I see their significance in another light: These lonely towers are exemplars of how even "high density apartments" do *not* disturb the character of neighborhoods.

We frequently hear from anti-change voices that tall apartment towers will "ruin the small town character" of a community. These lonely towers, however, show this to be a falsehood. The suburban flavor of surrounding blocks doesn't change in the wake of these towers. Nor does traffic get worse. Instead, these towers are often small apartments for elderly people (see: 3911 Park Blvd, San Diego, California; or 5820 S Windermere St, Littleton, CO 80120; or 5225 S Prince St, Littleton, CO 80123 -- all of late 1960s vintage; all 55+ communities).

We see downsized versions of these towers still going up today, around 5-8 stories but often approved by-right because they are senior-restricted (see: The Vita Apartments, 2100 W Littleton Blvd, Littleton, CO 80120 -- built in 2017, but market-rate rentals around $2500-$3000/month).

What's striking to me is how these lonely towers do not negatively impact their communities. In cases like The Vita, they actually are part of a small shift in local density that is contemporaneous to the revival of a nearby history small town Main St. Despite vociferous opposition by local anti-change neighbors, when such projects get built *none* of the forewarned problems have emerged. Not increased crime. Not increased traffic. Not a loss of 'small town character.'

These lonely towers should be held up as counter-examples to the narrative of fear about how high density apartments "ruin" a place.

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What I'm observing now is "density without urbanism" almost everywhere the economy is strong. Land values and market demand are increasing in particular suburbs and municipal governments are selectively embracing big new buildings for increased tax revenue and economic development. But cultural imperatives, zoning regulations, parking requirements, and a lack of viable alternatives to driving in suburbia are powerful forces with no real solution. I've come to the conclusion that we aren't going back to any long lost version of Main Street. The Joel Garreau "Edge City" model is too thick to be jam, but too thin to be jelly. That's sad, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it - especially since I already live in a fantastic pre WWII location where I can walk, bike, and take transit as needed.

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Unlike many others, the Skyline Towers actually have a relatively well-known land-use provenance. One of the early plans for MetroRail included a line down Columbia Pike to Skyline. Based on this plan, Fairfax County upzoned Skyline. Arlington was more cautious and waited for construction to begin - the line was moved to follow the existing railroad right-of-way as a cost-saving measure and was never constructed (though a stub turn-off for the Columbia Pike line was constructed and still exists today) and Fairfax was stuck with some serious density at Skyline without the transportation infrastructure it had thought was coming. This was one of the reasons the Columbia Pike Streetcar was pitched (and routed directly to Skyline).

If I recall correctly, this was covered in The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro by Zachary M. Schrag which I highly recommend.

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I am reminded of the Ariel towers on Manhattan's Upper West Side. While they followed all the rules, local opinion was that they were "too tall", and so the zoning in the area was shifted so that no towers that tall could be built in the neighborhood. The delicious irony for these NIMBYs was that, since the towers were completed before the new rules went into effect, the views from the towers would never get blocked by other, competing tall buildings. It almost makes me wonder if the developers of the towers were behind the efforts to change the rules.


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Having grown up in a largely rural portion of Northwest Indiana, this is something I didn't see a whole lot of. Two examples come to mind, one of which is right in your neck of the woods; 6820 Agusta Drive in Springfield, VA, just south of the "Mixing Bowl" 95/495/395 interchange. One twist is that it's not residential, but commercial in nature. It's just a random high-rise office building that, as you say, is in the middle of an area of commercial sprawl: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Springfield+Tower,+6320+Augusta+Dr,+Springfield,+VA+22150/@38.7810134,-77.1833261,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x89b7b2a7b35bb7cd:0xd5af00097f4f8d04!8m2!3d38.7810092!4d-77.1811374

The other isolated high-rise that comes to mind is the old Pullman Bank tower in Pullman, IL: https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/1000-E-111th-St-Chicago-IL/19094059/

Again, not a residential tower, but it is interesting that a high-rise was built in the late 80s apparently in a open area, and then nothing else developed around it.

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