Building heights in the 68-square-mile (176-square-km) area are determined by the width of the street on which a structure fronts. The maximum height is 130 feet (40 meters), with some exceptions.The result is a distinctive low-lying skyline that showcases historic monuments and distinctive landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol, National Cathedral and the Old Post Office. The tallest structure is the Washington Monument, which stands at the center of the Mall and is about 555 feet (169 meters) high.
The National Capital Planning Commission recommended leaving intact the federal height rules for the part laid out in the 18th century. The area of wide avenues and traffic circles is home to the White House, National Mall and museums.
The commission left open the possibility that buildings in the area developed beyond the city’s original layout can be higher – but only after additional study and as long as they did not interfere with federal interests.
Another article I saw about this suggested this would restrict growth in Washington, a city whose suburban counties are growing in both population and wealth. Without opportunities for taller buildings in the city, money that could go to the city through property and sales taxes will instead go elsewhere.
But, taller buildings in or near the National Mall would change it quite a bit. These height restrictions are reminiscent of a more traditional kind of architecture. For example, New Urbanists often suggest linking building heights to a particular ratio compared to the width of the streets to create a more comfortable feeling. Contrast the National Mall with the experience of midtown Manhattan, a place busy and interesting but also full of concrete canyons and structures that tower over anything going on in the streets. These two areas serve different purposes but the experiences are quite different.
What does the subway look like in North Korea? See pictures here.
The underground stations are ornate but dimly lit: patrons squint to read posted newspapers while patriotic music echoes faintly across the stone floor. Most of the 16 public stations (there are rumors of secret, government-use-only networks) were built in the 1970s, but the most grandiose halls – Puhoong and Yonggwang – were constructed in 1987. Mosaics and metallic reliefs extolling the virtues of North Korean workers and landscapes line the walls.
The subway cars were acquired from Germany, and despite a green and red makeover, the remnant graffiti scratched into windows and paneling belies their past lives. And as with every other public and private space throughout the country, portraits of past leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il look down from the ends of each car, smiling and ever-present.
It would be interesting to hear more about the number of people who use this system and what parts of the city are served. In theory, shouldn’t more socialistic/totalitarian states have better mass transit systems? Countries that emphasize individualism and consumerism, like the United States, might be more open to transportation options, like cars, that support or enable these values. But, countries that have more communal or equality rhetoric could pour more resources into methods that would help move great numbers of people efficiently.
McMansions have particular exterior and interior features, including the ability to store all sorts of things in their spacious kitchens:
If you live in a sprawling McMansion, the sky is the limit when it comes to holiday gifts for the cook and the kitchen. But if, like me, you live in a house or apartment with limited storage space, kitchen gadgets, tools, appliances and even cookbooks must be carefully considered. There just isn’t room in my kitchen and pantry for anything that isn’t vital or that doesn’t get used regularly.
So, for this 2013 edition of the Gift Guide, I offer up some items that any cook would be happy to find under the tree on Christmas. They are all items that I own—and, most importantly, use.
McMansions may often be criticized for having too much space (and perhaps this space is apportioned poorly), but how many owners of new homes want small kitchens? If anything, the trend in recent decades has been toward bigger kitchens that offer plenty of storage, prep space, room for large appliances, space for people to gather, and space to see into or connect with other rooms. An interesting experiment would be to offer much smaller homes – since the average new home is around 2,500 square feet, maybe we’ll say 1,500 or smaller – but keep the kitchen large and shrink the other rooms. Just how much would people trade for a bigger kitchen?
A related question: does the average McMansion kitchen provide better quality food because of its space?
Naperville likes its public art so it is not surprising to see that a memorial for a deadly 1946 train crash is in the planning stage:
In 1946, two trains crashed at the Naperville station and killed 45 people, including some military personnel returning from World War II…
Plans are moving forward to place a sculpture as a memorial near the site of the train wreck. The project would be installed on the day after the 68th anniversary of the April 25 crash. The memorial would honor those who died and recognize heroic rescue efforts on that Thursday afternoon in 1946 when the Exposition Flyer, a passenger train heading west from Chicago, plowed into the Advance Flyer, which had made an unscheduled stop at the Naperville station to check mechanical problems.
