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Old 11-13-2012, 08:56 PM
 
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Some of the pictures on this thread have shown downtowns that are attractive in appearance. I'd say, though, that a first-rate downtown area has to offer a lot in the way of function, not just appearance. There has to be something there that draws people there. A good downtown will be a place where people enjoy going, or a location they find to be a useful destination because it is a place where they can find stores selling a variety of items that serve their needs. I'd be interested in reading about donwtowns people here are familiar with which rate well in this functional sense. Visual aesthetics are very nice, but aren't enough.
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Old 11-13-2012, 09:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ogre View Post
There has to be something there that draws people there. A good downtown will be a place where people enjoy going, or a place they find to be a useful destination because it is a place where they can find stores selling a variety of items that serve their needs. I'd be interested in reading about donwtowns people here are familiar with which rate well in this functional sense. Visual aesthetics are very nice, but aren't enough.
Maybe someplace like this: City of Orange, NJ - Google Maps ?
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:38 PM
 
Location: 304
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In WV we have some really nice downtowns for the cities we have

Larger towns

Charleston
Morgantown

Smaller towns

Lewisburg
Shepardstown
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:46 PM
 
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ogre View Post
Some of the pictures on this thread have shown downtowns that are attractive in appearance. I'd say, though, that a first-rate downtown area has to offer a lot in the way of function, not just appearance. There has to be something there that draws people there. A good downtown will be a place where people enjoy going, or a location they find to be a useful destination because it is a place where they can find stores selling a variety of items that serve their needs. I'd be interested in reading about donwtowns people here are familiar with which rate well in this functional sense. Visual aesthetics are very nice, but aren't enough.
But don't those two things usually go hand in hand? I have not seen many successful small city downtowns that are extremely functional and highly successful yet horribly ugly/poorly planned. If the downtown area is not aesthetically pleasing, no one will want to spend time there, or spend money at the businesses there. It will likely become a ghost town, where people drive through and do not stop to stroll/shop/enjoy themselves.
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Old 11-14-2012, 07:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by fennec2009 View Post
But don't those two things usually go hand in hand? I have not seen many successful small city downtowns that are extremely functional and highly successful yet horribly ugly/poorly planned. If the downtown area is not aesthetically pleasing, no one will want to spend time there, or spend money at the businesses there. It will likely become a ghost town, where people drive through and do not stop to stroll/shop/enjoy themselves.
I posted one -- the Orange, NJ, Main Street. You see plenty of people in the next town over, East Orange, both on the road which continues Orange's Main Street (called Martin Luther King Blvd in East Orange, and Orange Street in Newark, though in Newark it's pretty dead), and on Central Avenue several blocks south. These are both towns with a lot of poverty and no shortage of crimes, but while their downtowns are ugly you can't say they're not lively.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:04 PM
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Location: Western Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by fennec2009 View Post
But don't those two things usually go hand in hand? I have not seen many successful small city downtowns that are extremely functional and highly successful yet horribly ugly/poorly planned. If the downtown area is not aesthetically pleasing, no one will want to spend time there, or spend money at the businesses there. It will likely become a ghost town, where people drive through and do not stop to stroll/shop/enjoy themselves.
I think ogre meant many small downtowns are attractive and cutsey but tend to focus on boutiques and restaurants at the expense of normal, everyday stores which have moved to strip malls on the periphery. Interesting, unique stores are a plus, but only those run a risk of having the downtown become mostly a local tourist attraction, which might be enough to attract pedestrians to stroll through for fun.

Many small downtowns have this issue, but I've seen many that manage to have a decent selection of normal shops as well. Of Western Massachusetts small cities, I'd say Greenfield is one of the best at having normal shops downtown
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:36 PM
 
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Maybe someplace like this: City of Orange, NJ - Google Maps ?
From that picture, I can't get enough of a feel about what variety of stores there are to tell whether this fits what I was talking about. Still, even though the buildings look kind of plain, that scene looks plenty clean enough, with buildings in decent condition, so that I would think it could be a good downtown given a varied collection of businesses that would make it a convenient shopping place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fennec2009 View Post
But don't those two things usually go hand in hand? I have not seen many successful small city downtowns that are extremely functional and highly successful yet horribly ugly/poorly planned. If the downtown area is not aesthetically pleasing, no one will want to spend time there, or spend money at the businesses there. It will likely become a ghost town, where people drive through and do not stop to stroll/shop/enjoy themselves.
It's true for sure that attractiveness and good function often go together in a downtown. In fact, I think that if a lot of stores close and the area fades, often the buildings will start to look shabby at some point. So, not only do you make a good point about how an attractive downtown will draw people to the stores there, but it works in the other direction as well--a good collection of businesses will keep a downtown from fading and becoming unattractive.

