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Thread: Ugly towns

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Ugly towns

    Have you ever travelled through some communities that looked just so plain ugly, but could have been very nice looking because of its potentials? If so, then what are they?

    Personally, my best example is Trenton, ON. It's on the Trent-Severn Waterways, at the mouth of the wide Trent River that flows into the Qunite Bay, with a small mountain (without a snowy peak!) on the west side of the river, sizable hills all around the town, and a waterfront that faces the northern shore of the Quinte's Isle that's lined with endless stretches of luxurious and luxuriously-wannabe waterfront homes. It's a town with a population 16,770, according to Statistcs Canada.

    What makes Trenton so pigsty? The horrible pulp and paper smell that dominates the town especially on hazy and still air days in the summer. Hotels, schools, and residential areas are facing towards industries, located next to the railways, and away from the Trent River. The CFB (an air force base) dominates the east end of the town, but is still surrounded by ugliness. Illogical street plans have been laid out throughout the town. People seems to grunch, grimace, and grin as they walk through downtown. Cars rush to the crappy malls, to dungy-looking industries in the north end of the town located next to the 401 (which doesn't encouragingly or kindly welcome out of towners to come off the highway and stroll through the town), to pawn shops, or to get the heck through the town and never look back.

    By the way, the real estate market in this town is always much less active and house prices are lower than those in nearby communities.

    I would love the chance to bomb Trenton and redesign the whole town based on its potentials oozing from its waterfront location.

    Here's a map of Trenton, sponsored by Mapblast: Map of Trenton and its vicinity The dark shaded area in the east end of Trenton is the CFB. And, because of the merging of different muncipalities, Trenton is officially known as Quinte West, which was based on an assumption that Belleville, the next town going westwards on the 401, would rename itself as Quinte East, which never happened. Maybe that explains a bit about the mentality of the town.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I know I am going to get flack for this one, but the first city to come to mind is Escanaba, Michigan. It sits along Lake Michigan. On the south the shore is gently sloped, but bluffs rise to the north. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter because there is almost no attempt to use the lake as an asset, except as somebody's back yard. The main road passes through the city, bypassing the downtown in favor of strip commercial. The downtown could have some potential, but is mostly dead. Like Trenton, ON, the aroma of pulp blankets the city at times.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    Driving into Sudbury was pretty scary, there seems to be a death zone around the city. The trees are all dead. Legacy of the nickel mines and smelters? The town itself was pretty nice, we went to a great italian restaurant.

    Soo Canada looks a little rough around the edges but its a nice place unless you want gourmet fineries. It had everything I wanted. We saw the most amazing bar brawl in downtown Soo, CA. Injuns versus the Canajuns versus the Amerkins. We ran out the back door into the alley but cut around to the front of the bar to watch the fights. I may have started the whole thing because a drunken canuck was trying to piss me off by dissing Americans, and I was just giving him my wacky wolverine laugh. He got pissed off and moved on to another table and all heck broke loose. Impressive. Anywhere else you would have paid $200 greenbacks for a ticket to watch the fights. We got out without even paying the bar tab.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    I think part of the reason American cities, especially in the rust belt look so run down is directly related to suburban sprawl. Buffalo, New York may be declining in population but that doesn't stop anyone from building new office parks, mcmansions, industrial parks, and retail out in the suburbs. Meanwhile downtown retail is essentially dead, and the vast majority of new development is taking place in suburban locales. This of course leads to a downtown area and inner city that while representative of the whole city/region, have fared far worse than the region as a whole.

    Traveling throughout Great Britain I honestly haven't seen many rundown cities, there may be areas that have seen better days, but the downtown areas of these cities still are the center of the region for retail, entertainment, etc.

    Another factor in this is that home prices in the inner city in places such as Buffalo are extremly low. Generally on the eastside, Buffalo's 'ghetto' most houses sell for under 20k. If one's home is worth so little and unlikely to appreciate in value where is the motivation to improve it? Furthurmore with home prices being so low whats going to stop someone from moving out to the inner suburbs where they can get a post-war cape cod for $50k?

    I think to revrese this decline there needs to be a moratorium on furthur development in subuirban locales, which unfortunately is highly unlikely.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Not actually a town, but: West and south Santiago.... Ugly and poor become synonyms (besides numerous drug dealing and crime issues)

    Hmm ugly cities/towns... can't think of any in particular, but many poor cities would fall in this category, strictly because of this. We do have some towns that look like Flint, MI (at least what I've been able to see in the extremely biased films of Michael Moore.)
    Now that I think of it... the string of cities of the old coal mining sector near Concepcion are pretty ugly, very poor now that the coal mining is gone, and just flat out depressing. Some of these cities are: Coronel, that now lives thanks to fishing and some little tourism that's beggining to develop. Lota, lives out of tourism of old colonial houses of the early Coal era and excursions into the coal mines.

    It's a bad idea when the government runs mining companies... these mines ran with deficit during at least a decade until the government finnaly had the balls to put it to an end, that was pretty rough, because before the government had no balls to start re-adequation programs to minimize the effects of the mines closure.

