It's very difficult to "create" a downtown environment where one hasn't evolved through history. It doesn't help that nearly every township zoning ordinance I've read literally makes illegal anything that even begins to resemble a traditional "downtown" -- mixed uses, 2nd story residential, no setbacks, no sideyards, no required parking for each business, common sidewalls, etc.
Thankfully many of our traditional downtown areas have seen a nice resurgence of activity over the past few years.
I think people really yearn for the ability to spend time in a small, community environment where they can buy a book, sip a latte, shop for a greeting card, walk their dog and chat with their neighbors. And not one that they typically have to drive to.
It would be great to see a real, planned, new-urbanist type of community work here in West Michigan. Something like Seaside or Haile Plantation in Florida.
The danger is that these places become homogeneous, elite, gated communities. Mixed housing becomes a vital part of any plan.