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Vertical McMansions in Charlotte?

Vertical McMansions in Charlotte?   47 members have voted

  1. 1. Is Charlotte building Vertical McMansions?

    • No - are you crazy
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    • Yes - finally someone said it
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    • I'm not sure
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Are Charlotte's signature highrise towers being built or proposed for the center city, Vertical McMansions? While skyscraper supporters may scoff at this idea, it is a valid question given that UrbanPlanet is a site devoted to the city and urban environment and not just skyscraper promotion. More times than not, and it is very evident in Charlotte's history, skyscrapers have hurt the urban fabric of the city which is the reason for exploring this topic.

So why would a tower be considered a vertical McMansion? The question comes from the fact that McMansions are considered by most, that come to a site like UrbanPlanet, to be testimates to excessive living.

McMansions are not liked by urbanists because they are considered:

  • Unsustainable, i.e. a huge expense of resources for a small number of people.

  • They are exclusive. Many are isolated behind locked gates with guards.

  • They are designed to isolate people from the community.

  • Marketed to top 5% of wage earners of any demographic. Middle class and blue collar workers forget it.

  • Favorite of property speculators and house flippers looking to make a quick buck.

  • They are often constructed of trendy elements with low cost materials that don't stand the test of time.

  • There is no logical reason for such a structure to exist. They appeal to vanity rather than need.

Most people at this site and on other sites who are looking to better the urban fabric of cities will agree these are some of the negatives that McMansions bring to the community. However why are not the the same questions raised when a developer wants to build a signature tower?

A signature tower, is a tower that is built for reasons other than the need to maximize the use of very limited available land for building. This is obviously not a problem in Charlotte as there is plenty of land available for construction in and around the center city. (For the purposes of this discussion a tower is defined as something over 20 stories.) In fact there are still single family detached homes under construction in Charlottes CBD which is amazing considering that a few blocks away there are proposals for 50+ story residentail towers. The signature moniker definately applies.

If you look at the list of failings of McMansions above, the argument could be made the current set of proposals and projects for residential towers in downtown Charlotte are nothing more than moving the McMansion to the center city and in the long run will do nothing to build a real community of people. Developers are going to create projects that they feel will make the most money for them and/or create prestige. This is what developers do and results range from cul de sac sprawl and new urbanism. Its up to the local politicians and their planning boards to decide if those plans are consistant for what they want to see in a city. Have the planners in Charlotte, who are approving these buildings looking at this element, or are they approving these projects because it is simply more important to have high towers, no matter what they do for the city?

So the question of this topic are Charlotte's signature towers, vertical McMansions?

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Nope. They're luxury condominiums, plain and simple. People that can afford the best, want the best, be it a McMansion in Ballantyne, a stately home on Queens Rd, or the penthouse at the Vue. Lots of things other than homes are marketed specifically to the top 5% demographic (like Mercedes and Lexus, for example). If I were making $500,000+ per year, you can bet I'm not shopping for a fixer-upper in Chantilly. Some of the points made here about true McMansions really don't apply to these towers at all. For example, we want to build density and population in our center city. I don't see how putting 600+ people on a 1/4 acre of land works against that. True, they are exclusive. But so is my home. So is yours. Do you (no one specific here) allow people to breeze through your yard and or home at free will? Putting more people downtown and therefore on the streets and supporting local business could hardly be considered isolating people from the community. Flippers? Yes, but then again you have that in single family developments too. Lastly, I don't consider concrete/steel construction, hardwoods, granite, and Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances to be trendy or flimsy design elements at all.

It's like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Build a single family home outside the city and charged with contributing to sprawl. Purchase a condo downtown and you're considered elitist. I'm just gonna go live under a bridge.

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When I hear "McMansion", i typically think of infill houses maxed out to setbacks and towering over other homes in the neighborhood - basically out of scale. The truth is, people determine a house to be a "mcMansion" simply because they are jealous of the bigger, better looking house than theirs. When thinking in those terms, its difficult to draw any comparison ito the uptown condo hi-rises.

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I see the train of thought that produced this, and I have the same concerns about the Charlotte high rise condo trend, namely that they're built for the top 5% of the market and don't typically approach the street in a friendly manner.

During my west coast vacation last year I read an interesting article in the Seattle version of Creative Loafing about downtown growth in Seattle versus that in Vancouver, and how while both are heavily invested in high rise condo living, the way each city planned it produced different results. While just a paraphrase here the two main examples used for the differences between the two cities were setback from the street and what the bottom 3-4 floors consist of. The article generalized that a lot of Seattle development involved building right up to the sidewalk and typically used the ground floors for retail and restaurants whereas the Vancover development basically requires something like a 10 meter 'front yard' even for high rise developments and that to put townhome or low rise condos facing the street.

Having walked around both cities extensively there is some validity to the points made in the article - downtown Seattle/Belltown feels distictly more urban and city-like - there aren't a lot of trees in the downtown area and while there are a lot of street level shops and cafes along with very good pedestrian traffic the overall impression is less friendly than Vancover, where restaurants/retail in the downtown/West End/Yaletown are typically confined to a few main streets which are easily walking distance from the quieter and usually tree lined residential streets. While decidedly dense and urban, it feels much more 'suburban' or 'inner ring neighborhood' than Seattle's downtown residential development.