    Ok.. I stop now... before I turn this to a rant.

  6. #6

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    I'm going to avoid the economic basket cases in my list. In some respects, they can't help it.

    Tops on the disappointment list: Half Moon Bay, CA. Fantastic coastal setting, great (if cold and foggy beaches), beautiful farmland that grows unique products. BUT, the town itself, except for a cutesy touristy downtown, is frankly rather ugly. Too much ultra-blah 1970s tract house architecture and roadside junk. A bad highway strip that makes a town of 17,000 string out forever. The town's downtown and neighborhoods ignore the nearby coast entirely-on Main Street, Half Moon Bay you could hardly guess you are in a coastal town. Major disappointment-even given that there is a neighborhood on the north side of town called Miramar that will see my money come the matching magic six numbers on Wednesday

    Picking just a neighborhood: I was really disappointed with Downtown Cincinatti. Really, really disjointed, with no feeling of enclosed, complete streetscapes. Plenty of lovely, soul-destroying megaprojects-and those awful skyways(Cinci ain't THAT cold, is it?) Although I quite enjoyed the Zaha Hadid musem building-especially inside. Fountain Square was blah-I thought they were refurbishing it. There are many neighborhoods in Cinci that I love. Just not downtown.

    Albuquerque, N.M. Except for a couple of neat pockets, what an amazingly bland and ugly city. No character whatsoever. San Jose without landscaping. (Great setting, though. That tram trip up to 10,000 feet in the Sandia Mountains during a thunderstorm was one of my more interesting tourist experiences!)

    Reading, California. Neat new bridge aside, what an ugly city. Appealing only for the huntin' and fishin' crowd who want a cheap retirement home and easy access to some undeniably nice countryside. Incredibly hot during the summer, all of the smog from the Bay Area and the Central Valley blows up and is trapped in this little hole of a city. Their idea of a pedestrian mall was to build an ugly 1970s-style mall (without the panache of the French Les Halles disaster) and somehow meld it to the remaining downtown storefronts of their traditional main street. Its an abject failure, of course.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Two thoroughly uninspiring towns I've spent some time in are Davenport, IA and Middletown, NY. Davenport has probably the most lifeless downtown I've ever seen; it was a place where, on a Sunday afternoon, children could play in the streets without ever seeing a car. On nearly every lot in downtown Davenport sat an almost-empty office building, a bleak housing project, or a parking lot. Built on tall bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, this beautiful Midwestern setting could be a great little micropolitan center, but has just been way too neglected. Middletown is 66 miles northwest of New York City, too far from New York for its people to be able to take advantage of urban amenities on a daily basis, but too close from New York to possess any urbanity of its own. Middletown, population 25,000, has the distinction of being the home of the first retail sprawl in the country (Route 211, or "Miracle Mile" as it was once called), incredibly ugly with its mix of new (Super Wal-Mart and several formula-built Aldis and Rite Aids) and old (there are still quite a few decaying big-boxes). Its Federal-era downtown, at the top of one of the many hills in this region of New York State, is woefully underutilized; industrial buildings sit abandoned by the railroad tracks, and pawn shops and convience stores are the most common types of businesses. Despite one of the lowest income levels and lowest educational-attainment levels in the state, Middletown seems like the type of place that could almost distinguish itself as an exurb of New York City (as a Puerto Rican-Poblano Mexican ethnoburb, or as a small art town, for example) but any attempts to do so fail miserably. There appears to be absolutely no effort on the part of the city to attempt to lure people to a place so full of potential.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    How 'bout

    El Paso Texas? This place ooozes potential, but it just isn't loved enough.....certainly the downtown area......a real bummer this place can't take off.....I really like the surrounding area as a border town.....All those bombed out buildings and steel doored market place / bazzare style stores make it a sad place....
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  9. #9
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by munibulldog
    Driving into Sudbury was pretty scary, there seems to be a death zone around the city. The trees are all dead. Legacy of the nickel mines and smelters? The town itself was pretty nice, we went to a great italian restaurant.
    They closed all the old smelters, built the world's tallest smokestack (?), limed the soil, and planted a gazillion trees. It's still one of the ugliest towns I've ever seen - everything seems so makeshift and temporary. Beautiful setting though - a great "outdoors" town.

  10. #10

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    I second El Paso and, for the most part, Albuquerque. Staying on the theme of sunbelt cities, I add Phoenix and its 'burbs and Sierra Vista, AZ, and all of Las Cruces, NM, except Mesilla. Then there's Las Vegas and Reno, NV.

    I think BKM is giving Half Moon Bay a bad rap. Not that its great, 'cuz it isn't, but it isn't really ugly either. I am not sure a town should be penalized for not living up to it setting.

  11. #11
    Here are a few that come to mind for me:

    Frankenmouth, MI,
    Gaylord, MI (I hate tick-tacky, phony-colony, fake-Alpine, touristy downtowns)

    Las Vegas
    Atlanta
    Minneapolis

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Niagra Falls, NY - depressed, seamingly empty, small city next to one of the natural wonders of the world.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Another......

