GRDadof3

Should a city be judged by its tallest buildings...

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On 6/20/2018 at 11:10 PM, GRDadof3 said:

..or conversely, by how wide its highways are?

Asking this question in all seriousness, as I've gotten into some heated discussions about the "tallest buildings that a city has or has planned" in direct relation to its future prosperity, and even a city's  supply of super-wide freeways relating to its prosperity.  

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this...

 

This super-wide highways relating to prosperity should not be a thing. That is ridiculous.

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I think cities need a good "ground game" more than tall buildings. That is to say incredible street life, plenty of density, lots of interesting things  to look at, and places to shop and be entertained if you want to impress people from the outside these days.

Perception is everything. Right now,  sure,  GR lacks any really good tall buildings to define itself to the outside world on sight alone, but our street life is only "ok" and getting better by the month, but far too many parts of DT are still dead zones with only a hint of what could be.

 

Personally I would love to trade modest-height Riverhouse  for 24 smaller 3 story buildings that filled in the  gaps in the streetwall around DT. Outside of making a good photo, tall buildings really dont do much.

 

My fantasy is a city filled in from Hall St. all the way up to Riverside Park with 3-7 story buildings if it meant we never got a really tall building.

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6 hours ago, ZAP! said:

Was with you until that last statement. Why does everyone seem to hate that building with a burning passion?

I think everyone here likes the Keeler building—which is why we're frustrated that it remains vacant and in deteriorating condition.

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8 hours ago, demhem said:

This super-wide highways relating to prosperity should not be a thing. That is ridiculous.

It should not be a thing but it is a thing to many people.  Even though a lot of people don't like traveling on said super-wide highways. 

I do feel like when I'm driving on I-196 either West of town or East of town (where it's 2 lanes in each direction) I do feel like I'm in Battle Creek, Saginaw or Flint. 

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One thing that came to me this afternoon driving home. Do you think the hills make GR seem shorter than it actually is? When you drive into a lot of cities, you can see it from a distance and you drive into the city at ground level. Grand Rapids is pretty well hidden. 

Ive noticed that 601 Bond looks pretty “squat” at 196 and Lake drive, but when you’re crossing the river, you realize it’s a pretty substantial structure. 

I know we still don’t have dozens of 40+ story buildings, but I do think our skyline is a little deceiving from most angles. 

Joe

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Some taller buildings would help alleviate that, but then we're back to the tall buildings vs. streetscapes matter again.

Really I think a little bit of all really play into it.  We do need more of all of it. (Maybe not so much the highway thing, just in certain parts. While we're at it, some longer on-ramps on 131 sure would be nice and make me not afraid I'm going to crash into the wall one of these days)

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10 hours ago, joeDowntown said:

One thing that came to me this afternoon driving home. Do you think the hills make GR seem shorter than it actually is? When you drive into a lot of cities, you can see it from a distance and you drive into the city at ground level. Grand Rapids is pretty well hidden. 

Ive noticed that 601 Bond looks pretty “squat” at 196 and Lake drive, but when you’re crossing the river, you realize it’s a pretty substantial structure. 

I know we still don’t have dozens of 40+ story buildings, but I do think our skyline is a little deceiving from most angles. 

Joe

I place the blame for the lack of an impressive skyline squarely on the early settlers.  They should have had the foresight to see that building a downtown in the valley next to the river would cause this aesthetic problem.  They should have built the city center on Belknap  Hill.  Up there your typically short Grand Rapids twelve story buildings would look like Chicago skyscrapers.  Is it too late to do a sixties style urban renewal up there and start over?      

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12 hours ago, joeDowntown said:

One thing that came to me this afternoon driving home. Do you think the hills make GR seem shorter than it actually is? When you drive into a lot of cities, you can see it from a distance and you drive into the city at ground level. Grand Rapids is pretty well hidden. 

Ive noticed that 601 Bond looks pretty “squat” at 196 and Lake drive, but when you’re crossing the river, you realize it’s a pretty substantial structure. 

I know we still don’t have dozens of 40+ story buildings, but I do think our skyline is a little deceiving from most angles. 