About 125 people were injured in the crash.
“It’s a story that I bet 95 percent of the people in Naperville don’t know about,” said W. Brand Bobosky, president of Century Walk Corp., a public-private partnership that has installed dozens of sculptures related to the city’s history in and around downtown.
This was a large incident, even among a metropolitan region full of railroad lines (which leads to some smaller accidents), lots of freight moving through the area, and high commuter counts in places like Naperville. To some degree, perhaps it is remarkable train crashes don’t happen more often given the number of at-grade crossings as well as the number of trains.
The majority of the statues and public art in Naperville celebrate important figures, reinforcing the narrative of the suburb’s impressive community spirit as well as it is remarkable growth. At the same time, there is currently a 9/11 memorial along the south side of the Riverwalk. This new memorial might be the first to commemorate tragedy that occurred within Napeville itself. Is building a memorial a signal of the maturity of a suburb (that may or may not be related to how much time has passed or the size of the community)?
Aconsequence of this crash, according to Wikipedia, was that it contributed to lower train speeds in the United States:
This crash is a major reason why most passenger trains in the United States only travel at a speed limit of 79 mph (127 km/h) or below. The CB&Q, Milwaukee Road, and Illinois Central were among railroads in the region running passenger trains at up to and above 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) in the 1930s and 1940s. The Interstate Commerce Commission ruled in 1951 that trains traveling faster must have “an automatic cab signal, automatic train stop or automatic train control system”, expensive technology that was implemented on some lines in the region, but has since been mostly removed.
An interesting legacy.
Sports writer reviews new book “A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America”
This emerging theory is reflected in a book about to be released, “A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America,” by Jacqueline Jones, a highly regarded University of Texas historian. Your columnist just finished an advance copy, and was impressed — the volume may have a lasting impact on American thought.
Jones persuasively argues that the wealthy and powerful of previous centuries were obsessed with holding back the poor. Pretending blacks represent a different “race” than whites created an excuse, she contends, for the well-off to mistreat blacks; and also a lever to prevent poor blacks and poor whites from joining in common cause. Whites “fashioned their own identity by contrasting themselves to blacks,” Jones writes, ingraining the concept that skin color is somehow fundamentally different from all the other cosmetic distinctions among persons, then using the biases to prevent blacks from achieving the education and economic power that would disprove racial assumptions.
“A Dreadful Deceit” is one of those books that may succeed more because it coincides with developments in public thought, than because of being a great work. Jones employs the “storytelling” structure that is all the rage in academia, which posits that because minorities and women of the past were marginalized, they can be understood only through their personal narratives. This may be true; the trouble is that for every personal narrative of oppression, there is a personal narrative of someone who was not mistreated. Grand themes of history, one of which Jones claims to have discovered, need more than anecdotes, however compelling. Jones also comes perilously close to contending, “Race is an imaginary concept for which the white race should be blamed.”…
Such faults aside, “A Dreadful Deceit” may put into the national conversation the notion that categorizing by “race” is an obsolescent idea. Skin color tells nothing more about a person than eye color; there is simply one human race. That is a powerful, progressive idea.
Sounds like an interesting book. However, I wonder if it could be used to justify a color blind view: if everyone is more or less the same genetically, why talk about race at all? Even if race is socially constructed, it continues to have real ramifications.
On a separate note, I must say I enjoy sports writers who can also converse intelligently about a broad range of academic topics. Gregg Easterbrook does this quite well but most do not. Bill Simmons has too much pop culture and often acts like he wants to be viewed as smart rather than actually is learned. The typical big-city newspaper columnist will often make reference to social issues but does so in a ham-handed way. Think Rick Reilly who often uses personal narratives to try to make a bigger point. Too often, sports writers acts like sports are the main things that matter – and the rest of life supports it.
What if buildings designed by noted architects were turned into Walmarts or casinos or gas stations? Check out the images here.
