Standing Tall Despite high-rise demise on 9-11, cities like San Francisco are feeling urge to tower above

first_imgbased Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The collapse of the World Trade Center “probably induced the largest introspective analysis of the whole typology that has ever happened – is this a viable part of our cities or is it not? And like it or not, that has resulted in a resounding yes.” Compared with the high-rises that were erected in the 1970s, the new crop of superskyscrapers are more likely to be residential or government-supported expressions of civic or even national pride than symbols of corporate wealth, according to Wood. The 150-story, 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire rising near the shores of Lake Michigan, for example, would be both the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. and the world’s tallest residential building. “Tall buildings are being used to project a certain status for a city on a world stage. That’s undoubtable,” Wood said. “For a city to be taken seriously on a local or domestic or international scale, they want to be seen to be keeping up with the times, and tall buildings are part of that.” Planners, real estate agents and sociologists say the trend shows that Americans are willing to trust recent engineering advances conceived to help buildings stand up to earthquakes and terrorist attacks – and that their fascination with all things oversized outweighs their fears of disasters, both natural and human-made. That especially became true as developing countries in the Middle East and Asia started putting up supertall skyscrapers that made the World Trade Center look average in comparison. “Everybody can be forgiven for having reactions after 9-11 that they want to reconsider today,” said Miami Art Museum Terence Riley, who as the architecture curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art put together a 2004 exhibit on skyscrapers. “Many people who had opinions like that saw the push to invent ever more technologically sophisticated, ever more high, tall buildings pass away from the United States, or at least appear to,” Riley said. “One of the things that really bothered people was that it was evident that other people in Taiwan and Malaysia were going to take off where we left off, and in the end of the day they weren’t going to let terrorists be that successful.” Brenda Calvin, a Las Vegas real estate agent who specializes in high-rise living, said customers who visit the city often but are tired of staying in hotels and want the convenience of 24-hour concierge service are snapping up condominiums like the ones under construction at the seven-tower MGM Mirage City Center. At up to 60 stories, the project’s residential buildings would be nearly twice as tall as the condos considered high by current Strip standards. “I have never heard anyone say, `You know, now that I’ve been in this building I don’t think I can do this,”‘ said Calvin, who lives on the eighth floor of a 21-story building. “I guess you can live your life and not fly on an airplane and not experience all the great things in the world out of fear, but that just doesn’t make sense.” Last month, an Australian gaming company submitted plans for a 1,888-foot hotel/casino that would rank as the nation’s second-tallest building. The Federal Aviation Administration is opposing the Crown Las Vegas, saying its height would pose a hazard to planes flying in and out of McCarran International Airport. Supporters of the taller, denser neighborhood that has been proposed in San Francisco, a city known in architecture circles as much for its anti-development attitudes as its skyline, know they also have a future fight on their hands. A regional transportation agency is scheduled to pick the winning design for the tower that would anchor the transit center on Thursday. The shortest of the three finalists would rise 350-feet above San Francisco’s own Transamerica Pyramid. It would outreach the West’s reigning top story, the 1,018-foot U.S. Bank Tower building in downtown L.A. Anti-skyscraper sentiment has a long history in the city; voters passed a ballot initiative 21 years ago that created the country’s first annual limit on high-rise development and required the local government to make neighborhood character and small businesses two of its top planning priorities. To get around the height restrictions, city officials would have to rezone 25 blocks near the current downtown where much of the land is located on soft soil that is especially unstable during earthquakes. To overcome opposition, backers of the Transbay Tower and a pair of proposed 1,200-foot-tall buildings nearby that would also be among the nation’s 20-tallest buildings are playing the green card. They argue that concentrating so many jobs and apartments so close to mass transit would keep commuters from driving into the city and lessen the need for development elsewhere, a concept known as “eco-density.” “None of this is going to happen unless a majority of people in the community want it to happen,” Metcalf said. “My hope is that the environmental values of San Francisco will trump the conservatism of the city about change. And time will tell.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! By Lisa Leff THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SAN FRANCISCO – The rivalry between Los Angeles and San Francisco permeates life in California, infiltrating debates on everything from sports and weather to cuisine and water consumption. When it comes to competing for the West Coast’s tallest building, though, few would expect this city to enter the fray, much less end up on top. Yet here in the land of earthquakes and cafe culture, plans are unfolding for not just the loftiest skyscraper on the coast, but the three highest high-rises west of the Mississippi River. All are part of a proposed downtown neighborhood to be built around a regional bus and train terminal – a Grand Central Station of the West – that is being promoted as an environmentally sensible magnet for development. “What it will mean for San Francisco to have its tallest building be the Transbay Terminal tower is a statement that our highest value is ecology,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a local public policy think tank. “It will be this exclamation mark saying the most important location in our city is the transit center.” Six years after many architects and urban planners predicted the indelible images of Sept. 11, 2001, would stifle Americans’ enthusiasm for iconic skyscrapers, San Francisco is not the only U.S. city where the landscape is moving up. Instead, fueled by high land costs, disenchantment with suburban sprawl and urban one-upmanship, the nation is experiencing its biggest high-rise construction boom in decades. From Miami and Las Vegas to Chicago and New York, buildings that would either eclipse or stand spire-to-spire with the 1,250-foot- tall Empire State Building are promising to reshape skylines. The 1,200-to-1,375-foot-tall tower that is supposed to help finance and attract riders to San Francisco’s new public transportation hub is one of 11 buildings nationwide either planned or under construction that, if completed, would make the list of the 20 tallest buildings in the United States. “Many people thought 9-11 would sound the death knell for tall buildings, and it’s been the opposite,” said Antony Wood, executive director of the Chicago- last_img

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