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Great Mid West downtowns


Who has the best downtowns in mid west  

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  1. 1. Who has the best downtowns in mid west

    • Saint Louis
    • Chicago
    • Detroit
    • Kansas City
    • Indianappolis
    • Minneappolis
    • Cleveland
    • Milwakee

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yeah that's kind of a lopsided question, Chicago is probabally the only city in the country that can compete with New York in terms of skyline. It really blows other cities right out in terms of hieght and such.

But honestly, If the question were which city has the best downtown, where it's not a tremendous amount of work to get to, park, and then play in, I'd have to go with Minneapolis, and then St. Louis, as far as things to do are concerned. But Detroit in terms of Beautiful architechture, and history.

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I'd have to give Indy credit too. I've never been there yet, but the reason I want to go is to see its downtown.

Columbus is respectable, but it's a work in progress.

Detroit, while still very rough-looking on the surface has some amazing transformations going on. It's very cool to be living amongst such an extreme period of change in Detroit's downtown progress. We're at the laying of the foundation stages right now, and once that is done (post Super Bowl), the building of intensity can begin.

Until then though, the simple change of a daily population visually on the rise, provides so much gratification!

Best way to tour the changes? The People Mover's bird's eye views:


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I have been to Indianapolis last September. It doesn't look nearly as big as Minneapolis/St. Paul, but it is still decent. Going towards downtown on I-65 gives a good view of the skyline as you go in. Indianapolis is a very easy city to figure out, and navigate. On the way to Oak Ridge Tennessee, the drive through Indiana was very smooth and the terrain is rather flat. Still, it was a very pleasant drive through many crop lands, mostly corn and wheat with a fairly good number of opportunities to stop for a break.

By the way, I like the photo of the people mover, it does look rather artistic for some reason I can't quite fathom. It is good that things are going well in your city, Michi, and I hope you get a chance to visit Indianapolis. And, don't forget a road trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul as well. Going to the Twin Cities will run you through Chicago, giving you some good, and chalenging metro driving along the way. When you get there, you'll get a chance to ride the light rail system and shop the Mall of America!


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I think everyone is right about Chicago. There is really no contest of course simply due to size alone. But as a First-Runner-Up I think Minneapolis fits the bill. Safe, clean, entertaining and filled with people. Chicago excluded, I don't think any other midwest downtowns can claim 140,000 workers and 34,000 residents (though correct me if I'm wrong here!).

Add in it's live theatre community (3 Tony Award-winning Regional Theatre companies - matched only by Chicago and New Haven - and about 100 other resident theatre companies), night clubs, nationally-ranked restaurants and downtown shopping that includes Neiman-Marcus, Saks and Marshall Field's along with your basic Target and Marshall's - and about 300 other shops - it's hard to beat. (Of course you could add Nordstrom's, Macy's, and Bloomingdale's but they are located at the Mall of America in Bloomington. ...beotchs.)

Plus, city buildings by Cesar Pelli, Philip Johnson, Pei Cobb Freed, SOM, Helmut Jahn, Gunnar Birkerts, Michael Graves, Minoru Yamasaki, Herzog & DeMeuron, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Kenzo Tange, Erich Mendelsohn, Cass Gilbert, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ralph Rapson and Edward Larabee Barnes among others have contributed to a vast architectural oeuvre of the city.

Stop me now. :D

Sorry, I have fallen in love with this city.

BUT, I'd love to check out Indianapolis. I've never been there and I hear it's terrific too. And I'd also like to spend more time in Detroit than I have done in the past. Detroit has some great restaurants and a fabulous neighborhood in Greektown! And hell!!, Milwaukee has probably the most dramatic new addition to an Art Gallery than any other city in the country. Santiago Calatrava rocks! And don't get me started about Columbus. To have another midwestern city that patronizes world-renowned architects is simply amazing!

I generally think many of the Midwestern downtowns are pretty good, but everyone needs to work to make them 24/7 destinations. THAT I think is the one negative that people around the country believe is the case with the Midwest. That the sidewalks are rolled up at 10:00 and people crash at 11. I've seen huge crowds on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis at 2:00 AM and in Chicago even much later.

The rest of the country needs to get off their high horse and realize that "fly-over land" has life, culture, beauty, culture, provocativeness, culture, intelligence, culture, and simple fabulousness that even many coastal cities cannot claim.

