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Old 07-20-2014, 11:07 PM
 
Location: Sault Ste. Marie, MI
302 posts, read 592,147 times
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How small can a downtown be, and still be called a downtown?

I was given pause when the following areas were described as downtowns (especially the second one):

Pickford, MI: https://www.google.com/maps/@46.1579...YWaw!2e0?hl=en

Rudyard, MI: https://www.google.com/maps/@46.2324...xiCg!2e0?hl=en

They have some of the characteristics of a downtown, but they are both so small! This leads me to wonder what others consider to be real downtowns, especially when it comes to small towns and villages. I'd consider these to be real downtowns, for example:

Newberry, MI: https://www.google.com/maps/@46.3543...OK1Q!2e0?hl=en

Ortonville, MI: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.8522...2c5A!2e0?hl=en

So, what do you think is the smallest a downtown area can be, and still be considered a downtown? Do you think there are specific requirements, or is it more by feel?
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Old 07-21-2014, 07:40 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 19 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,003 posts, read 102,592,596 times
Reputation: 33059
They all look like dowtowns, albeit small downtowns of small towns, to me.
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Old 07-21-2014, 09:31 AM
 
8,328 posts, read 14,563,164 times
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"Downtown" is basically just a specific business district. Small-town downtowns can certainly be that small, they seem connected to a residential community where most of the people who work and shop in the downtown probably live, although in places like rural Michigan they also serve as points of congregation for the rural community around them. I don't know the Upper Peninsula but spent enough time in northeastern Wisconsin to get a sense that those little 1 or 2 block strips of "downtown" in towns of 500-2500 people certainly function as a community hub. They may not be as viable for retail since Wal-Marts moved into the region, but you still get a sense of the locals "going downtown" for dinner, or to the local bar for a beer, on Saturday night.

In California, the vestigial small-town downtowns like this are often now subsumed into massive suburban communities of 100,000 or more, with a couple blocks at its heart to indicate that this was once a farming community with a couple blocks of mixed-use along a main road or railroad route.
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Old 07-21-2014, 11:01 AM
 
56,613 posts, read 80,910,543 times
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I think it really can be as small as it can be, as long as it serves the community to at least a substantial degree. Here's a community of less than 1000 near me that has a "Downtown":
http://goo.gl/maps/2m1n6
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:09 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,761,847 times
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What if you just have some sort of general store or convenience store at an intersection of two roads with some houses next to it (along the two roads)? Some hamlets are like that.
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Old 07-22-2014, 11:24 AM
 
Location: Duluth, GA
1,253 posts, read 991,072 times
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Tangentially, the idea of what constitutes the smallest of towns has long fascinated me.

Downtown Bowersville, Georgia [pop. 465]

https://www.google.com/maps/@34.3719...lqaXG-J2TQ!2e0

Downtown Alto, Georgia [pop. 1172]

https://www.google.com/maps/@34.4674...DnQUY-8-Bg!2e0

Downtown Good Hope, Georgia [pop. 274]

https://www.google.com/maps/@33.7849...IUEs72VUPw!2e0

Downtown Bogart, Georgia [pop. 1072]

https://www.google.com/maps/@33.9488...yc2uCCEefw!2e0
[it should be noted that 2 miles away is one of Athens' commercial strips]

Downtown Juliette, Georgia [unlisted population]

https://www.google.com/maps/@33.1064...etVcF80BAA!2e0

And finally, Downtown Buckhead, Georgia...the other Buckhead. [pop. 171]

https://www.google.com/maps/@33.5683...usHpd6NbEg!2e0
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Old 07-22-2014, 08:50 PM
 
8,328 posts, read 14,563,164 times
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A lot of small towns started like that...but they didn't necessarily stay like that. The attached photo is the Sacramento County town of Elk Grove, in 1880. In terms of size and scale, it looks a lot like the little Upper Peninsula "downtowns" posted here, except maybe there is more wood than brick in their construction. This community stayed pretty small through the 1970s--in 1970 there were about 3000-4000 people in Elk Grove.

That changed during the 1990s housing boom, and today Elk Grove is a city of about 160,000 people. But the vestigial "downtown" of the 1880s is still there:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.4090...oXaQ!2e0?hl=en

Today, Elk Grove's farms are rapidly being overtaken by suburbs:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.4074...!3m1!1e3?hl=en

So where is today's "downtown" Elk Grove? Where are the tall, centralized buildings you'd expect in a city the size of Springfield, Massachusetts, Salem, Oregon, or Alexandria, Virginia, and considerably larger than Green Bay, Wisconsin? They don't have one--just the little farm town surrounded with 160,000 people.
Attached Thumbnails
How small can a downtown be?-elkgrove.jpg  
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Old 07-22-2014, 09:53 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
14,062 posts, read 16,081,530 times
Reputation: 12641
Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
A lot of small towns started like that...but they didn't necessarily stay like that. The attached photo is the Sacramento County town of Elk Grove, in 1880. In terms of size and scale, it looks a lot like the little Upper Peninsula "downtowns" posted here, except maybe there is more wood than brick in their construction. This community stayed pretty small through the 1970s--in 1970 there were about 3000-4000 people in Elk Grove.

That changed during the 1990s housing boom, and today Elk Grove is a city of about 160,000 people. But the vestigial "downtown" of the 1880s is still there:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.4090...oXaQ!2e0?hl=en

Today, Elk Grove's farms are rapidly being overtaken by suburbs:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.4074...!3m1!1e3?hl=en

So where is today's "downtown" Elk Grove? Where are the tall, centralized buildings you'd expect in a city the size of Springfield, Massachusetts, Salem, Oregon, or Alexandria, Virginia, and considerably larger than Green Bay, Wisconsin? They don't have one--just the little farm town surrounded with 160,000 people.
Here, I found it for you wburg.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sa...1f6aaa74197fdb

It's pretty sneaky, but if you look in the principal city rather than a suburb of it, you'll find the downtown. Nifty how that works.

Of course, Elk Grove does feel more like a real city rather than a suburb of Springfield, say Longmeadow. Partly that's size, but it's also a difference in regional. Check out Galt in comparison. At least you can pretty much meet your basic needs in Galt, and it's no larger than Longmeadow.
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Old 07-22-2014, 10:43 PM
 
8,328 posts, read 14,563,164 times
Reputation: 4048
Well, yeah, I was planning on pointing out that when folks in Elk Grove talk about going downtown, they are referring to downtown Sacramento. I suppose the point is that the "small downtown" idea doesn't just apply to little rural communities--it also finds expression in large suburbs that grew out of small towns. Plus Saturday night is probably livelier in some of those little Upper Peninsula towns than in "downtown" Elk Grove.
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Old 07-23-2014, 12:50 AM
 
Location: Wisconsin
336 posts, read 325,721 times
Reputation: 235
The urban planners in Green Bay have some monumental decisions (many past tense)
the effot is their but thy need to red flag knuckleheads or the present downtown will
be a mimmic of Chernoble! The audasity of local government to suddenly become contrary about Walmart wanting to anchor in this pathetic blighted district still has me
visulizing the influencers of progress wearing cheese hats (real cheddar hats)
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