Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reaching for the Sky, Forgetting the Ground?

Trouble on the ground? The unfinished BD Bacata just became the tallest tower in Colombia.
According to news reports, the BD Bacata Tower, being built by the intersection of Carrera 7 and Calle 19, just became the tallest skyscraper in Colombia, surpassing the 48-story, 196-meter Torre Colpatria, on Carrera 7 and Calle 26.

Reaching for the sky: An artist's
rendering of the BD Bacata tower.
I suppose that this is something to be proud of - despite some development researchers' observations that the construction of arrogantly tall buildings often anticipates economic swoons. 

The Bacata's website boasts about the project's urbanistic positives - mostly the fact that its central location won't contribute to sprawl and will reduce travel times to reach it. Those certainly are pluses, as is the potential to use public transit in the area. 

But none of that obviates the need for planning and investment to keep the surroundings livable and transit in the area functioning - things that aren't often the case now, even without this immensity. 

The 66-story BD Bacata will contain a parking lot, shopping mall, offices, apartments and a 364-room hotel. None of those are designed for poor people. Sadly, even with the area's wealth of bus service, most of the complex's users will likely arrive by car, snarling the chaotic traffic on Calle 19 and the narrow secondary streets. (Carrera 7 is currently pedestrian-only during the day.) 

Central Bogotá's skyline, with the Bacatá on the left.
While the Bacata's construction is advancing rapidly, I've seen exactly no, (zippo, 0, nada) transit improvements nearby to prepare for the onslaught of vehicles which this city-in-a-building will generate. In a rational city, of course, the Bacata's builders would be required to contribute to TransMilenio and-or light rail lines to expand the capacity of the adjoining avenues.

I won't even speculate about the capacity of nearby water, sewer and electricity service, nor mention the lack of nearby green space. And, how about urban renewal of the adjoining blocks, which are quite seedy? Will the Bacata's residents and users dare to walk a block outside the building, or immediately take refuge in a private vehicle - compounding perpetual traffic jams?

In an interesting aside, the Bacatá claims to be the world's first crowd-funded skyscraper.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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