While the proposed changes are unique, I’m more interested in what counts for potentially ruining these buildings. Walmart is a good store to pick as it stands for mass consumerism, big box designs, suburbs, and cheap goods. Imagine it another way: would any renowned architect agree to design a Walmart? Gas stations are a common part of the landscape but are rarely known for any great design as they hope to fit in as many cars as possible as quickly as possible. Casinos might be glitzy but they can have a seedy image, no matter how much glass and how many shiny objects are used. I’m a little surprised we don’t see more brands in these designs, perhaps a McDonald’s or a Home Depot or some other mass market company, as this would highlight the differences between well-known brands and their common lack of much architectural style.
Another thought: are there any big brands right now that are known for good or notable architecture? I’m not talking just about interior features but rather a company-wide ethos that would define numerous locations.
“You have the technology that can help the most difficult part of delivery: The last-mile problem. You have a lightweight package going to a single destination. You cannot aggregate packages. It’s still way too complicated and expensive. It’s very energy inefficient,” Raptopoulous sad. “UAVs or drones deal with the problem of doing this very efficiently with extremely low cost and high reliability. It’s the best answer to the problem. The ratio of your vehicle to your payload is very low.”
Part of the argument is that our current last-mile delivery system can seem kind of ridiculous, at least from an energy efficiency point of view.
As Raptopoulous put it: “In the future, we think it’s going to make more sense to have a bottle of milk delivered to your house from Whole Foods rather than get in your car and drive two tons of metal on a congested road to go get it.”
Of course, we could also build walkable neighborhoods that don’t require driving as often as we do, but walkability requires density—and even places like San Francisco sometimes balk at the sorts of buildings that entails. And we’ve got a lot of low-density infrastructure in place that isn’t going away anytime soon.
The conclusion here seems to be that building walkable neighborhoods would be a good solution but untenable in lots of places because many Americans don’t want that kind of density. I suspect New Urbanists and others would argue with that conclusion though adding density to urban and suburban neighborhoods does tend to bring out NIMBY responses.
So perhaps we could see these drones or cars as concessions to what Americans want: more privacy in their residences, more space, and to find technological solutions to get around the effect these kinds of neighborhoods produce. As the article notes, having lots of flying and landing drones could lead to problems but this might be preferable to asking people to live in different kinds of places.
Sellers and his colleagues analyze the political characteristics of cities and suburbs across many advanced nations. Sellers’s own chapter covers the U.S., and it includes some eye-opening insights. While most previous research has looked mainly at states and counties, Sellers has developed a detailed data set on the municipalities that make up America’s metro regions. He tracks the political geography of the 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections across twelve U.S. metros with populations of at least 450,000: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, Fresno, Birmingham, Syracuse, Wichita, and Kalamazoo.
Democrats have a “decisive” advantage in dense, urban localities and poorer, majority-minority suburbs. In the affluent suburbs, Sellers explains, “Republicans enjoy an analogous, if less dramatic” advantage. He notes that “a pervasive divide separates the Republican low density areas of metropolitan peripheries from the Democratic urban centres and minority suburbs.” At the broad metropolitan level, votes follow the same red/blue, rich/poor pattern identified by Larry Bartels and Andrew Gelman at the state level. Sellers found that municipalities with educated and affluent voters tended to vote with their state’s winners – they voted more Republican in red states and more Democratic in blue states.
With these bases locked down, the key political footballs – the new “swing states,” so to speak – are the swelling ranks of economically distressed suburbs, where poverty has been growing and where the economic crisis hit especially hard. There are now more poor people living in America’s suburbs than its center cities, and as a recent Brookings Institution report found, both Republican and Democratic districts have been affected by this reality…
America’s new metropolitan geography is overlaid by one additional factor: voter participation. Turnout levels have ranged between 52 and 62 percent over the past several national elections. Even though Democrats have the clear advantage in raw numbers, Republicans dominate the kinds of communities where people are more likely to actually vote. Turnout, Sellers finds, tends to be higher in GOP strongholds – the more affluent, highly educated suburbs and low-density rural and exurban areas, all places with higher levels of home-ownership.
These economically distressed suburbs, often inner-ring suburbs adjacent to big cities but also more far-flung places that are more working class and not as dependent on white-collar and professional work, may hold more than just the political key to metropolitan regions. While wealthier residents batten down the hatches in nicer suburbs and trendy urban neighborhoods, what happens to the majority of residents who face fewer prospects?