Where I'm going with this - Charlotte's recent downtown developments are reminiscent of the 'Seattle style' from the article above. While currently devleopers seem to be pushing for as much density as they can get downtown, in my opinion they also need to realize that in order to build sustanability into the downtown area (i.e. - have all these young urban professional condo owners actually stay downtown once they eventually create families) it might be advantageous to plan for more green space and some more 'friendly' dense streets. Due to the townhomes and SFH in 3rd and 4th ward this is already present in downtown Charlotte, which is good, and Courtside has sometownhomes hanging off the side/back of the building, but I'd still like to see a street of high rise buildings with front yards...

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It is an interesting theory, but I think the comparisons between the two only go so far. I'm inclined to agree with you if construction quality is poor and if most units are dramatically larger than what is needed for human shelter. But high rises are mostly small units, building a world where people interact, walk, live in the heart of the city in smaller units, in buildings engineered to last. Typically things on opposite ends of spectrums have some similarities. But are still opposites.

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I'll add that land values are part of the equation. Highest and best use.

Charlotte's UMUD zoning also requires that most of these large high-rises have street-level amenities for all, not just for those who live in them. All under construction and proposed towers have street-level retail included in their plans. Further, neighborhoods such as Fourth Ward have strong home-owner organizatons that push developers to add these amenities when not included.

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Here's a question on the flip side of this coin:

Would you all be willing to live with an EFIS building with above-ground parking, little-or-no ground floor retail, few amenities, and a boxy, undistinctive design .... If it meant that middle class people could afford to live uptown?

My guess is there would be a split among the people here. Some would say "Absolutely, bring on the masses!" but others would complain that it's crappy architecture that doesn't deserve to get built.

I say there should be DOZENS of buildings like this in Charlotte. Leave the center (Trade / Tryon) for the expensive highrises, but in the periphery, there should be lots of 10ish-story, less distinctive, less expensive buildings. You certainly won't find a 50 story building covered in precast concrete with a swimming pool on the roof ever falling into the "affordable" category.

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What TurboCraig said.

Except for that bit about living under a bridge....I'm going back home to my "miniMcMansion."

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What you said metro is a very intuitive idea, and brings up a good question, how can we praise these condo towers, but yet put to shame such monstrocities of suburban living, are the both not examples of overthetop expressions of money? Do they both not stick out needlessly around much smaller buildings?

Well this is a good point, but its not neccessarily one that I personally agree with, there is a very large difference between mcmansions and condo towers, with exception of arlington, while i do like the arlington for its daring color and its location on south blvd, its very out of place, I think one day it'll blend in with it surroundings once the skyline starts going down south blvd along the LRT, however. The McMansion is a home, that practically goes within an inch of being against zoning, sometimes people will bring in dirt and put them on a hill, sometimes people will just make them 3 stories tall with an attic and a basement. McMansions usually are 4000 sq ft+ homes built on lots less than .40 acres, when they should be located on 1-2 acres. Somebody said that 3000+ was a mcmansion, thats not true 3000 sq feet can be put on .40 acres with reasonable setbacks, if this was a mcmansion I would be living in a mcmansion and I would ike to believe I am not my house is pre 2000. Mcmansions are about being the biggest thing on the block, but having to sacrifice good material to be the biggest and the best. McMansions and condo towers are pretty different, even tho there seems to be a pissing match between the vue and 210 trade about whos going to be the biggest on the block.

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If you are smart with money it's not for just 5% of the population at all. Maybe someone who doesn't feel the need to drive 8 gazillion miles a year? Who takes the money they would waste on a car and puts it toward a home.

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If you are smart with money it's not for just 5% of the population at all. Maybe someone who doesn't feel the need to drive 8 gazillion miles a year? Who takes the money they would waste on a car and puts it toward a home.

Couldn't have said it better myself

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Y'all are crazy. Just because things are expensive doesn't mean it is a "McMansion". And yes there are definately ugly McMansions in every American city, because something has a big front yard and a fence around i doesn't make a McMansion. BTW we shouldn't criticise people who have enough money to spend to build a big house in good taste. The prettiest neighborhoods aren't always those who are the most dense. I'd argue that the prettiest neighborhoods, Myers Park and Eastover, are pretty becuase they aren't dense. I agree totally with revitalize.

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Y'all are crazy. Just because things are expensive doesn't mean it is a "McMansion". And yes there are definately ugly McMansions in every American city, because something has a big front yard and a fence around i doesn't make a McMansion. BTW we shouldn't criticise people who have enough money to spend to build a big house in good taste. The prettiest neighborhoods aren't always those who are the most dense. I'd argue that the prettiest neighborhoods, Myers Park and Eastover, are pretty becuase they aren't dense. I agree totally with revitalize.

A McMansion is a structure that occupies nearly all of the space it is allowed, destroys the continuity of a residential neighborhood by replacing a more normal-looking residential home and is occupied by very few people given its size.

These condo towers are built on what is usually an unoccupied parking lot and, for the space each one takes up on the ground, is occupied by a huge number of different people.

