CHAPTER 3: Commercial Development and High Density Zoning
Please PM soldyne if you have any questions about this article.
So far in this guide we have taken a new region, untouched by human actions, and built a quaint little burg of single family residences supported by heavy industry and corner grocers. The region is starting to become a rather popular place though, and the mayor (that’s us) has high hopes for high rises. In this chapter we will be exploring the more advanced aspects of city building where we start to attract tall buildings, crowded populations and advanced technologies.
The only way to get our Central Business District up and running is to build a healthy supporting region. There are two main reasons why we need a large, stable region: increased demand, and stage caps.
We have already discussed demand and all the intricate ways in which it is influenced including health and education. One thing about demand which is important enough to mention again is how each developer type influences demand of the others. Demand influence is a big circle; a resident from a certain wealth level and education level will demand a certain percentage of both commercial and industrial type jobs. Even though this one resident will only work at one of these jobs he will still create demand for both. When we zone for both types we will get businesses to move in to fill the demand. when the businesses (comm and ind) move in they in turn generate their own demand for more workers of a particular type. So, to fill this demand we zone more residential and the cycle continues. This is how the simulator is designed and this is how we build our region. I call it the “Leap Frog Effect”. This is also why a new city is so hard to get started because we have so few workers and jobs generating such a little amount of demand. It is difficult to start but once the demand ball gets rolling it will be hard to stop.
Knowing this important bit of info is integral in controlling how your region will develop. If you want your city to develop in a certain way then you must affect your residents with varying civic services (health levels, education levels, wealth levels) to generate the right kind of demand in other areas. For instance high and medium wealth citizens of high education will create more demand for CO$ and CO$ (for our CBD) where as low education and low wealth will demand more CS$ and ID. The Prima Guide for SimCity 4 actually has a very nice chart which details the relationships between wealth levels, education levels and demand generation by developer type. Get this guide if you don’t have it already and get to know this table very well.
The next concept to understand is that of stage caps. Don’t confuse stage caps with demand caps. Demand caps will limit the growth of your population overall within a single city. These can be increased by placing rewards, parks, making neighbor connections and just doing what it is you are supposed to do anyway to make a city healthy and stable. Where a demand cap is related to population size within a city, a stage cap is realted to building size within a region. stage caps are a way for the game to limit the size of your buildings and is directly related to your population size and so is limited by demand caps as well. In other words, to get skyscrappers you need to have a very large population. The game will not allow (without cheating) high rises in a region of 30,000 people, it just wont happen. The good news is, that your total region population counts toward the stage caps in every city in that region. If you have a region with 1 million people and start a new map you can easily start zoning with high density and get skyscrappers right away (so long as you have the right kind of demand, desirability and utilities).
There are 8 building stages. Low density zoning will allow for stages 1-3. Medium density zoning will allow for stages 1-5 and high density zoning will allow for all stage sizes (6-8 being your sky scrappers). Tto even start thinking about stage 6-8 buildings we need a population of at least 100,000 sims. So you have 100,000 sims in your region and still don’t have a sky scrapper jungle? This is because you can only have a certain percentage of your buildings in each stage level. The percentage of level 1-3 buildings is much higher than larger buildings in a small city. when the population grows the percentages shift toward the taller buildings. Even with 100,000 sims you might only be allowed to have 1-2% of your buildings as stage 6 buildings but still not be allowed stage 7 or 8. So for every 100 buildings only 1-2 of them are allowed to be stage 6 (as an example). As the population increases the percentages for taller buildings increase. If you want a large high rise forest then you are going to need at least a 500,000 or higher population and even then most of your buildings will still be in the 5-6 range.
The good news is that once sky scrappers start showing up they come with quite a bit of capacity. A high rise may have as many as 1000-2000 people in it, all of which will create demand for more jobs which in turn create demand for more residents. Best of all, each new skyscrapper that builds adds its large population to your overall region total. So, you can easily see that once a region starts growing it can be very easy to keep it growing. The biggest problem then is to make sure it does not grow out of hand or collapse under its own weight. but, I am getting ahead of myself.
