all means, but don't be afraid to build tall, slim and dense around them. The resulting variety is what makes an interesting urban fabric like the one Boston has so successfully built up over the years.
    That is what improves quality of life: an interesting, invigorating bustle of people living in a city and the jobs, cafes, stores, markets, theaters, clubs and bars they need. Building low or, even worse, planting lawns everywhere to avoid density, calls attention to ugly buildings, creates true wind issues, saps vitality and life, and destroys a city.
    Boston needs to wake up by building tall and building dense, especially in underutilized areas, connecting them with reliable, 24-hour public transportation, allowing more restaurants and bars and clubs to open and stay open all night, and making life exciting for graduates and young singles and couples. Otherwise they'll keep moving out upon graduation like I did, and the city and region's population will continue to decline.

    Posted by Ben March 24, 08 02:26 AM
  1. Build Tall........That will make Boston more world renound.

    Posted by Delilah March 24, 08 02:06 PM
  1. I can't believe I just read 31 comments from readers and just about all of them actually contributed something useful!

    Thank you, Lord!

    Posted by John K March 24, 08 10:41 PM
  1. Density is good. For the environment, for the livability of the city, and for the economy of the city.

    And adding supply of luxury apartments helps with cheaper apartments. I'm not going to get into remedial economics here, but GB and some of the above would be well advised to take a class in it.

    Posted by Charles March 26, 08 12:16 PM
  1. The ANTI high rise mentality is way too pervasive here in Boston. I will chime in with my assertion that I am sick and tired of the "HEIGHT-WHINERS" who go into frenzies every time a "high rise" building is proposed in and around the Boston downtown/central city environs. Typically these so called high rises are anything taller than a mere 155 feet in height, the zoning height limit historically set for Boston in the early days of the 20th Century within Downtown Boston.

    So, what does Boston wind up with for architecture in deference to graceful, inspiring towers?- Squat, ugly to the maximum, hunkering low rise buildings
    WITHOUT ANY REDEEMING AESTHETICS/QUALITIES - for good examples, BOSTON CITY HALL, THE HEINOUS HURLEY BUILDING/LINDEMANN MENTAL HEALTH BUILDING (The likes of which can cause severe depression in the HAPPIEST OF PEOPLE in just one gaze of it's monstrous facade), the Red Brick Fire Pit better known as The State Transportation Building.

    BOSTON, GET OVER THIS FROWSY, FUDDY DUDDY love of uninspiring squat buildings. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIGH RISE BUILDINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...REPEAT, NOTHING WRONG!!!



    Posted by Philip Harris January 12, 09 04:45 PM
  1. One more adjoinder to this high rise vs quality of life conumdrum/argument.....if those wealthy Back Bay Blue Bloods (and of course others of the usually left-leaning political stripe) opposed to tall buildings equate "quality of life" with short buildings, then why are these people living in the City in the first place? As I have always said, too many residents of Boston are befuddled and are perplexed - they thought they were living in BOLTON!! The only high rises there are (and should be) only FARM silos of perhaps some 40-50 feet in height......if you don't like high rise structures, LEAVE the City...it's as simple as that.

    Posted by Ralph Centanni July 16, 09 04:39 PM
  1. Firefighter's nightmare.

    Posted by Ed Slaney July 18, 09 03:52 AM
  1. I moved from Boston to Singapore and its clear to me that Boston is crippling itself into oblivion. In Singapore there must be dozens of construction projects, while Boston maybe had a handful when I left. Singaporeans are building and thinking 50-75 years out, while Boston is thinking about themselves now. In Singapore you don't have to be a multimillionaire to live near the city center. 40 storey condos are the norm and its the smart thing to do. I lived in the North End where 3 people lived in a 3 storey mid rise. In retrospect its a greedy waste of space. Boston will soon be a city like Halifax Nova Scotia, a fun place to visit for nostalgia. Singapore is roughly the size of Boston, but with a population 8X the amount and everyone can live in a modest condo at a modest price. This is clearly a city looking at the future while Boston is worried about preserving the 'charm' of Marlborough ST. Boston needs to wake up because its already under a big shadow!

    Posted by Erik D. July 18, 09 05:26 AM
  1. For all you people touting affordability from high rises I do have sad news for you. Building up does not translate to lower rents. New York City, which the highest skyline in America, has by far the highest average rent in America at $2,553 a month ($30,606 a year). That's the whole city. The high rise dominated Manhattan is practically out-of reach for most modest income households. It's cheaper to live in a McMansion in Connecticut or on Long Island and communte than it is to live in an apartment in New York.

    Posted by Get the Facts First July 18, 09 07:33 AM
  1. Tall buildings cost too much to build to ever be a viable housing option for most people. But if the wealthy want to live in them rather than spread out across the suburban landscape, it seems that is an environmental plus. They don't really bother me one way or the other.

    Posted by Bob July 18, 09 08:36 AM
  1. Empty luxury living skyscrapers are especially efficient! There are about ten of them in Boston now.

    Posted by mmennonno July 18, 09 11:12 AM
  1. I think they should build 770-foot towers in Belmont, Weston, and Wellesley. That way the folks who want the prestigious skyline can have it up close.

    The thing which has held Boston back for 15 years isn't the lack of tall buildings, it's the outrageous cost of living driven by insane housing costs. This has been the leading cause of population loss, and business flight to "greener" pastures (which fuels unemployment, leading to greater population loss).
    New urban housing doesn't have to be either luxury condos of slum projects. The real need in metro Boston is for affordable, quality housing to reverse this trend. If you really want to talk about housing density, the same process has been going on in the suburbs, as affordable homes are clear-cut to make room for mcmansions. None of this has benefited metro Boston, and building massive luxury towers on the waterfront will only contribute to the city's decline.