Joe

I really like the valley feel to downtown Grand Rapids, even if it does steal about 100 feet off of every building. When you come into downtown on I-196 from the West it's one of the coolest views of a downtown that I have seen. I think Cincinnati is similar, but it's been a long time since I've been there. 

I doubt we'll ever see this but if downtown GR looked like downtown Austin that wouldn't be so bad. :) There are still several spots where skyscrapers could be built in the future: the convention center hotel, 5/3 Bank parking lot, post office site, MSU sites both North and South of I-196 (if they ever sell or partner), 201 Market, Market/Fulton, the old GRATA lot on North Division, Studio Park's phase II, the lot next to Hopcat where Tall House was going to be, any of the lots on the West Side of 131. 

529669364_Downtownskyscrapersites.thumb.jpg.2c851c5a0aab25aeff2a73f4382ea824.jpg

Ground level activity though has to be part of any of those. 

Downtown-Austin-Texas-1024x543.jpg

BTW here's a good example of a "pretty highway." 

Pedestrian paths along the highway: check

Stops for BRT/commuter buses: check

Nicely designed pedestrian bridge providing access to park-n-ride lot: check

HOV/carpool lane: check

Express lane: check

Non buckled potholed hellacious pavement: check

Mountains in background: we'll have to live without that. :)

https://goo.gl/maps/yujW1ZpKruP2

712108480_Denverboulderturnpike.thumb.JPG.8240f7b227c775ce62c318f7db3d69f1.JPG

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12 hours ago, joeDowntown said:

One thing that came to me this afternoon driving home. Do you think the hills make GR seem shorter than it actually is? When you drive into a lot of cities, you can see it from a distance and you drive into the city at ground level. Grand Rapids is pretty well hidden. 

Ive noticed that 601 Bond looks pretty “squat” at 196 and Lake drive, but when you’re crossing the river, you realize it’s a pretty substantial structure. 

I know we still don’t have dozens of 40+ story buildings, but I do think our skyline is a little deceiving from most angles. 

Joe

You can actually see DT GR from the highway in Holland Twp. on a clear day when the sun is to the west. Riverhouse is easily visible from almost Standale. While on the other side, only the top of the Amway is visible from Lake Dr. and Diamond. DT is virtually invisible to the eastern half of the city anywhere else.

If DT, and most of GR, were on a relatively even elevation, you could likely see the entire skyline from past the E. Beltline easily.

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I agree. I like that Grand Rapids is hilly, but from a view perspective, it it does get swallowed up by the glacial banks of the Grand River. Just came to me that maybe people would have a different perspective if it were on flat ground. 

Our expressways are also elevated throughout downtown (except at the river crossing of 196. In chicago, Denver, etc. much of the expressway is at or below grade. It gives it a different feel driving in. Of course, Chicago also has some of the largest buildings in the US. Not comparing that part, but we’ve had discussions about what it’d be like if 131 were below grade, with the streets passing over (and connecting the west side with the rest of the city. I wonder what a difference that would make driving into the city. 

In the end, we have what we have, and I really like it. Always room for improvement but GR is not a shoddy city by any means. :)

Joe

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21 hours ago, GRDadof3 said:

 

529669364_Downtownskyscrapersites.thumb.jpg.2c851c5a0aab25aeff2a73f4382ea824.jpg

Even more spots than that if you include small buildings without much historic value that could be razed, and parking ramps that could be rebuilt with towers on top of them. Plus there's a lot of smaller lots that could still hold buildings of significant height.

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While slightly outside of the area we're looking at, I've long thought that the north end of the block bordered by Ottawa/Fairbanks/Ionia/I-196 would be a good place for a 15-20 story residential building. Or does MSU own it?

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5 hours ago, ZAP! said:

With regards to the idea that Grand Rapids is running out of building space (for skyscrapers or otherwise)...

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1DUhJQdqjpu-1W6DWZR8pXe9RWJe88Qov&usp=sharing

 

Fair enough, although I don't think that necessarily because there's a surface lot that it would be an appropriate place for a high-rise. :)

4 hours ago, getemngo said:

While slightly outside of the area we're looking at, I've long thought that the north end of the block bordered by Ottawa/Fairbanks/Ionia/I-196 would be a good place for a 15-20 story residential building. Or does MSU own it?