Back in Fairview we still have a small region size. Our overall goal in all of this (other than making a profit) is to build a CBD on the north riverbank (to the south of suburbia). But to do this we will need a much higher population. So our current goal is to attract more people.
The best way to attract more people is to ensure that our commercial and industrial demands are always satisfied (near zero). If we have demand for either of these types then we must zone more area for them to develop. We can also spend some time zoning for more residential, but, keep in mind that the more residential you zone for the more unemployment you will have.
Here is what I have done with suburbia to finish it off. I added some high class citizens to help increase our CO$ and CS$ demand and I added more suburbs to help bolster the overall population.
Fariview is actually a rather small region with many small maps. This will make it difficult for us to satisfy our demand in the surrounding areas. Remember though that a true artist will not see obstacles, only opportunities! Use what you have here and use all the information from the previous chapters and other guides out there to start expanding the region around suburbia.
I have chosen to satisfy IHT demand by building Industrial parks to the west. One thing to remember here is that power can only be be bought or sold, not both. This means that each new city you start must also be touching a power producing city or produce its own power. This can be good if you want to start a new ID or IM city, but with a res, comm, or IHT city it can get a little hairy. Do your best and use your imagination but try to use the techniques you have learned up to this point to keep each new city in the black and making a profit.
With IHT taken care of we can start concentrating on increasing population. Gridburg to the south west of suburbia will be our first attempt at a more urban landscape. We will give this area a more gridded and planned feel with the road layout and zone all of our areas ahead of time. Here we are going to start right off with medium density. our region population is big enough right now to afford us a decent number of stage 4 or 5 buildings. We are lucky that the city just to the west of gridburg is just big enough to provide for one power plant and one incinerator to get us up and running.
Once we get some power and water into our city we can let the simulator loose and see what happens. With our region population and neighbor demand feeding our city we are blessed with an inundation of 27,000 people in just under 6 years! This is the effect of region play; new city to urban sprawl in the blink of an eye (don’t you just love popcorn?).
Don’t forget to allow room for education and health. in a city with medium density you will start to have a problem with overcrowding in your civic buildings (health care especially). if you have overcrowding just build another building of the same type in the area. the load will be spread nearly evenly between the multiple buildings. You can also experiment with the bus/ambulance radius funding.
A smaller radius will be responsible for less people. A good tactic for urban areas is to have many civic buildings with a $0 bus/ambulance funding level. This will allow the service to concentrate on a small area and allow you to create small neighborhoods and reduce overcrowding. It can also be a great money saver!
One of the problems with larger buildings is that they tend to eat up a lot of power and make a lot of trash. The good news is that with 27,000 R$ and R$ in the city we qualify for a solar plant! the solar plant allows us to produce home grown power with no pollution. This is what I like to think of as a tactical use of reward buildings.
At this point we can start planning our CBD (finaly!). Here we are also going to want a grid layout but with more avenues. Remember this will be a true CBD meaning that it will have no residential or commercial buildings at all. We are going to have a lot of traffic comming into the city so we need to plan mass transit and roads ahead of time. To save money we will only build avenues in one direction and roads in the other. this will help reduce maintenance costs overall and will give us a guidline when we zone. We will lay out our zones facing along the avenues and leave the roads as though they were alleyways between the buildings which will give our CBD a more NYC look and feel (IMHO). Of course, this part is all about design which is up to you. but, it is important to think about mass transit and your road layout before the developers start building. Once you get high rises in there it will not be very easy or cheap to upgrade roads to avenues.
Another problem we have is that we dont have a small city next to our CBD in which we can build a power town. We do have an empty city to the east but this would be better served as another medium/high density res city to help increase population and demand. So, how do we handle power and trash?
