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Old 11-30-2014, 08:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by santafe400 View Post
Okay. I know as most everybody on this forum is aware that there are indeed exceptions to the rule. However, on my travels to many cities around this nation that after 6 pm or on weekends many downtown areas look like modern ghost towns. Sure many cities may have a block or two of moderate vibrancy, but I always found it odd that the heart of any metro region (usually the downtown area) almost always seems to be the most desolate.

My question is, how and when did it get this way? I only find it interesting because so many downtowns have some wonderful hidden gems that so many residents never seem to take advantage of.
One word = Defunding
Well, defunding and funneling funds to the suburbs

I believe is a form of corruption
the city ALWAYS has money to build new roads, sideways, lighting, etc, etc, etc. for new suburbs
but somehow, never has money to repair anything in downtown.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:10 AM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
3,111 posts, read 4,903,810 times
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The big questions really are:

What is there to do downtown? and
Why do I want to go downtown on a weekday?

I don't know what the OP is expecting, but most people come home from work and relax at home.

Since I don't work downtown, there is no reason for me to go there.

Restaurants? Stores? Movie Theaters? We have those in the suburbs too.

There are a few things that a downtown has that would entice me to go -- even on a weeknight -- and I would make a night of it, dinner, entertainment, etc.

- the symphony
- live theater
- sporting events
- concert halls

These are also the things that cities are bringing back into the downtowns to bring people back after 5 pm. As it stands, most downtowns are mostly frequented by the very wealthy (those who can afford a $500k+ loft to live downtown), the tourists staying in the hotels, and the homeless.

Denver, where I live, has a pretty vibrant downtown scene. It got much better after the baseball stadium and the basketball/hockey arena were moved downtown. Those two venues will bring thousands downtown about 200 nights a year. Throw in some huge conventions, downtown festivals, and special events and now we are talking having lots of people downtown 250+ nights a year.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:23 AM
 
10,510 posts, read 8,428,809 times
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I'm old enough to remember my city's vibrant downtown back in the 1950s: four big department stores, two dime stores, four movie theaters, individually owned shoe stores, hat shops, ladies', men's and children's wear stores, plus doctors' offices, lawyers, the courthouse, public library, three very gracious historic and locally owned hotels, restaurants, drugstores, and a steady flow of people shopping, dining, and enjoying the movies. There were no shopping malls, and only a few shopping centers. We had a good municipal bus service, and a train station, along with taxis, and urban sprawl didn't get underway until the late 1950s, when IBM came to town. Downtown was a happening place...

What changed?? Urban sprawl was part of it, along with highly destructive urban "renewal", which took out blocks of historic houses and other structures dating to the early 1800s. Amtrak took our trains away and the tracks and beautiful train station soon followed - no more making a quick trip into town from the surrounding smaller communities. Changing slow-moving two-way downtown streets to one-way aided the flow of traffic, but wiped out on-street parking on Main Street and offered few alternatives. Privately owned small stores were faced with competing less pricy imports and big chains, and downtown grew dusty, dirty, unkempt, and often unsafe for a several decades. The younger members of the families who'd owned downtown businesses for generations found other interests, and family-owned stores were sold or became part of national chains.

Malls came in around 1967 and were very popular - all under one roof, safe, new, and attractive, plus free and convenient parking! They also brought popular chain stores which were new to our city. Elsewhere, farms were turned into cheaply constructed shopping centers with big box stores with lots of cheap imports, luring more from the declining downtown.

And the city grew, with miles of new developments increasingly far away from downtown. One store after another closed, as customers ceased to shop downtown, usually citing parking and safety as their main concerns. Bus service declined and while the same routes were served, the fifteen minute wait for a bus stretched to an hour - few people are that patient, unless forced to be so.

Many of the doctors' offices moved to the suburbs, often into new structures designed as medical office buildings - previously, many had offices in rehabbed historic houses within two blocks of Main Street, a sort of "doctors' row".

So the years rolled by. And after a while, and after much discussion about what downtown's future should be, we started to see some progress. A fine new library rose on Main Street. New courthouses were constructed, while the old courthouse was left in place (but not adequately funded to repair the damage down by ill-considered "remodeling" in the '60s). The street scene was freshened up with trees, floral planters, and hanging baskets. Two new downtown parks were constructed. A "civic center" with a huge basketball arena was added. Restaurants came and went, to serve those drawn downtown by sporting events, concerts, and other activities. A farmers' market became a huge weekend draw. Lawyers remained downtown, thanks to the courthouses.

One of the remaining movie theatres was restored to most of its original glory, and became a popular destination, showing classics regularly along with current films. Downtown festivals and parades drew crowds downtown once again - but they departed after the last float rolled by and the last corndog was consumed.

But the big retail center of the 1950s was gone and hasn't shown signs of returning. Those wonderful old stores - the ladies' ready-to-wear store which sprayed perfume lightly on all who entered, the big department store with the escalators, the toy departments on the third floors, the smell of roasting peanuts in the dime store, the Christmas train display in the basement, the Christmas windows with colored lights and automaton elves - all are gone now.

