The always excellent Blair Kamin has a good time calling out downtown’s most recent apartment building travesties. Aside from the one liners (“urbanization without urbanity”), this observation struck me:
“Since 1998, developers have completed or started construction on more than 160 buildings in Chicago’s greater downtown area that are at least 12 stories tall (the widely accepted definition of a high-rise), according to Gail Lissner, a vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors. That’s more high-rises than there are in all of Detroit (126), St. Louis (105) or Milwaukee (83), according to the Emporis building database. It means that Chicago has built the equivalent of an entire downtown in just 10 years. It’s also why there are fewer gaps in the skyline than there used to be.”
Kamen laments the fact that many of these buildings are hideous yuppie filing cabinets (“public housing for the rich”), and if you click through or just walk around you’ll see he’s got a point. On the other hand, these awful buildings, it would seem to follow, reduce the number of similarly cruddy townhouses in the more vibrant neighborhoods of the city, where there’s presumably a social benefit to keeping rents low. So while turning downtown into a visually characterless beige-and-glass jungle might be bad for postcards, there might be some benefit to the neighborhoods that make Chicago what it is.