The only basis left to analogously dislike the condo buildings as some type of "McMansion" is class envy. Although the term "McMansion" probably is somewhat motivated by class envy created by a newcomer with more money moving into the neighborhood and putting pressure on everyone else's self-esteem, this is never stated as a rationale for the argument. And, it really shouldn't be. Even the most expensive penthouse in a condo is typically discrete about displaying wealth. You can hardly distinguish it, other than by its position and perhaps a larger balcony, from the other lower priced units. You know from experience it is expensive, but it isn't in your face and crowding your space like a four floor 16,000 square foot house on a .4 acre lot looming over all the others.

Two completely different concepts.

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The only basis left to analogously dislike the condo buildings as some type of "McMansion" is class envy.

Actually, that sounds more like a basis for people to dismiss criticism and change the discussion. Not that I give a crap about this particular discussion or anything, but ad hominems generally just create more noise.

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Actually, I think E7 was pretty succinct in his comparison. The discussion wasn't wasn't changed in any way.

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Actually, I think E7 was pretty succinct in his comparison. The discussion wasn't wasn't changed in any way.

Yeah but people get pissed when you mention class envy. Everyone has it to some extent, though, unless perhaps you're a Bhuddist Monk or something. It's funny, though, because it seems to embody itself in lots of other arguments but no one wants to admit the elephant in the room.

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Actually, I think E7 was pretty succinct in his comparison. The discussion wasn't wasn't changed in any way.

Except screaming class envy doesn't detract from the validity of any specific criticism. You can apply the same argument to anything. You oppose war in Iraq? You must be unamerican. You support gay rights? Well, you obviously want to abolish Christianity. You dislike rap music? You're racist.

All it does is confuse the topic.

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Actually, that sounds more like a basis for people to dismiss criticism and change the discussion. Not that I give a crap about this particular discussion or anything, but ad hominems generally just create more noise.

I had to look up ad hominem. But here's what it says: Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason: Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents' motives.

You might want to look up the definition of conclusory statement because you didn't apply any facts to your argument. Mine, on the other hand, had some analysis in it.

I'm speaking of a motivator for complaints about McMansions. That's not personal to me, envy's a very human emotion common to almost all people and a huge motivator for conflict. Especially when we're talking about huge ostentatious houses that have large "ego emissions" to steal from a VW commercial.

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Yeah but people get pissed when you mention class envy. Everyone has it to some extent, though, unless perhaps you're a Bhuddist Monk or something. It's funny, though, because it seems to embody itself in lots of other arguments but no one wants to admit the elephant in the room.

Well, I would also except out people that don't measure their worth by their material posessions. There are a few people like that around you know, though I admit the numbers are decreasing these days. And its really odd because it is the Western religions that preach against materialism.

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Except screaming class envy doesn't detract from the validity of any specific criticism. You can apply the same argument to anything. You oppose war in Iraq? You must be unamerican. You support gay rights? Well, you obviously want to abolish Christianity. You dislike rap music? You're racist.

All it does is confuse the topic.

So people don't resent others in their neighborhood with more money and a bigger house? Man, what planet do you live on.

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You might want to look up the definition of conclusory statement because you didn't apply any facts to your argument. Mine, on the other hand, had some analysis in it.

See my previous post for more explanation.

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So people don't resent others in their neighborhood with more money and a bigger house? Man, what planet do you live on.

Metro typed up a huge post drawing up possible parrallels of skyscrapers and "McMansions." He did this to start a conversation.

You said, "Nah, people are just jealous. That's all."

I said, "WTF does that have to do with anything? If you don't address the agument directly, you're not really proving a point."

You said, "LOL wut planet."

So, whatever.

Sorry about derailing the thread.

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A McMansion is a structure that occupies nearly all of the space it is allowed, destroys the continuity of a residential neighborhood by replacing a more normal-looking residential home and is occupied by very few people given its size.

These condo towers are built on what is usually an unoccupied parking lot and, for the space each one takes up on the ground, is occupied by a huge number of different people.

Two completely different concepts.

Actually, if you take out the "you're just jealous" part, you'll find E7 did address the parallels, or lack thereof as the case may be.

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Metro typed up a huge post drawing up possible parrallels of skyscrapers and "McMansions." He did this to start a conversation.

You said, "Nah, people are just jealous. That's all."

I said, "WTF does that have to do with anything? If you don't address the agument directly, you're not really proving a point."

You said, "LOL wut planet."

So, whatever.

Sorry about derailing the thread.

No I didn't just say "people are just jealous. That's all." I used that motivation in pointing out that the obnoxious display of wealth - creating envy - is a large part of what embodies people's hatred of McMansions. Did you not read anything after that one line raising the issue? The term ad hominem appears to object to general, dismissive arguments that have a broad conceptual appeal but no substance tied to specifics. I tied it to the specifics of the design and appearance of the house, the disruption of the fabric and appearance of the neighborhood, which is the equivalent of telling others at a cocktail party that you have more money than them.

I do know what types of arguments you're talking about and I agree that they are just meant to squelch discussion. That's not the case here.

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