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Old 05-06-2014, 07:48 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Over the weekend, I had some family business and I headed to my dad's hometown. With this visit I had a new lens. As kids, we never went to "downtown." Knowing how segregated my dad's town still is, I am sure it is a habit based on history more than anything. My dad's town has about 3000 residents. On this visit, I was driving through main street I noticed all the great historic buildings and an old art deco theater. It was like picture perfect Americana (with a bit of decay).

Here is the one cute block: https://www.google.com/maps/@33.4511...O7tkNCDoig!2e0

Not this place is so small, the downtown is only a few blocks. And this is a city with no industry and no wealth, so it isn't super well kept, it has a population of roughly 3000 that is in decline. But on the flip side. The nearest "city," the county seat, is about 30 miles away and has a whopping 10000 people. But there you can find the Walmart. And then tack on another 20 miles to get to a megaplex.

So main street is the game in town for miles. The next nearest town, I think it has a stop sign, but I could be wrong, has about 600 people. The other direction is the county seat, with 10k people.

Downtown Andrews has great bones, and pretty nice architecture. And I started to think, what on earth happened? Almost every small town in America had a main street that was similar. It felt unique, had character and served a variety of needs. And somehow, now, all of our shopping centers and strip malls could be anywhere USA. And smaller towns expect they'll need to travel in order to get to the daily necessities. We decided that the mall and the office park were the only place for commercial interests.

And it only took about 2 generations for it to happen.
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Old 05-06-2014, 07:59 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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People preferred driving convenience over interesting architecture and a place with character. Old buildings may also be difficult to modify to suit new tenant's desires.
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:04 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Whoa. Looks rather than different than most any "Main Street" in New England or New York State. Some New England ones for towns of 3000:

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6078...VHllxDFSPA!2e0

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6036...VsICxouMug!2e0

latter is rather touristy
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:36 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Whoa. Looks rather than different than most any "Main Street" in New England or New York State. Some New England ones for towns of 3000:

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6078...VHllxDFSPA!2e0

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6036...VsICxouMug!2e0

latter is rather touristy
My dad's town is so in Timbuktu. He lived a good 5 miles from main street. There is absolutely nothing but trees two blocks away. New England is way more dense. I was surprised the town had 2000 people. Back when main street was built, I bet the population was more like 1500. On the other side of town, there are they more typical strip malls. That's the white part of town. On the other side of main street it is mainly black. Never the two shall meet.

I was mostly happy about the cute brick buildings.

This is also the sort of place were new tenants aren't very common. My dad's town has been in a constant state of decline since about the 60s when the textile mill closed. The entire county and the neighboring one are in a state of decline, to be honest. All losing population 5-10% a decade.
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:41 PM
 
Location: Denver
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Blame Henry Ford for being innovative and Americans for being selfish.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:17 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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My dad's town grew up in the 30s and 40s, so cars were pretty established. It wasn't the sort of town that grew up around a train station. It grew up around a factory, but people needed to drive to get there. It isn't a walkable place, it is a former agricultural one. So I can't blame cars directly.

There is something about centralization that also caused problems, with interstates and exits. My map link is the main road/highway. That's actually the biggest road in town.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:24 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
New England is way more dense. I was surprised the town had 2000 people. Back when main street was built, I bet the population was more like 1500.
Although Andrews is low density compared not just with New England. In Canada, even the small towns in the Prairies are typically going to have homes relatively close together (maybe 0.15 acre lots). Having been in the US South a couple times recently, Andrews looks similar to other towns there, with residential areas having an almost rural feel, like a hybrid between a town and self sufficient homesteads.

Anyways, back to the question, it's already a bit of a long walk from the outlying parts of town to main street in Andrews, while in New England I'd guess it's still a reasonable walk. Plus, you probably have customers coming to the strip malls from truly rural areas, which means they'd have to drive.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:43 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,171 posts, read 29,674,744 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
Although Andrews is low density compared not just with New England. In Canada, even the small towns in the Prairies are typically going to have homes relatively close together (maybe 0.15 acre lots). Having been in the US South a couple times recently, Andrews looks similar to other towns there, with residential areas having an almost rural feel, like a hybrid between a town and self sufficient homesteads.

Anyways, back to the question, it's already a bit of a long walk from the outlying parts of town to main street in Andrews, while in New England I'd guess it's still a reasonable walk. Plus, you probably have customers coming to the strip malls from truly rural areas, which means they'd have to drive.
I wasn't so concerned with walkability here (I know no one is walking lol!). But even drivable main streets are in decline in much of the US in the strip mall era. It is really strange. What exactly happened?
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:49 PM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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Big retail, free abundant parking, economies of scale in retail, Main Street bypassed by a highway which was then bypassed by a freeway which was then bypassed by a beltway, cheap gas and cars.

Some towns tried to save their Main Street by bulldozing elm st or 1st avenue or whatever, for parking for people to visit Main Street. That didn't work.

In a small southern city in the Carolinas from which a portion of my family hails, the wal mart on the highway put the downtown out of business, then the walmart closed in favor of a SUPER wal mart out off the bypass highway - leaving the abandoned Walmart to rot in a now "abandoned strip mall chic" part of town.

In regards to the original place, all company towns are destined to fail, anyway. There's are some really amazing examples of ruins of sizable towns in southern wv and ohio.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:56 PM
 
48,516 posts, read 83,943,432 times
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Basically because other shopping opened up closer to where people lived. As downtown decayed many no longer wanted to go there; plain and simple.Being retired now one trend I have noticed is many smaller town who where shuttered have become really popular now days as more people move to them. There are dozens of older small town in Texas which in the late 70's and early 80's looked abandoned that are booming now. With Boomers retiring they just seem to grow more very years. Of course with that up goes property and land values.
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