Return of the High Life?

by Chicago Agent


High rises used to be reserved for office space, but more and more tall buildings are going the residential route.

By Stephanie Sims

Historically, many of the world’s tallest buildings, like the Empire State Building and the Willis Tower, were built to house offices, but once the idea of living in a massively-tall building grew in popularity about a decade ago, it became a sign of living in luxury.

The recession obviously curbed construction starts and many of these buildings never even made it past conception (will anything be done with what was supposed to house the Spire?), but now, according to the New York Times, high rise demand is back. Wikipedia has a list of proposed high rise buildings, many within the last decade that could possibly be finished in the coming years. – notice how many include “residential” in the description.

Why Build High? With all sorts of record-breaking highrises being built – the upcoming Porsche Design Tower Miami, with 57 stories could be the tallest residential building in Sunny Isles, Fla., and the 42-story Museum Tower in Dallas will be the second tallest residential building in the city are two new ones – and a number of high-priced condo sales (mainly in New York penthouses, but Chicago has had its fair share, too) show that demand for highrise living is coming back. This is fine for developers and buyers alike:

  • Developers spend less money on air rights than land costs, which have increased to “astronomical” heights, according to high rise heavyweight and developer Donald Trump.
  • Many foreign buyers are attracted to highrise homes because of a “level of anonymity” that may  also appeal to local buyers, according to Manhattan lawyer Edward Mermelstein. At Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, which is now the tallest building in Canada, about 60 percent of buyers have been from outside the country, says Howard Tikka, the building’s director of marketing.
  • People want to pay for exclusivity of living on a certain floor, especially if it’s in a substantially tall highrise. The higher the floor, the more exclusive and wealthy you appear due to your living quarters.

Why Not to Buy The deterring factors mainly have to do with the outdoors; while many highrises may have a rooftop deck for residents to enjoy, outdoor terraces on the building’s units are generally impossible above 40 or 50 stories, because of the wind. This isn’t the case for Aqua, which has units with balconies even at its 86-story height. However, as we found out during our 2011 Who’s Who photo shoot, it ispretty scary up there on the balcony…and at the time, we didn’t see any outdoor furniture on balconies higher than the 40th floor. Some other reasons:

  • Although most new highrises have walls made of mostly glass to capture the views, the windows can only partially open at the highest floors, but even then, the higher up you are, the slightest opening of a window will let in very swift breezes.
  • Asking prices go up with every floor, but views only improve marginally above a certain height, depending on how tall the surrounding buildings are.
  • With the rise in popularity in highrises, there’s always the chance that an even taller highrise will be built next to the highrise homebuyers buy in, making the views they shell out for not as great.
  • On windy days, elevators can slow down.

But a resident in Trump Towers Chicago, Michael Berman, who lives on floor 57 of the 92-story building – the highest residences in the U.S., according to the New York Times – says “everything else more than makes up for it,” noting the building’s five-star restaurant below and optional hotel maid service.

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