I don't think MSU owns it (yet). That would work there I think. 

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54 minutes ago, GRDadof3 said:

Fair enough, although I don't think that necessarily because there's a surface lot that it would be an appropriate place for a high-rise. :)

I was just trying to be comprehensive. ;)

I don't think all or even most of these can become the next pre-haircut 10 Ionia, but I'd still say there are more than enough contiguous areas of parking lot, single-storey building, and 2-or-so-level parking ramp that could be, especially the ones on Ionia and Division between Crescent and Fulton.

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I wouldn't say that height is the measure of a prosperous downtown. I would say that the quality of the buildings being built is though. Bland boxes popping up everywhere tells me that we're reactionary, lack creativity, and don't have the money needed to build quality structures. Orlando isn't known for its tall buildings, but they have some nice looking 15-20 story buildings. The upcoming development on the river proposed by the Indianapolis firm is the first creative looking large development since the JW, IMHO.  I like the New Holland development, but that's smaller scale.

As for highways...I believe investment in infrastructure is telling of leaders being aware of the needs/demands of their area. The demand is high for three lane highways throughout Grand Rapids and its suburbs, yet we will likely never achieve this because our state doesn't seem interested in satisfying the needs of West Michigan's commuters. Lansing is stuck in an era where Detroit was king and Grand Rapids was some backwater city. Investment of state dollars reflects this mindset.

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On 6/23/2018 at 10:41 AM, GRDadof3 said:

I really like the valley feel to downtown Grand Rapids, even if it does steal about 100 feet off of every building. When you come into downtown on I-196 from the West it's one of the coolest views of a downtown that I have seen. I think Cincinnati is similar, but it's been a long time since I've been there. 

I doubt we'll ever see this but if downtown GR looked like downtown Austin that wouldn't be so bad. :) There are still several spots where skyscrapers could be built in the future: the convention center hotel, 5/3 Bank parking lot, post office site, MSU sites both North and South of I-196 (if they ever sell or partner), 201 Market, Market/Fulton, the old GRATA lot on North Division, Studio Park's phase II, the lot next to Hopcat where Tall House was going to be, any of the lots on the West Side of 131. 

529669364_Downtownskyscrapersites.thumb.jpg.2c851c5a0aab25aeff2a73f4382ea824.jpg

Ground level activity though has to be part of any of those. 

Downtown-Austin-Texas-1024x543.jpg

 

Austin is the perfect example of what a growing mid-size city should develop into. One large central tower surrounded by a host of mid-size towers that actually have some thought put into their designs. Most of the buildings in Austin aren't huge, but they are beautiful.

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7 hours ago, GRLaker said:

Austin is the perfect example of what a growing mid-size city should develop into. One large central tower surrounded by a host of mid-size towers that actually have some thought put into their designs. Most of the buildings in Austin aren't huge, but they are beautiful.

Nobody probably cares, but me here. :)  But that's an old skyline shot (~2015) .  There's a new tallest and a lot of other towers that have gone up since then.

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6 hours ago, The ATX said:

Nobody probably cares, but me here. :)  But that's an old skyline shot (~2015) .  There's a new tallest and a lot of other towers that have gone up since then.

If GR had that skyline....I would love it. Make sure to focus on density and street life and Boom...perfection.

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14 hours ago, The ATX said:

Nobody probably cares, but me here. :)  But that's an old skyline shot (~2015) .  There's a new tallest and a lot of other towers that have gone up since then.

There's a taller building than the Austonian now?

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18 hours ago, The ATX said:

Nobody probably cares, but me here. :)  But that's an old skyline shot (~2015) .  There's a new tallest and a lot of other towers that have gone up since then.

Unrelated, but stock photos of cities get it wrong often. We have a Roku, and the “screensaver” has a photo of the Chicago skyline that I estimate is at least 15 years old. :)

Joe

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4 hours ago, GRLaker said:

There's a taller building than the Austonian now?

The Independent condo tower that topped out in May is a few feet taller.  I have a thread about it in the Austin section.

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