Illustrative 3D scenes of the downtown core:  Pictures Worth More than 1000 Words

The set of images that follows represents a style of 3D model, built in virtual reality, examined by the Taskforce to consider various scenarios.  The colored buildings are added.  Yellow buildings are 8, 10, or 12 stories with a few extension bonuses added in gold.  Spacing of the towers in relation to each other is such that there is at least 50 feet from an 8 story tower to another tower; at least 75 feet from a 10 story tower to another tower; and, at least 100 feet from a 12 story tower to another.  Setback conditions, coupled with parcel size, serve to control possible height arrangements.  The yellow buildings are placed on vacant lots or surface parking lots.  Blue buildings are also in that height range; there are no bonuses on any blue buildings.  These buildings lie along Huron Street.  Buildings along Huron to the east of Division have 20 foot front setbacks; buildings to the west of Division have no front setbacks at street level but have upper story setbacks of 20 feet at the third story level. Some blue buildings may be built on top of existing buildings (as, over time, new buildings may replace old buildings).   Red buildings lie elsewhere, along selected corridors:  along Liberty, up to a height of 8 stories built on 3 story plinths with upper setbacks of 20 feet at the 3 story level; along First and Ashley with three story plinths and 20 foot setbacks at the three story level and rising to a height of 4 to 6 stories (about half of each); along North Main in new river view apartment buildings; along South Main, again with plinths and upper story setbacks; and, in the South University Area.  The figures shown here focus on the core of the downtown.  To see a full view of the DDA, from various vantage points, the reader will need to use the web-based virtual reality models.

Generally, no building took place in any parcel: that lay in the Allen Creek floodway, whose centroid lay in the Allen Creek floodplain, that lay in an historic district, that lay on public land, or that contained a place of worship.  University of Michigan buildings (files obtained from the University of Michigan) are shaded in light gray; historic district buildings are shaded in dark gray.  All numerical estimates are just that:  mere approximations.  Visualization of this sort was important in offering Taskforce members, City Officials, and members of the public an overall 3D view of the downtown from any vantage point desired in order to consider balance of the entire scene and served as a backdrop for discussions of where general regulation, via ordinance and other legal documents, might end and design guidelines, of a more subjective nature, begin.  (Please note that such visualization is not designed for close viewing or for considering individual buildings or small groups of buildings; other studies offer that opportunity).  These scenes are illustrative rather than definitive.

Figure 1.  Existing Downtown Core, structural 3D model

Figure 2.  1000 New Units; an illustrative scene of a possible arrangement of structures.

Figure 3.  1000 New Units plus more in extension bonuses on top of two 12 story buildings (bonus layers in gold).

Figure 4.  2500 New Units; an illustrative scene of a possible arrangement of structures.
Figure 5.  2500 New Units plus more in extension bonuses on top of three 12 story buildings (bonus layers in gold).

The Taskforce spent a considerable amount of time on the height issue and examined numerous 3D, virtual reality, and animated models.  Appendix C explains some of the constraints of the modeling technique.  Readers wishing more information are referred to the following website:

Recent virtual reality links:

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5

Links to Appendix for Final Report: Appendix

Additional Topics

Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics, Institute of Mathematical Geography, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Volume XV, Number 1.