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Old Posted Jan 11, 2017, 4:57 AM
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pdxstreetcar pdxstreetcar is offline
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Originally Posted by memph View Post
I've been wondering... how much would it cost to build something of the same quality as the most cherished urban neighbourhoods, like Beacon Hill, North End, Rittenhouse Square, Back Bay, Greenwich Village, Brooklyn Heights, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Upper West Side?

Many people say that it's too expensive to build places like that these days, and most of the USA is too auto-oriented for that to work anyways. But Boston, NYC, SF and maybe parts of LA and DC have been getting very expensive due to lack of supply, several multiples more expensive than the American average.

Say you want to build housing in some of the lower density slightly less historic neighbourhoods of these expensive cities, like Astoria, East Cambridge, Dolores Heights, those might still be just 1/3 of the density of the denser of those top urban neighbourhoods. In other words, enough of a density increase to be feasible, and to increase the supply of housing by a noticeable amount, and transform the neighbourhood into something even more urban.

If the new stuff was really great, NIMBYs might be more willing to accept it. Have America's most expensive cities gotten to the point where building to such high standards might actually make sense if that's what it takes to have new housing permitted? And it doesn't have to be an exact replica of historic building techniques, but nice enough inside and out to be seen as an improvement, or at least as good as what it replaces, and also lack the economies of scale of larger projects since we're talking about mostly 3-6 storey buildings on 1500-8000 sf lots.

$300/sf construction costs might be a complete deal breaker in Houston, but in San Francisco construction costs could probably be upwards of $500/sf and still contribute to increased affordability.
I don't think it would cost much money, rowhouses and mid-rise buildings aren't super expensive construction. The hard part is how to spark the urbanism. Classic 1990s New Urbanism tried this to varying degrees of success/failure but when you build these urban buildings and urbanism in a brand new greenfield location, it doesnt have enough population to support the retail and office and so it ends up being auto-centric and populated by fairly un-urban minded people. Its also hard to build it all at once, it needs to be built over time, it needs to grow from a few very basic buildings and evolve to bigger and bigger and grander buildings over time replacing existing building stock. The old buildings become cheap buildings so you have variety of businesses and people. The only way it really works is building off of what urbanism already exists and the best place is as close to the historic center of an established urban area, like an old railyard or redeveloped waterfront.
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