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Abstract

According to the UN, 55% of people worldwide lived in urban areas as of 2018. Because of this boom in urban growth, it has become paramount to consider housing and provide dwelling solutions for a growing urban population. In most instances, developers look to high-rises in order to house the greatest number of people the most efficiently. There has been a boom in high-rise construction in the city of Chicago that has occurred within a single generation. However, developers do not give enough consideration to the social position of the high-rise. The city and its unique features are cultural objects that at once shape man and are shaped by man. It is because of this that I investigated the current distribution and social role of high-rises in the city, in order to better identify their location and the populations they currently serve. To create the maps, I first locate the shapefile of Chicago’s census tracts and merge it with the American Community Survey (ACS) 2019 data set using ArcGIS Online software. I use age, ethnicity, educational attainment, income and marriage status to better understand the populations that live in these buildings. I then calculate a diversity index based on the ACS’s 2019 data set that accounts for a range of 0-1 in the overall diversity of the tract. Next, I map the city’s high-rise apartments and condominiums using the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s (CTBUH) classification in order to better visualize their distribution in the city. This dataset includes building name, ranking, height, address, use and construction material. I then overlay the population variables onto the datasets from the CTBUH’s Skyscraper Center to generate maps of population characteristics versus high-rise density. I found that within Chicago, the population of high-rise dwellers is, as a majority, Caucasian, well-educated, unmarried young individuals. High-rises built in desirable areas of the city cater to the wealthy and have multiple amenities. Others provide for mixed income living. However, only few modern projects cater to low-income tenants. These results indicate that high-rise housing distribution poses a unique problem, as the demand for these homes is more diverse, but low-income and minority groups seem to be excluded. This pattern of high-rise dwelling therefore appears to reinforce the legacy of segregation in Chicago. I therefore propose integral changes to the high-rise, including an increase in mixed income housing to address the needs of more people while catering towards diversity. There is promise in a public private housing model, taking advantage of the super voucher system, which is currently underutilized. Further research is needed to best reshape the high-rise such that it becomes a vector for social change and integration.

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