    Posted by your name July 18, 09 11:38 AM
  1. Building vertically will give you some ideas of companies in which to invest....
    1. Booster pumps for water supply and fire suppression
    2. Elevators running nearly 24/7
    3. Security cameras
    4. Private security companies

    A couple of thugs infiltrating a residential high rise and thwarting security can do a lot of damage. Police and EMT would surely enjoy repeated visits to residential highrises.

    Posted by cincykid July 18, 09 12:47 PM
  1. It would be better to ask where tall buildings belong.

    I believe this is obvious: with central Boston, they belong near other tall buildings. Out in the burbs, put them at a train station, next to an office park or in Framingham. The above suggestion of moving Fenway Park is smart -- it's no longer neccessary for the ballpark to be downtown and it would be a great place for a tall residential building. Given the tiny size of central Boston, we have more options near but not in it.

    The few we have are downtown, and there's room for a few more. Putting them in a small scale residential neighborhood is just a means of wealth transfer. The 30 story thing gains value from being in a 5 floor neighborhood. Were it among 20 similar bulidings nobody would want to live there; the advantage is being the one huge ugly building. The process is screw the existing property owners and residents and make one scrap of land (the one under the monster building) worth more by sucking value out of the other ones.

    Back Bay, if you take walk though it, is a neighborhood whose strength is the consistent building line, the setbacks, and the 'just right' density and scale. The difference between blocks with the original buidings and those after WWII hits you even if you don't live there. The orignials were built *to be lived it*. Each was a bit different, but the roof edges all line up and the building side-ends meet. They look like they all want to get along and compete for style points. The later one, with "free" zoning or whatever happened after the war, and just the largest thing a developer could stick onto a lot. The design criteria was greed, so the absentee owner can move to some neighborhood they haven't wrecked yet --- or maybe the developer was a pig who wouldn't notice anyway.


    Posted by bubba July 18, 09 12:57 PM
  1. I'm stunned by these comments. I love Boston because it's *not* Manhattan. I was away from Boston for years, and when I came back and saw all the new high-rises on Clarendon and Dartmouth and Boylston (e.g. the Mandarin), I thought it was horrible. From unique and human-scaled, Boston is becoming just another Corbusier nightmare. Why do you think property values are so high in Back Bay and Beacon Hill? Why do you think the tourists throng to Newbury and Comm Ave, or Charles Street, whereas the canyons of the rising South End are empty nights and weekends?

    Posted by Jeffski July 18, 09 01:42 PM
  1. Nothing is LESS efficient than density.

    The humans who are most in harmony with the planet are the native tribal peoples across the globe, who live in small communities with plenty of room to stretch out.

    These people live sustainable lifestyles, with minimal Carbon Footprints.

    Skyscrapers are environmental rapists. They require enormous expeditures in their construction and maintenance. They have low quality of life.

    But I do believe the Government wants us all in them. They want to keep us corralled and under control, like dogs in a kennel. Skyscrapers make that easy.

    Posted by SalemCat July 18, 09 03:38 PM
  1. Sprawl HELPS the environment.

    In these days of Computers and the Internet, I can hardly think of a single job that needs to be located Downtown.

    There are many inexpensive, efficient locations throughout the Suburbs. If the jobs in Boston were relocated OUT, traffic would be greatly diminished. Businesses would save money, and everyone's lives would improve.

    There is no longer any need for 10,000 people to be working in a single building. This is 2009, not 1909 !


    Posted by SalemCat July 18, 09 03:55 PM
  1. build for the future, not Boston's parochial past and present.

    Posted by bigtimebeaver July 18, 09 04:46 PM
  1. I think there is alot of open space to build in Roxbury. The waterfront should be saved, like parks and forests, to benefit the public, not private enterprise. Roxbury/Dorchester could use the lift in real estate development and quality of building. Every new office building government building, hospital, and court house should be built in Roxbury area. Let's build up the rest of the city, not just a few square miles in downtown area.

    Posted by bob July 18, 09 06:18 PM
  1. 'GB' wrote: "tall buildings can create undesirable unanticipated local effects."

    LOL.....That really nails it down. I think this might be more accurate: Unwarranted resistance to progress can create undesirable unanticipated local effects.

    'GB' wrote: The only people who will truly benefit are the developers (it would not surprise me if they have tax or other monetary incentive to build), the realtors (who must salivating over the prospect of selling units)..........

    OMG!!!!.....Those EVIL EVIL capitalists!!!! THROW THEM ALL IN JAIL!!!!

    Posted by Backinthesaddle July 18, 09 06:27 PM
  1. Boston is a second or third rate city at best... we do not have a vibrant, expandable airport; nor a busy, functioning harbor, our architecture is pedestrian. Our subway system shuts down at midnight... where other 'world-class' cities stay open all night long... Boston will not be among United States cities to flourish in the years ahead... too provincial. The universities are in Cambridge, the biotechs and pharma companies are in Cambridge and along the 128/95 and 495 areas. This being said, Boston should build up ASAP to have any hope of being considered a top US city. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, San Francisco, LosAngeles, Charlotte, Phoenix and New York City all put Boston to shame in many key infrastructure and 'world-class' attributes.

    Posted by Steve Barylick July 18, 09 08:40 PM
  1. I agree. Building tall and skinny takes up less space and still have a nice amount of people living in it. If we really do care about the enviroment and the safety of wild animals then we need to start expanding upward. Simple as that. Of course there are some people who don't like tall buildings but really what's not to like. Skyscrapers provide shelter for us while not taking up as much land. So as I said before if we wan't to save our enviroment we nee to think tall.

    Posted by qazwsx November 28, 09 03:39 PM
 
About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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