Alright, I just had two rum and cokes, so if I rambled on I apologize! B)

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's been awhile since I moved from Minneapolis or even visited, but I'd like to go back soon and see how the downtown has changed. I now live in Ann Arbor, outside of Detroit. Downtown Detroit can be very nice, and the building stock is always nice whether there's people there or not. Just focusing on downtown, there's good quality transit (the PeopleMover) esp. compared to other midwestern downtowns. But there are also nice downtowns outside of downtown Detroit, yet still in the metro, like where I live, Ann Arbor, Hamtramck, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Ferndale, Ypsilanti. Pontiac and Flint also have sizeable downtowns. And don't forget Windsor, right across the river... standing in downtown Detroit it's hard to tell that Windsor's skyline isn't just part of Detroit.

But I think it goes without saying that Chicago is the only real downtown that has survived in the midwest (maybe except Minneapolis). Fifty years ago, things were much different. Yet Chicago is also far from perfect, it's just been gentrifying a lot. (Downtown Detroit's also seen a lot of new development in the last 3 years)

A few people have mentioned Columbus. I grew up there and I have to say its downtown is weak. It empties out after the government workers go home. But the areas north of downtown are turning out nicely. Still no form of transit beyond busses. Number of downtown residents is tiny. And from what I've seen of Indy, it's not unlike Columbus.

Cleveland may be in a better spot.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Wouldn't it have been more fun to RANK the best downtowns, since Chicago is the clear winner. If I could rank them, I would do the following: 1.) Chicago 2.) Minneapolis 3.) Cleveland. These three cities rank 1-2-3 in terms of total office square footage, which is a pretty good benchmark of the scale of downtown. Obviously architecture and 24-hour vibrancy come into play as well. Chicago dominates all three categories. Minneapolis has a jump on all non-Chicago midwest cities in terms of recent downtown housing efforts. Cleveland has FIVE histroric theaters in one location -Playhouse Square. Throw in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it's a lock in the number three position.

Oddly enough, Detroit has the distinction of being the only major-league downtown in the Midwest that is actually smaller than the downtown of one (or more) of its suburbs. Southfield and Warren actually have more office square footage. I wish Detroiters all the best in reviving their downtown, but it has a long way before it catches up to the three cities listed above.

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Total office square footag should be the last thing on your mind when considering which downtown is the best. The most important stat to me is the height of the downtown, as in the number of high rise buildings. If you have 1 billion sq. ft of office space and it's in all or mostly low rise buildings, it's not impressive, just as if the buildings in a downtown are ugly or lack character.

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Both height and office space are equally ridiculous in considering when talking about the superlative "best." Some of the world's most beautiful central cities lack skyscrapers (Washington D.C., Paris...). I mean, a skyline like Houston is tall, but it leaves MUCH to be desired at street level. Parts of it resemble an office park on steroids. Height, or size, alone or even mostly don't determine a "great" or "best" downtown.

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I'm not going to say Detroit's downtown is better than Cleveland's, but I will mention that Detroit has six active theatres in its Grand Circus Park theatre district:

1. The Fox Theatre

2. Detroit Opera House

3. The State Theatre

4. Music Hall

5. The Gem and Century Theatres

6. The City Theatre

Collectively, they seat 12,550.

It should also be noted that downtown detroit is only 1 sq. mi., while Southfield covers 26 sq. mi. If you take Downtown, Midtown, and New Center (i.e. Greater Downtown) for Detroit it's still only about 4 sq. mi. and probably has close to twice as much office space as Southfield.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Is gentrification a bad thing?



n : the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class (resulting in the displacement of lower-income people)

It really depends on what you think about displacing lower income people. Most would say its good to a small extent. Revitalization of dilapidated downtowns is a good example of good gentrification. But unfortuatly for every good example you can probably fine two or three bad examples.

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  • 2 months later...

Regarding the above note about downtown Columbus, growing up in Columbus does not mean you would know or be able to make a statement on downtown Columbus in 2005.

Columbus has adopted one of the most aggressive downtown housing and office programs in the country. Columbus' downtown renaissance happend later than most cities, around 2003. In 1999-2000 new city government created indepent companies and city agencies to literally only oversee downtown developement. The effects are now being seen. The downtown office vacancy rate is lower than the suburbs. From 2002-2005 Columbus has seen 1,200 downtown housing units open. This surpasses any other city in the state. Around 3,000 units are in pipeline. The market is so strong because of the economy and Columbus really doesn't suffer from as many urban problems as other older cities.

Columbus is also unique becasue its downtown is already surrounded by dense and extremely healthy urban neighborhoods. The cities downtown is already night and daywhen compared to just two years ago. Downtown Columbus is on its way to reaching its full potential which will be a great progress to watch unfold.

Here's a link to the Downtown Columbus Development Corporation's website... It really gives a nice rundown on how the city and local companies work together to create and promote development.


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