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Old 03-28-2009, 08:51 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,178 posts, read 67,320,481 times
Reputation: 15825

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Ever since I've joined this forum back in mid-2006 I've participated in multiple heated debates on the Northeastern Pennsylvania sub-forum about how much focus should be directed, if any at all, at revitalizing Downtown Scranton, PA as opposed to instead concentrating energies on reinvigorating the neighborhoods. I argue that a healthy and vibrant core will radiate its positive effects outwards to adjacent neighborhoods as people drawn to an exciting downtown will want to consider finding homes within walking distance for convenience. Others have disagreed very poignantly with me, claiming that a refurbished central business district is worthless without top-notch neighborhoods being availed first.

In a sense this is a chicken-or-the-egg issue with no right or wrong answer. My opponents are correct in a sense that if a major prospective employer was considering Scranton as a new city to establish a corporate presence (perhaps after the recession) that one of the biggest concerns for them would be the "quality-of-life" (which would entail the condition of nearby neighborhoods). After all, they don't want to run the risk of investing countless dollars transferring existing workers to our fair city and/or training new hires only to have to KEEP re-hiring people after they flee the city like bats out of hell. However, after growing up in a 100% car-dependent suburb I'm the type of person who would ENJOY waking up in the morning and being able to walk to grab a cup of coffee, go for a jog, grab the morning paper, see the Philharmonic play, go to a worship service, walk the dog at the park, etc. A city with very livable neighborhoods and an ABYSMAL downtown is one that I would NEVER be willing to call home. What good are sidewalks and tree-lined streets if you can just walk to a hollowed-out shell of a downtown core? As I approach my relocation to NoVA I'm already deeply saddened to see that 95% of the region is one giant suburban wasteland with no real "downtown" of sorts, and while that may not bother some it is going to depress me greatly (until, of course, I transfer to another branch office in a more ideal area!)

How important is a city's downtown vitality in your impending relocation decisions? After all, most visitors/outsiders get most of their "impressions" of a new city by venturing around the downtown area, and if all they see is blight and fright, then they are going to assume the entire city is unkempt, are they not?

This would be a perfect thread for an Urban Planning forum. Hint, hint!!!
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Old 03-28-2009, 08:55 PM
 
5,721 posts, read 9,085,203 times
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Yes. The type of business I plan to start will need to be located in or near a central business district and clearly a healthy downtown is more attractive to luring clients than one that is dying.
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:09 PM
 
11,871 posts, read 32,899,856 times
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Absolutely. I love downtowns and prefer to do my shopping and eating out in downtowns instead of suburban strip malls or manicured shopping parks. Granted, I probably wouldn't be very picky in today's economic climate if I had to find a new job in a new city, but my preference would be a town with a thriving downtown where I could live, work, shop, and play.
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:22 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,178 posts, read 67,320,481 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WILWRadio View Post
Yes. The type of business I plan to start will need to be located in or near a central business district and clearly a healthy downtown is more attractive to luring clients than one that is dying.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JMT View Post
Absolutely. I love downtowns and prefer to do my shopping and eating out in downtowns instead of suburban strip malls or manicured shopping parks. Granted, I probably wouldn't be very picky in today's economic climate if I had to find a new job in a new city, but my preference would be a town with a thriving downtown where I could live, work, shop, and play.
So thus far this is three of us who would prefer to live in an area with a vibrant downtown as opposed to a city with a decrepit one. Thank you both for helping to prove my point that downtown revitalization initiatives in aging cities are vital to retaining existing residents and attracting new ones. It's actually interesting that as Scranton's image has improved greatly over the past few years it has mostly stayed exactly the same "beneath the surface." One can come to town now and see new buildings popping up left and right, and that image of growth alone has been enough to help turn the tide for the better. City residents call this all "smoke and mirrors" (i.e. it is an election year though for the embattled incumbent mayor) because they decry the "neglect" of their residential neighborhoods, but many outsiders, suburbanites, etc. are generally convinced the city is headed on the path to recovery based solely upon what they see happening downtown.
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:36 PM
 
5,969 posts, read 7,741,043 times
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The vitality of a city's downtown is very important to my decision on where to live. I enjoy walkable towns with short proximity to a major city and good public transit.
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:58 PM
 
10,630 posts, read 23,408,176 times
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Yes, I agree. If a city doesn't have a vibrant downtown then I will jump to the conclusion (correct or not) that the surrounding neighborhoods also lack community and are most likely to be car-oriented and suburban in nature.

