August 8, 2005


Downtown Housing Demand Feeds a Bloom in High-Rises (Cara Mia DiMassa, August 8, 2005, LA Times)

Downtown Los Angeles — which hasn't seen a skyscraper built since Tom Bradley was mayor and the Raiders were playing at the Coliseum — is in the midst of a growth spurt that promises to significantly alter its skyline in the coming years.

The building boom marks the fourth time since World War II that a spate of construction has altered the downtown landscape. But although previous booms focused on commercial space, this one is different: The vast majority of the new high-rise space is for housing.

The phenomenon mirrors patterns in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Diego and Miami, where residential towers are going up at a rapid clip. Architect Santiago Calatrava recently announced plans to construct the nation's tallest building, a 2,000-foot residential and hotel tower called the Fordham Spire, in Chicago.

From 1986 to 1992, almost two-thirds of towers 20 stories or more built in the U.S. were for office use, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, which tracks projects nationwide. But recently, said McGraw-Hill economist Jennifer Coskren, "this has really flipped."

Between 2003 and June 2005, about 84% of new towers were for residential, multifamily use — an indication, said Coskren, of "this investor and consumer appetite for multifamily condo development. Luxury high-rises are what's being demanded."

They're anti-human even if they're luxury, but it does demonstrate the demographic difference of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2005 12:00 AM

You're such a proponent of continuous population growth, so where do you think all of the new people are going to live?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 8, 2005 9:11 AM

One question I have is whether these are rented or bought. If they're much more likely to be rented than bought, then that explains some of why home prices are going up so much faster than rents. (Since these sort of multifamily units that don't use a lot of land should be cheaper in a coastal city than detached housing.)

Posted by: John Thacker at August 8, 2005 9:38 AM

What do you mean? We have the lowest population density of any developed nation--we've tons of room.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 9:39 AM

Large percentage of buyers of the new tower condos in Chicago are empty-nesters from the suburbs. They're not in their childbearing years, and I'm really glad they are choosing to retire to the city. This trend is revitalizing the area in magnificent fashion. City looks gorgeous, and will just keep get nicer. Nothing bad to be said about that.

I might retire to the city myself someday.

Posted by: rds at August 8, 2005 9:58 AM

If they don't live downtown then they can't ride the subway, big guy. Suburbs mean cars, trucks and (shudder) SUVs.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 8, 2005 10:09 AM

Yes, but fast forward 300 years or more, when the US population reaches 5 billion or so (assuming a constant growth rate). Then where will we live? We have to reach zpg at some point, or we will be living in habitrails.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 8, 2005 10:59 AM

If you are retired and foresee not being able to drive at some point, it makes sense to live in a high density area with good public transportation.

Posted by: Gideon at August 8, 2005 11:54 AM

Robert, Take a driving vacation and get off the interstates, you'll be astonished on the vast tracts of empty land from sea to shining sea and from the Mexican to the Canadian borders.

My only worry is that won't stay the course in our fight against those who want to destroy our freedom. Check">">Check this out. (h/t fjordman)

If we remain free, our children for uncounted generations will do just fine.

Posted by: erp at August 8, 2005 12:12 PM

In 300 years, the U.S. could support 5 billion people, no problem.
For one thing, there's all of that currently uninhabited Canadian tundra - and Canada will be part of the U.S. in three hundred years (much sooner, IMO).

Yes, we'll be living in "Habitrails", but they'll be super-nice ones.


Thanks for the fjordman tip.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 8, 2005 1:35 PM

Robert Duquette wrote: "fast forward 300 years or more, when the US population reaches 5 billion or so (assuming a constant growth rate)."

Well, if you get to assume a constant growth rate, so do I. Real per capita GDP increases about 2% per year, that would be about 8 doublings in 300 years, which would make average GDP about $10,000,000 per person per year.

If we're all that rich, we can colonize Mars. I say we worry about where to put everybody then.

Posted by: Bret at August 8, 2005 1:39 PM

The two greatest concentrations of wealth on Earth are in Tokyo and Manhattan. You could fit 5 billion in just one of the Dakotas at that concentration.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 2:48 PM

Where ya gonna grow the food?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 8, 2005 3:54 PM

The other Dakota.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 3:58 PM

Robert Duquette:


Rooftop gardens.

Sea-bed kelp farms.

Open-ocean fish farms.

Land-based water reservoirs that double as fish farms.

Soylent green.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 8, 2005 4:03 PM

Robert: The population of the world is 6,446,131,400. The land area of Texas is 261914 square miles. Moving everyone in the world to Texas would result in a population density of 24,612 people per square mile or 9503 people per square kilometer. That would be relatively crowded, about the same as New York City, but the rest of the world would be empty.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 8, 2005 7:38 PM