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These Maps Show How Dense Chicago's Population Is... And Isn't

By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 24, 2017 9:04PM

As anyone who's spent time in Jefferson Park recently can attest, the question of density can be a deeply fraught topic in Chicago. Preservation of neighborhood character is the most common sticking point—a worry that iconic low-level two-flats will give way to hulking residential towers. That and other anti-density concerns are probably overstated (as the kids say, read the thread).

But compared to a lot of highly populous, global cities, Chicago really isn't all that dense. (Other than along portions of the lakefront and in a select few neighborhoods, much of Chicago has 20 or fewer housing units per acre.) That lack of density is well illustrated in a few maps that were shared with us this week by Spare Foot, a storage-unit listing site. They created several maps that showed what Chicago's area would look like if were as densely populated as other (mostly major) cities. For instance, Chicago would be just 22 percent of its actual size if it had the density of Paris, or a teensy 11 percent in the case of Manila.

They also looked at from the opposite angle, tossing in sprawlers like Houston, Jacksonville and Phoenix to see how Chicago's borders would swell if we followed their anti-density lead. We've included a few above to give you in idea of both perspectives. You can find the full slate of maps here.