And I miss them, but am so thankful I was around to experience them, back in the day...there's nothing like them now, and sadly, I don't foresee them ever coming back.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:30 AM
 
1,269 posts, read 1,032,744 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallybalt View Post
Is "downtown" strictly the CBD?

Or does "downtown" refer to the urban core of a major metropolitan area?

By the end of the 19th century most American CBDs were strictly commercial with few residential amenities outside of hotels. It's not a question of urban sprawl insomuch that American cities quickly shifted to the segregation of zones, with residential, commercial and industrial areas separate from one another. Americans also never took to apartment living on a large scale, so outside of Manhattan and Chicago there aren't many cities with large middle to upper class high density residential areas that would have complimented the CBDs.

Baltimore's CBD is quiet after hours, but the larger urban core has many thriving urban neighborhoods that are popular dining destinations and are active well into the night.
I agree. An administration with a pulse would be trying to surround the CBD with mixed use areas and knit the whole thing together. Unfortunately, I think the residents of Baltimore are on our own since our leaders seem always to be out scouting for the next mega-project on the water. Sometimes I wonder if there is a way to get around our moribund political and business leadership.

Baltimore is going to have to think smaller after the new governor cuts off all state aid and capital flows to the city. If that doesn't kill us, it will make us stronger. Fasten your seatbelts!

Anyway, I find Center City in Philly to be an inspiration and a template. Center City is what Baltimore's CBD+ should/could be when it grows up.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:40 AM
 
Location: Seattle
1,531 posts, read 1,313,104 times
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Cities, like societies, are dynamic things. The OP could just have easily titled this thread, "How did America's Downtown's (sic) Come Back to Life?"

Cities evolve. High density lessens, commerce flees, then the process reverses. A district dominated by one ethnic group is transformed over time into one dominated by a different ethnic group. Department stores bail to the suburbs, only to be replaced by specialty shopping. The key ingredient is time.

Part of these changes might be due to public policy actions, parts due to macroeconomic or societal changes, parts due to the fashions of the day. Many areas have higher crime rates around suburban shopping malls than in CBD zones.

But assuming a point-in-time observation is some sort of truism is simply hogwash when one is talking about cities. They always have been, and remain, the principal venue of change, and you can take that to the bank.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:39 AM
 
8,328 posts, read 14,560,099 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foodmuse View Post
Parking.
There's more truth to this than you know. The effort to bring suburbanites back downtown was often accompanied by leveling multiple city blocks to create parking, which had a horrifying effect on those downtowns--they destroyed exactly the things that make a downtown worth visiting and living in, typically the affordable housing and the local businesses. And in most cases they ended up with the worst of both worlds: the parking was still highly limited and rarely "free" as in the suburban model, because commuters used a huge share of parking and because downtown land is so expensive that it's impossible to have enough downtown lots without limiting the capacity of the downtown--or just shattering it entirely.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:42 AM
 
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Why are the dead down towns not raised, this is the question? Across America small and medium towns with long time extinguished aspirations for growth and glory usually have dilapidated, ugly eyesores for a downtown, there is not a slightest chance for them coming back to life. Simple demolition and planting trees would do a miracle for America, yet everybody clings to the ugliness and decline.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:53 AM
 
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"Simple demolition" is never, ever, EVER simple. And a lot of medium-sized downtowns are coming back to life, if they had the good sense to NOT simply demolish their downtowns and instead chooses to refurbish what remains of their historic cores, building infill on those city-killing parking lots that more closely resembles their century-old neighbors, in function if not in form.
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Old 11-30-2014, 12:13 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,995 posts, read 102,568,112 times
Reputation: 33059
Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
There's more truth to this than you know. The effort to bring suburbanites back downtown was often accompanied by leveling multiple city blocks to create parking, which had a horrifying effect on those downtowns--they destroyed exactly the things that make a downtown worth visiting and living in, typically the affordable housing and the local businesses. And in most cases they ended up with the worst of both worlds: the parking was still highly limited and rarely "free" as in the suburban model, because commuters used a huge share of parking and because downtown land is so expensive that it's impossible to have enough downtown lots without limiting the capacity of the downtown--or just shattering it entirely.
Can you give some examples of cities where this was done?
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Old 11-30-2014, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Montana
522 posts, read 555,438 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RightonWalnut View Post
There are plenty of extremely bustling and vibrant Downtowns in this country as well:

Manhattan
Chicago
San Francisco
Philadelphia
Boston
DC
Seattle

just to name a few
DC's downtown is boring in my opinion. I actually prefer old-town Alexandria to DC. Most people would disagree with me, though.

@OP

Most downtown areas have been subject to gentrification. Whereas a few decades ago anyone could afford to live in the urban core, it has now become an area for the rich. For example: in the 70's much of Manhattan was a gritty, dirty place. You would walk down Times Square and see bunches of sex shops, tramps, prostitutes, shootings etc. with little police interference. As a result of gentrification, NYC has become a little more vanilla than it was. They pushed the poor out along with the small, mom-and-pop shops common in the city. The trade off is that the city is now MUCH safer. Not saying it's a good or bad thing but it happened...

Last edited by JoanCrawford; 11-30-2014 at 12:32 PM..
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