Power is easy. Remember that gridburg won the right to build solar power plants. these plants will produce enough energy for the city and plenty left over to sell to the CBD. the CBD will have power and gridburg will have extra money to pay for the upkeep.
The trash however, will be more complicated. We will need to export the trash from Downtown to its neighbors. the neighbors then need to export that same trash to either another neighbor or a trash town. By now we have two or three trash towns, so the difficulty will be in getting the right amount of trash exported to the right place before it piles up and starts driving people away.
in addition to avenues and roads we will want to have some mass transit here. With the kind of large population we are expecting we are going to need something more than just bus stops. Rush Hour offers many forms of mass transit, but, subway is (IMHO) the best choice. it takes up very little space on the surface (stations mostly), it is the second fastest form of transportation (monorail being fastest) and is the easiest to lay out (you can have 90 degree intersections with subway, all the other mass transit forms need gentle sloping curves which take up more space). Maintenance is not that bad on subway but the initial cost is the killer.
When layout out your new zones and networks leave ample space for mass transit stations. also remember to go back to your residential cities and add subway and bus stops there too. At first only connect a few subway stations up and wait for the simulator catch up. also, make sure not to overspend. Ensure you are still making a profit and let the bank account build for a bit before finishing your subway masterpiece.
At this point in the game our CBD will be quite small and sickly. We dont have nearly enough demand or population to have the kind of city we want. Our next step is to do what we have been doing from start; expand, grow, and develop. Increase you population and raise your demand and stage caps.
Here is how I expanded my region and started to get high rises (stage 6 buildings). I built another residential town to the east of the CBD and built some more industrial areas to the east of that. I then expanded to the south bank of the river and started building on the south side.
Here is waffleton. 53,000 sims in just under 13 years. As always profit is a standard.
South Ville is directly south of downtown across the river. it was very difficult to connect this city to downtown via the bridge. it took some fancy terrain modification to make things work out, but I got it and now this city is growing like crazy; 67,000 sims in 11 game years! Also, notice that I am now starting to get stage 6 buildings for my residential population. Just one step closer to our CBD!
Finally we go back to our Downtown CBD and we can see that demand and stage caps are working in our favor. the CBD is building up just as planned but we are still not seeing many large buildings. this is just a matter of not having enough commercial population in the region, and, by now, we should all know what to do about that; expand, expand, expand!
One last thing you should know is that demand is only shared between cities if there is a land connection between them. this means that for city A to share its demand with City B there must be a road, highway or avenue connection between them. Ferries will not work, nor will airports. I am not sure if subways, rail or monorail will work, but you can experiment with this if you like. road connections are not only important for commercial and industrial demand cap relief but they are also vital to the concept of regional demand.
This particular region is not the best for developing huge CBDs. it was merely chosen to be a quick easy tutorial region. once you are confident that you have learned all the lessons presented in this guide feel free to try larger regions or even design your own. the more space you have for building the easier it will be to get he megalopolis of your dreams.
There is really nothing more I can teach you at this point.
– You know about the demand cycle and how education, health, and developer types influence demand.
– You know about stage caps and region population.
– You know about buying and selling resources and why its important to keep pollution away from the populace.
– You know about demand caps and how to increase them; parks for residential, connections for commercial and industrial.
– You know how to manipulate funding for utilities and civic buildings and why it is important and how it affects your bottom line.
– You know the basics of mass transit and why it is important to plan for the future right from the start.
– You how to start small, build slowly, make short and long term goals.
– You know why it is important to keep your demand satisfied as much as possible and how to influence your employment rates using health and education.
– You know how to manipulate developer types and wealth levels with zone sizes and tax manipulation.
– Best of all, you now know how to Make Money The Easy Way!
Good luck and keep playing and experimenting. you can always contact me through a PM or start a thread in the forums for a public discussion about my guide. If you have a good question then I am sure there are many others who can benefit from its answer.