It’s as if there is an invisible wall running through the middle of Chicago, along Western Avenue all the way south of Montrose. When buyers of million dollar homes specify their search criteria they will often specify that they want to stay east of Western Avenue – or if they specify Ukrainian Village, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Roscoe Village, or St. Ben’s those neighborhoods technically stop at Western Avenue so again you are staying east of Western. And it almost doesn’t matter anyway because over the last 7 years there have been very few homes above $1 MM for sale west of Western anyway as you can see in the map below. It’s pretty dramatic isn’t it?
What could be behind this?
Well, for one you are typically getting further away from public transportation options as you move west. But then again public transportation isn’t really that much more accessible just east of Western than it is just west of Western. If you can’t walk to the el stop in 10 minutes in January you may not feel like you have good access to public transportation regardless of which side of Western you live on.
The other thing that happens as you cross Western Avenue is that you cross into a few lower income census tracts. For example if you look at the heat map from RichBlocksPoorBlocks.com you will see that there are are a few sections of Western Avenue where the median household income drops pretty dramatically as you cross the street. In the map below as the color transitions to darker green median household income goes up and as it transitions to darker red it goes down. From Fullerton to Armitage the median income is $66K on the east side of the street but $35K on the west side of the street. And from Armitage to Bloomingdale it’s $107K vs. $66K. And then from Division to Chicago it’s $67K vs. $42K.
Might this change in the future?
There is no question that eventually the area west of Western will become populated with million dollar plus homes but at that point the disparity between the east and west sides of the street may persist and the east side may just be populated with homes priced well above $1 MM. And, regardless, it looks like that day is still several years into the future. In the meantime, if you are willing to be a pioneer you can definitely find cheaper living just a couple of blocks further west.
My interpretation: neighborhoods west of Western Avenue aren’t trendy or gentrifying yet and have different demographics. In other words, there isn’t demand yet among the creative class or young professionals for nicer housing west of Western.
This could lead to some discussion about the limits of gentrification on Chicago’s north side. Just how much can it expand? What happens when it moves out of hipper neighborhoods and comes up against more lower-class or non-white neighborhoods? Right now, there are some gentrifiers who want to live on that edge between the expensive homes and poorer neighborhoods, places they might consider more gritty or authentic. But, would large numbers of people move further west? And are there enough of them? (This, of course, doesn’t even consider the negative effects of gentrification which include making housing more unaffordable, a problem in a region that needs much more affordable housing, and white residents pushing out non-white residents.)
HSH Associates, a New Jersey-based publisher of mortgage industry data, took a stab at what it would take, incomewise, for buyers in 25 metro areas to be able to purchase a median-priced home, based on the demands of principal and interest payments.
Coming out on top (or on the bottom, depending on how you look at it): Cleveland, with an income of just $22,348 needed to put a set of house keys into your palm…
In calculating its ranking, HSH took the National Association of Realtors’ third-quarter median home price data, as well as its own figures on average interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, to estimate what homebuyers in 25 major metros would need to earn to purchase the median-priced home, he said…
At the top of the expense range was San Francisco, with an income of $125,072. Skipping around the middle of the list, HSH pegged the base line salary for Chicago at $37,078 (11th place); Minneapolis, at $37,115 (12th); Baltimore, at $46,623 (16th); Seattle, at $63,145 (19th); and New York, at $71,255 (22nd place). The full list is at hsh.com.
Quite a difference across cities. There are a lot of factors involved here including the availability of housing, the quality of housing, jobs available in the metropolitan regions, and incomes. Even then, there are huge differences within specific regions.
While these figures aren’t surprising, it is also a reminder of the difficulty of making cost-of-living calculations for the entire United States. On one hand, it might seem obvious to adjust for region or city because of the big differences in housing costs, which typically comprise a sizable amount of expenses. On the other hand, people do have some ability to move so they aren’t necessarily locked in to certain expenses. Yet, the ones who can best weather these cost-of-living differences are already wealthier and have more options.