    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I second El Paso and, for the most part, Albuquerque. Staying on the theme of sunbelt cities, I add Phoenix and its 'burbs and Sierra Vista, AZ, and all of Las Cruces, NM, except Mesilla. Then there's Las Vegas and Reno, NV.

    I think BKM is giving Half Moon Bay a bad rap. Not that its great, 'cuz it isn't, but it isn't really ugly either. I am not sure a town should be penalized for not living up to it setting.
    One other sunbelt town could be Globe Arizona.....I thought this place was really cool and in a great setting, yet close enough to enjoy Phoenix attractions......just needs more "non-basic" commercial business operations......gotta get out of the boom bust mining stuff.....
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I second El Paso and, for the most part, Albuquerque. Staying on the theme of sunbelt cities, I add Phoenix and its 'burbs and Sierra Vista, AZ, and all of Las Cruces, NM, except Mesilla. Then there's Las Vegas and Reno, NV.

    I think BKM is giving Half Moon Bay a bad rap. Not that its great, 'cuz it isn't, but it isn't really ugly either. I am not sure a town should be penalized for not living up to it setting.
    Well, what bothers me about it is how strung out it is, and how absolutely blah the architecture of the neighborhoods is. I much prefer a semi-shabby place with some history to a collection of circa 1976 track homes.

    But, the setting is lovely, for sure.

    Quote Originally posted by Super Amputee Cat
    Here are a few that come to mind for me:

    Frankenmouth, MI,
    Gaylord, MI (I hate tick-tacky, phony-colony, fake-Alpine, touristy downtowns)

    Las Vegas
    Atlanta
    Minneapolis
    Interesting list. Never been to Minneapolis, but doesn't it have a fantastic lakeside park and boulevard system?

    Atlanta, as sprawling as it is, also has wonderful tree cover and some neat older neighborhoods.

    Las Vegas is indeed The Utopia of Clowns.
    Last edited by Tranplanner; 10 Jan 2005 at 2:15 PM.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    This landscape contains ten lane highways with "feeder highways" on each side. In the distance, a continuous sea of parking for the 1,000-year Christmas gives way to a more comforting sequence of Wal Mart,Taco Bell,McDs, BK, etc...


    Greater Houston!!!

  16. #16
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Hayden Lake and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
    The area is settled in a beautiful area with lots of Northern Pine growth and beautiful lakes all around. Driving through the area with a planner's mentality can take its toll; however, a lack of planning and design standards, I found myself focusing on that rather than the mountains and lakes.
    RichmondJake, are you available for comment?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by BKM

    Interesting list. Never been to Minneapolis, but doesn't it have a fantastic lakeside park and boulevard system?

    Atlanta, as sprawling as it is, also has wonderful tree cover and some neat older neighborhoods.

    Las Vegas is indeed The Utopia of Clowns.
    I should note that I was just commenting on the downtowns of these cities. Atlanta and Minneapolis are choked with gaudy or flashy 1960s to 1990s office buildings but indeed have some nice neighborhoods. But Vegas is a lost cause no matter how you look at it.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Barring those cities and towns in the grips of economic decline I would have to nominate Sleazly, err…I mean Easley, SC as one of the ugliest towns in the US, particularly the area along US 123 heading toward downtown Greenville. This constitutes the town’s main drag and is a “scenic” collection of strip malls, big boxes, un-regulated signage, car lots and mobile home dealerships. Truly enough to give even the most libertarian minded planner a conniption.

  19. #19
         
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    Branson, MO

  20. #20
    Quote Originally posted by Jaxspra
    Branson, MO
    I can't believe I didn't think of these before: Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN!

  21. #21
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jaxspra
    Branson, MO
    Branson? "It's like Las Vegas, if Ned Flanders was in charge..."
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  22. #22

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    Ah, Branson. I did some planning work in Taney County back in the early '80's. Even then the highway west of Branson was so congested that people got t-shirts.

    I don't think of Couer d'Alene itself as especially ugly, and while Hayden Lake is certainly sprawling, I don't think of it as especially ugly either. I'd say both were more typical than not (which perhaps means lot of places are ulgy?). I'm trying to think of the ugliest place in Idaho. Wallace, with the interstate looming over the downtown is certainly a competitor. Then there are some of the more depressing small farm towns in the south.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    Hayden Lake and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. ...[snip]....RichmondJake, are you available for comment?
    I'll agree with you on Hayden Lake but disagree on Coeur d'Alene. A nice downtown with some interesting shops and restaurants. It is impacted by the strip commercial development north of town, however.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Branson, really?
    I would call it interesting but not ugly.
    Did you know it will be a midwest conference destination this next year. All these years they have never had a conference center and now they are building 5 at one time. That is the way they do it down there. If one is good then more is better.

    My uncle has been a long time resident. They just hook those buildings to the side of a hill. My uncle took me to see his new lot a few years ago and we drove down the road and stopped. Looked down over the edge of the road into the tree tops and he proudly said isn't it a great lot. All three stories come out at ground level. They just hooked it to the hill.

    Now as for ugly, I believe that the place I am living now comes in high. Surrounded by flat flood plain, there isn't a way into town that isn't just plain ugly.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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