The main reason I made that post pointing out the distinction between attractiveness and function was that in those photos of Staunton, VA, and Stillwater, MN, on page 5, I was struck by the dearth of activity on the streets despite the aesthetic appeal of the buildings. A few parked cars and one pedestrian in the Staunton pics, and in the Stillwater scene, a handful of parked cars and a few moving along the street, and no pedestrians in sight. I did notice that the lighting in the Staunton photos looked as if it could have been early morning, maybe before most stores had opened, but still I was struck by the empty appearances of these aesthetically pleasing locations.

If a downtown both is attractive and offers a useful and interesting collection of stores, all the better, but I can see how a downtown with plain-looking buildings like those in NYbbler's East Orange pic could be a good destination as well, with an appealing variety of stores.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:37 PM
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Location: Western Massachusetts
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I had troubling figuring out if nybbler posted East Orange as joke.
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Old 11-14-2012, 09:02 PM
 
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I had troubling figuring out if nybbler posted East Orange as joke.
Despite the text in the search box, the location is actually Orange. But though it would come as a surprise to many of those in the NJ forum (who think stepping into either town is a death sentence), both Orange and East Orange have functional downtown areas. What they aren't is pretty, and you see stores which cater to the population (no Starbucks here!). I didn't post it as a joke, just as kind of a counterpoint to downtowns which have appearance but not function; these have function but not appearance. They're not places residents of the nearby wealthier towns would have reason to go (unlike, say, Montclair, NJs downtown), but they serve the local residents quite well.
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Old 11-14-2012, 09:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
I think ogre meant many small downtowns are attractive and cutsey but tend to focus on boutiques and restaurants at the expense of normal, everyday stores which have moved to strip malls on the periphery. Interesting, unique stores are a plus, but only those run a risk of having the downtown become mostly a local tourist attraction, which might be enough to attract pedestrians to stroll through for fun.

Many small downtowns have this issue, but I've seen many that manage to have a decent selection of normal shops as well. Of Western Massachusetts small cities, I'd say Greenfield is one of the best at having normal shops downtown
Exactly. I don't have anything against the boutiques and trendy little eating spots, but a downtown loses its appeal for me if that's all it has.

Of any downtown I've ever been familiar with in a town or small city, my favorite was the downtown in Delaware, OH, on the northern fringe of the Columbus metro area, when I was in college there in the '70's. Here's a list of some businesses located there at that time: two banks; two drugstores; an old-fashioned grocery store (bigger than a convenience store, smaller than a supermarket, probably a lot like grocery stores that existed before supermarkets) that was open around the clock; two bookstores; a record store; three barber shops and a unisex hair place; a little throwback magazine, news, and tobacco shop; a slightly upscale family kind of restaurant and several good cheap eats places, including one that was open all night; four bars and one place that was both a bar and a restaurant; two liquor stores (one a beer and wine package store and the other the state store that sold the hard stuff); a hardware store and a housewares and lighter hardware store; a little arts and crafts place; two florists (for that someone on Valentine's Day, and Mom on Mom's Day); a travel agency (for getting out of town at the end of the term); a jewelry store; a small furniture store; an electronic appliance store; a photographer's studio; a dress shop and two fairly upscale men's clothing stores; a low-cost little department store that was a good place to buy jeans, gloves, winter hats, and work shoes, boots, etc.; a shoe store; assorted lawyers' offices and insurance agencies; and as a nice extra touch, a genuine old-fashioned downtown movie theater.

I'm not saying that this is the ultimate non-big-city downtown of all time, but it's the best one I've ever been familiar with. I also won't claim that the entire town was a walking kind of town. There was a pretty decent-sized older part of town within convenient walking distance of downtown, but there were also a number of outlying neighborhoods, as well as some large apartment complexes around the edges of town. There was also quite a bit of commercial activity in outlying sections, mostly along main streets--fast food places, chain restaurants, small hotels and a couple of cheap no-tell motels, supermarkets, small shopping centers, gas stations, medical office buildings. Still, the college (Ohio Wesleyan) campus was near downtown, and when I later lived off campus I was still close to downtown. I really, really, really, really liked being able to walk downtown and take care of pretty much any kind of purchase for pretty much every kind of everyday need all in that one place.

And here are links to a couple of pics which show that downtown Delaware wasn't/isn't (these look like fairly recent photos) too shabby in the looks department either:

File:Pilsner's, Delaware, Ohio.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...elawareOH1.jpg.

It was that collection of everyday needs kinds of stores that made this such an appealing downtown to me. While I understand the economics involved, I do think it's sad that so many towns now have the functional kinds of stores located in those strip malls at the edge of town which Nei described. Finding such places in a real downtown is a treasure.
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