As an aside, some areas of NoVA are nice (there are some actual towns in there that got swallowed up in the 'burbs); otherwise - depending on where exactly you're working - you might find it more enjoyable to live in DC and commute out. Good luck with your move, and with finding somewhere enjoyable to live.
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:40 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,178 posts, read 67,320,481 times
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So it be a deal-breaker to many if a city with seemingly well-polished neighborhoods had a depressing, dreary, and/or disconnected downtown? Interesting. I'm just glad to see I'm not the only one who feels as if a downtown should be a place where people from all over the city (and metro area for that matter) can feel they should be able to identify themselves with---for better or for worse. People should convene downtown for cultural events, sporting events, nightlife, festivals, etc., and it seems as if people feel as if their city has a greater "purpose" if it has a usable downtown.

In my area there's conflicting roles with our two primary cities. Wilkes-Barre, PA (pop. 41,000) has a strongly rebounding downtown with growing nighttime foot traffic but rather depressing and run-down residential neighborhoods where most homeowners have never heard of the word "renovation." Scranton, PA (pop. 72,500) has a comparably meeker downtown (lots of nice yet EMPTY buildings) but has some very, very strong neighborhoods (Green Ridge is reminiscent of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill to those who are familiar with it). I often joke that if you could level my run-down hometown of Pittston (midway between both of those aforementioned cities), plop down Wilkes-Barre's downtown and some of Scranton's neighborhoods, and you can have a border-line thriving city!

I just notice (for better or for worse) on some city forums here that there is very, very little discussion of downtown areas as contrasted with the repetitive threads about the same droll suburbs. I "lurk" a lot in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Cary (and whatever else will be thrown in next) sub-forum, and there's MUCH more discussion about Cary, a rather sterile suburban area, then there is about Chapel Hill, a relatively walkable college town. Has our society forever shunned the notion of walkable neighborhoods in favor of everything "Cary-like?"
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Old 03-29-2009, 05:14 AM
 
5,721 posts, read 9,085,203 times
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I can't stand shopping mall towns or suburban strip malls anymore. Come to think of it, I grew out of them by the time I hit the age of 20.

There are still plenty of walkable, healthy and vibrant downtowns in cities of all sizes. Brattleboro, Vermont is one of my favorites. Even though it has only around 12,000 people it has a lot of energy and niche shops and restaurants that make it an enjoyable experience all year round. Saratoga Springs, NY is another good downtown well worth exploring.
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Old 03-29-2009, 05:25 AM
 
7,848 posts, read 18,265,202 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScranBarre View Post
I "lurk" a lot in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Cary (and whatever else will be thrown in next) sub-forum, and there's MUCH more discussion about Cary, a rather sterile suburban area, then there is about Chapel Hill, a relatively walkable college town. Has our society forever shunned the notion of walkable neighborhoods in favor of everything "Cary-like?"
Have you considered the possibility that there may be a larger number of fourm members living in and around Cary than Chapel Hill? After all, the population of Cary is 125,000, while the population of Chapel Hill is 48,000. That could easily be the reason for Cary being the subject of more discussions.

You may not realize that Cary was incorporated as a town in 1871. It remained a small town for a century, and really began to boom in the 1970s with the huge growth of Research Triangle Park - which employees 50,000 people:

Quote:
In the early years Cary adopted zoning and other ordinances on an ad-hoc basis to control growth and give the town structure. Beginning in 1971, the town created a Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning to accommodate population growth related to the growth of Research Triangle Park nearby. A PUD allows a developer to plan an entire community before beginning development, thus allowing future residents to be aware of where churches, schools, commercial and industrial areas will be located well before such use begins. The local government has placed a high value on creating an aesthetically pleasing town.
I went to Cary a couple of times back in the late 80s, and it was a very nice place to live back then. I imagine it still is...Cary has doubled in population since then and I can't really see THAT any people moving to a truly unwalkable "sterile suburban area".
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Old 03-29-2009, 09:07 AM
 
Location: roaming gnome
12,391 posts, read 24,555,922 times
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It has pretty much everything to do with it as far as what the city can offer.
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