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Thriving Downtowns


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#1 nowyano

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 08:44 PM

I'm curious as to what people think about the importance of thriving downtowns, especially in the South. Other than Atlanta and to an extent New Orleans I have not seen a whole lot of really thriving downtowns (lots of people walking, street performers, museums or cultural events within close proximity) in the South.

Granted I might be thinking more of walkable than thriving, but to me I think those two are almost interchangable. At first, I thought maybe it is the heat and humidity especially in the summer. But Portland, Maine, Boston, New York, and Providence, RI have winters whose colds are equivalent to the South's hots, and their downtowns remain walkable and alive in the winter. Even cities that I have seen with fairly walkable downtowns (Birmingham comes to mind) do not seem to have especially thriving scenes.

Now I know that a lot of places have thriving neighborhoods outside of the cities' cores, and I also know that a lack of public transportation infrastructure may hurt downtowns' growth. As well as the fact that a lot of cities in the South are far reaching (land wise). In addition, for whatever reason, there are a lot of drivers in the south so there is a need parking which many downtowns may not have. So I guess what I am asking is just what the topic description reads: Are thriving downtowns important to urban areas or are they only an added bonus?

Edited by nowyano, 13 October 2009 - 03:48 PM.


 

#2 krazeeboi

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:18 PM

I'm curious as to what people think about the importance of thriving downtowns, especially in the South. Other than Atlanta and to an extent New Orleans I have not seen a whole lot of really thriving downtowns (lots of people walking, street performers, museums or cultural events within close proximity) in the South.

Interesting. I love Atlanta to death, and while its downtown isn't anywhere near dead, it also doesn't top my list of thriving downtowns in the South. I'd probably put New Orleans at the top of the list and follow up with Charleston and Savannah. Cities like Austin, Nashville, and Charlotte also do quite well for themselves. Downtowns that have undergone remarkable transformations within the past several years, like Greenville, SC and Chattanooga, are worthy of mention also. You've also got those one-of-kind cities like Asheville and the very popular South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach.

So I guess what I am asking is just what the topic description reads: Are thriving downtowns important to urban areas or are they only an added bonus?

Important in what way? Economically? In a quality of life way? Culturally? I'd say yes to all of the above.

#3 elb401

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:18 PM

I believe that healthy downtowns are very important for cities. As "where to live" trends change (the demand for urban housing is increasing every year) cities are going to need healthy walkable vibrant downtowns. People want interesting places to live. The city of the future needs to have a mix of urban and suburban areas.

Lets face it, suburban sprawl isn't going anywhere, especially in the south. There will always be someone that wants a half acre lot and live behind a gate. But, Cities and counties need to help facilitate and encourage growth in their downtown areas while also promoting green field new urbanism. Green field new urbansim will help limit land consumption, new and upkeep infrastructure costs, city or county services costs (trash, police and fire protection), and energy costs.

If cities donít encourage revitalization in their downtowns....the developers in the suburbs will develop new "downtown" areas and capture that built up demand.

#4 nowyano

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 03:59 PM

Important in what way? Economically? In a quality of life way? Culturally? I'd say yes to all of the above.



I guess all of the above. The reason I ask is because I have recently moved back around Montgomery, AL and the downtown is going through a huge resurgence and A LOT of people seem to be complaining saying that more focus should be on the outskirts, and it is a waste of money.

Lets face it, suburban sprawl isn't going anywhere, especially in the south.


I think part of my question has to do with this. In the northeast, there is sprawl but nothing like I've seen in Atlanta, Montgomery, and Birmingham. Why does it seem like people want to put all their efforts into the continuing sprawl and not into downtowns?

#5 New Name

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:38 AM

II think part of my question has to do with this. In the northeast, there is sprawl but nothing like I've seen in Atlanta, Montgomery, and Birmingham. Why does it seem like people want to put all their efforts into the continuing sprawl and not into downtowns?



I think that's the real question.

I grew up in Massachusetts, where you move from one town to the next without any dead space in between borders. There is no real "unincorporated" areas such as you would find in the South. And that's just simple population density around older established cities like Boston or New York or Hartford etc. Every bit of land is accounted for and governed either by the incorporated city, or by the incorporated town (which after hundreds of years has come to act as a smaller satellite city). You won't find suburban annexation to build subdivisions in the "outskirts" - simply because there are not as many outskirts to be annexed. Not saying you won't find subdivisions, but the land use is different.

To go back to the point about the importance of a lively downtown: in my opinion, the cities of the northeast as magnets to the satellite towns. The satellite towns exist because they are in orbit around the major city, and so the relationship of the people in those satellite towns is magnetic to the city. I've noticed in the South, that the cities do not have such a magnetic pull. Here in Charlotte, for instance, residents of Waxhaw might only go to Charlotte every once and a while for a NBA or NFL game. But they would never just go there and "hang out," when they have everything they need a want in the suburbs (movies, schools, shopping, dining, etc). I assume even the same could be said about Buckheads relationship with Atlanta. So instead of having one large magnetic city, you have many small towns with very little regional relationship. Ultimately, I think this is why so much retail has failed in this economy, and maybe even why we are such a gluttonous society. There are too many Targets and Walmarts convenient to everyone. So no one needs to go to Belk in Downtown Charlotte anymore - everyone stays in their town and never grows as a society.

Wow. Didn't mean to rant.

#6 krazeeboi

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 06:56 PM

Here in Charlotte, for instance, residents of Waxhaw might only go to Charlotte every once and a while for a NBA or NFL game. But they would never just go there and "hang out," when they have everything they need a want in the suburbs (movies, schools, shopping, dining, etc). I assume even the same could be said about Buckheads relationship with Atlanta.

Buckhead is part of the actual city of Atlanta, not a suburb (even though the business district essentially functions as an edge city). Perimeter or Cumberland would be appropriate examples, though, since they are edge cities outside of the city.

#7 thegryseone

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 12:00 AM

I'd put Charleston and Asheville at the top of the list of thriving downtowns in the South. Just because a downtown has skyscrapers doesn't mean it's thriving. I'm sure that's been discussed ad nauseam on this forum and on similar forums though.

#8 mallguy

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 08:01 PM

I'd also put Greenville, SC at the top of the list of thriving downtowns  Within the last few years, it's gotten (or will be getting) lots of new condos, hotels, entertainment venues and retail (Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie, Orvis and more), plus more office space.  It also has a beautiful park (Falls Park) that's packed on weekends.

 

Downtown certainly moves Greenville up from being a so-so mid-tier Southern city (which it was when I was growing up) to being a really neat, appealing place to be (which is what it is now).

So I'd say that a thriving downtown is key to a city.






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