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knoxster77

Is Boston maxed out on height?

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I visited Boston over New Years and thought it was a great town, but I was surprised by the size of many of the buildings in downtown. From a distance it seems that they are all about the same height. I imagined the city having a few extremely tall buildings or towers for be such a important and wealthy city I was curious to know if there is a height restriction for Boston. If anyone knows if this is the case please post it.

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I don't know the specifics, but Downtown's proximity to Logan Airport means that the FAA has a say in building heights. Boston's two tallest buildings (The Hancock and The Pru) are outside of Downtown in the Back Bay.

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This case about airplanes limiting the height of buildings is just like what's happening to San Jose's (Silicon Valley's) downtown core. (Or should I say bunch of buildings.) With the Int'l Airport directly north that means that airplanes fly over the skyline, a 27 story height limit (80-90m) has been put on all buildings. The city of San Jose has over 900,000 ppl and yet its downtown is like of a city of 100,000? It's core is atomic-sized for a city with that much ppl; the city sprawls a lot and looks like an overgrown suburb. It turns out to be just like what's happening in Boston. However, San Jose is proposing a second downtown out of the flight path north of this downtown which looks more urban; the city is still trying to make it look like a city. -_-

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Always wondered about that with Boston, I know up until the 1970s Philly had a same restriction (city hall's spire was the limit), SF I have heard has height restrictions due mainly to NIMBYs and city groups worried about street level views, it is interesting despite SF's status as a global hub PITTSBURGH! actually has higher leaseable space then SF does! Also very cool info on the FAA thing, I always thought of Phoenix as having trouble with that since they have their airport right downtown (looking at the Phoenix skyline it should be a little more impressive for a city of such growth). Northern Va. also I would think has that problem with Reagan National. Interesting info, thanks for sharing ;)

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I know up until the 1970s Philly had a same restriction (city hall's spire was the limit)

From what I've read, the Penn statue as the height limit was an unofficial agreement, but it held true for so long it might as well have been official (until 1987, that is, when it was broken.)

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Airports limit building heights in quite a few cities' downtowns: Birmingham, AL, Miami, Orlando, San Diego and believe it or not Houston. Hobby Airport is ten miles south of Downtown Houston, but they didn't want buildings downtown to go much over 1000'. It seems very odd that a commercial plane couldn't climb to 1000 feet after flying for ten miles. <_<

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You can see that Boston's airport is basically right Downtown, just across the harbour.

BostonMap.gif

Downtown on the left, airport on the right.

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The city of San Jose has over 900,000 ppl and yet its downtown is like of a city of 100,000? It's core is atomic-sized for a city with that much ppl; the city sprawls a lot and looks like an overgrown suburb. It turns out to be just like what's happening in Boston.

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I've been to San Jose, it's lack of height is not what makes it suburban. Great cities like Paris and Washington have no tall buildings but are still incredible urban environments. The height (or lack there of) of Boston's buildings in no way diminish it's urbanity.

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I see your point about its urban feel. I guess I was expecting large skyscrapers like Atlanta. But Boston has a charm that Atlanta will never have. Yet, such a great town deserves a tall tower or building. Especially for a city that boost a metro of over 5 million.

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I see your point about its urban feel.  I guess I was expecting large skyscrapers like Atlanta. But Boston has a charm that Atlanta will never have.  Yet, such a great town deserves a tall tower or building. Especially for a city that boost a metro of over 5 million.

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You are very true. I have my hopes set on a couple of parcels in the Fort Point Channel area where a signature tower may be built. One can only hope.

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About the Houston Hobby thing, 10 miles away not only a plane could climb 5,000 feet or so but it could also tack a mile or so off downtown Houston's course! If you think of it as 360 degrees, downtown Houston is only 5 degrees even if those planes are taking off on a north facing runway couldn't they use 10 miles to tack a few degrees East or West?

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I've been to San Jose, it's lack of height is not what makes it suburban. Great cities like Paris and Washington have no tall buildings but are still incredible urban environments. The height (or lack there of) of Boston's buildings in no way diminish it's urbanity.
Well if it's not the lack of height, then maybe it's the density that makes it suburban. San Jose has too many single-family/story housing units for the urban feel and they are too widespread; low-density development dominates San Jose's metro area. Boston's downtown has high-density development around downtown, and high-density may not mean tall buildings. Look at the lowrise district under this response; that's Chinatown (or near it) and Chinatown is denser than the highrise Financial District in the background.

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Does Boston seem like a big city to those that live there, or because everyhing is within walking distance does it seem like a small town? I wondered origianlly if the micro feel of the city had something to do with the city not building huge sky scrapers.

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^ as mentioned above its usually not spacing issues directly but flight restrictions or NIMBYs that own some property adjacent to downtown and don't want the view impeded or community groups that don't want certain things or heights in the skyline.

Here's what Pittsburgh is going through with those same groups on it's Mt. Washington vista just south of downtown:

http://www.pittsburghfirst.com/pg/05010/439731.stm

Again community groups (rightfully so) are holding back megacomplexes, its the old debate really is having huge corporate presence preferable over having smaller more neighborhood or scaled back corporate type atmosphere. Houston and Hong Kong does it the first way SF and Boston do it the second way, I would rather BE in SF and Bostons downtowns but I love seeing Houston and HK from a distance.

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Does anyone think the John hancock will be overtaken by a taller building or do you think boston is done with tall buildings.

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Nah. Even though it's been almost 40 years times are gonna change. SST is gonna go up in the next 5-10 years. You heard it hear first (well not first, but whatever).

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I don't really think it matters. I'd rather see Boston develop smart, than worry about besting the Hancock on height. SST will probably happen eventually, it may or may not be taller than the Hancock, it doesb't really matter to me. Astetically, I'd like to see varied height and interesting tops on new buildings in Boston.

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I don't really think it matters. I'd rather see Boston develop smart, than worry about besting the Hancock on height. SST will probably happen eventually, it may or may not be taller than the Hancock, it doesb't really matter to me. Astetically, I'd like to see varied height and interesting tops on new buildings in Boston.

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I totally agree with you. What Boston needs is more interest in its skyline. The flat roofs of the financial district make for a boring skyline form most angles. However, the SST and South Gate projects provide the opportunity for signiture architecture. It would be great to get a new tall out of these projects, but I am more interested in seeing spires/cool lighting. SST could reach 800', as South Gate could also reach that height (however, I'd like to see them hit 900-1,000'), but I'll take 800. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Bostons current tallest the john Hancock is a great looking building, a symbol of Bostons economic power, but its in the middle of nowere its in old Boston surrounded by six story tenaments and churches, bostons new tall building should be right in downtown if possible.

JohnHancockAndFountains-500x750.jpg

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I have to admit I like the location of the John Hancock Tower. I think the clash of the modern glassy tower with the old churches/buildings in the back bay make for a stunning scene. Just my opinion. ;)

However, I do agree that if a new tallest were to be proposed, it would look best in the CBD.

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