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Thread: Favorite Under-Rated Cities

  1. #1

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    Favorite Under-Rated Cities

    I don't recall ever doing anything phrased this way, so...Sorta riffing on/consolidating the "medium sized cities" post

    Everybody knows about the "biggest" and the "best" cities, the San Franciscos, Chicagos, Denvers, etc. The most "fashionable" for whatever reason among urbanists.

    So: What do you think are the best of the unfashionable, under-rated, "unknown" cities, of whatever size? It should be a city, not merely a suburban component of a larger metro area.

    I have three favorites I'll post. None are completely unknown, but they are certainly not "in" either (except maybe to their residents):

    1. SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA.

    Sure it's hot and flat, but this city boasts blocks and blocks of beautiful pre-war "suburban" neighborhoods like McKinley Park and Land Park, pockets of great Victorian and arts and crafts housing in Midtown and Alkali Flata basically uninterrupted bicycle trail system that is approaching 40 miles in length-all along a major river system, excellent examples of moderate density inner city infill development in Midtown Sacramento, a fantastic city park system based on neighborhood parks that are generally jewels, and TREES...hundreds of thousands of trees. Plus, "urbane" infill has led to a restaurant renaissance in Sacramento, with great food available in almost every neighborhood. Throw in monthly art gallery walks that have become almost too successful, the tourist attractions of the Capital itself, Old Sacramento (which can be fun and has one of the best, if pricey, art galleries for Pueblo pottery outside New Mexico), and you can have a good time in the Big Tomato. It's my nearest "city," so I visit a lot.

    2. CINCINATTI

    I really like Cinci. I know it's conservative and their are racial tensions. I know the city has stagnated in population and is not an exemplar of good professional planning. Still, what a great range of neighborhoods. Mount Adams has to be one of my favorites, with its narrow streets and lanes, quirky courtyards, melange of architecture, and the presence of Eden Park and a big art museum. Plus, one can actually walk to downtown, which despite some urban design flaws is still a pretty exciting downtown district with some potential. Add in the college neighborhood near UC, the beautiful old money suburbs of the east side (Hyde Park has a jewel of a neighborhood square, as does the slightly less polished Mount Lookout), the park system, the reality that Cinci is a center for several companies, not just a branch plant town. I love Cinci-although I probably wouldn't order sushi/Asian food there in the future

    3. LOUISVILLE

    OK downtown with great cast iron district along Main Street. But, it's the Highlands area that makes me love Louisville. Miles of quirky bohemian shops, great residential areas, beautiful Olmstead-design park system. Plus, an awesome record store!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    East St. Louis, IL.

    East Los Angeles, CA

    East De Noc, MI
    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

  3. #3
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Well, it's kinda hard to compare apples and oranges, bigger cities and smaller cities. But anyway...

    To name a few:
    Rockford, IL (the MSA is around 400K, but Madison always steals the spotlight as does the behemoth of Chicagoland).

    Baton Rouge, LA (always lost out to New Orleans and even Shreveport, despite being a capital city and having around half a million people. I'm thinking this might change though due to Katrina)

    Colorado Springs, CO (really seems like a nice city, and has a heck of a lot of people. It always baffles me that they can never get big-name concert acts to perform at the World Arena. Yes, it's undergoing lots of sprawl, but I hear there's a lot of bustling activity going around downtown)

    Cedar Rapids, IA (ultimately the hub of eastern IA. It has a really quaint downtown and lots of civic activity. However, it has lost out to Des Moines and the Quad Cities over time. It also doesn't help that the education goes to Iowa City, the tourism to Dubuque, and a lot of industry to Waterloo)

    Dayton, OH (caught between Cincinnati and Columbus, it has never really come up with a name for itself. You never hear of anybody going to Dayton these days.)
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    My favorite underrated cities:

    1. Grand Rapids, MI: Great downtown, very walkable, new Grand Valley State campus, some cool neighborhoods, new form-based code, plenty of public spaces, lots to do, getting better each day.

    2. St. Louis, MO: Great sports town, lots to do downtown, Forest Park, the Wash U area, St. Louis U area, decent transit...

    3. Charlotte, NC: I was quite impressed when I visited Charlotte for the first time last spring. Very clean, nice townhomes and condos right downtown, very walkable, good eateries/pubs, tall buildings - but still a smaller town feel.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    New London, CT

    Plymouth, MA

    Norwitch, CT

  6. #6
    Newark
    St. Louis
    Savannah

  7. #7
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Ft. Lauderdale
    Long Beach, Ca.
    Albany, NY

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Ithaca, NY
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ICT/316's avatar
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    Well, I’m going with St. Louis cause I got schooled ( ) from some fellow Cyburbia’s back a few when I was talking Sh*t about how Sh*tting it was. I did some in depth research and visited in August (as a tourist) and that my story and I’m stick’n to it!

    Of coure Wichita!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bill

    _________

    “Guess what, I do. I know that one day Veronica and I are gonna to get married on top of a mountain, and there's going to be flutes playing and trombones and flowers and garlands of fresh herbs. And we will dance till the sun rises! And then our children will form a family band! And we will tour the countryside and you won't be invited!”


    - Ron Burgundy

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner

    Dayton, OH (caught between Cincinnati and Columbus, it has never really come up with a name for itself. You never hear of anybody going to Dayton these days.)
    On a trip last year, I tried to find a nice independent restaurant district downtown. Downtown Dayton was closed (except for the pedestrian crosswalk signals, which tripped repeatedly even though there was not a single pedestrian for blocks), and we ended up at a Panera Bread outlet in some strip center.

    Really, really nice suburban neighborhoods, though (Oakwood)

  11. #11
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Elgin, IL.

    The pre-WW2 portion of th city is really quite nice in form and housing stock. The downtown is a little sleepy, though, but there is now a coming resurgence for the City's core. The old part of Elgin has been given a bad rap over the last couple decades, and has a high population of...gasp ....Hispanics...so many uptight whites have maligned the City. But the place is still rather affordable for people that want a decent old house in a decent streetcar urban area, but want a relatively short commute to Hoffman Estates or Schaumburg or Elk Grove Village, then this is the place to buy.
    Last edited by mendelman; 14 Sep 2005 at 12:23 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Everybody's favorite eminent domain abusers . . . New London, CT.

    Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME - although most people who have been there don't under-appreciate them.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Chicagoans are always convinced that we're underrated, feeling that we get filed as a distant third (or even behind the likes of San Francisco and Boston ) when we feel like we aught to be a solid second.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Elgin, IL.

    The pre-WW2 portion of th city is really quite nice in form and housing stock. The downtown is a little sleepy, though, but there is now a coming resurgencance for the City's core. The old part of Elgin has been given a bad rap over the last couple decades, and has a high population of...gasp ....Hispanics...so many uptight whites have maligned the City. But the place is still rather afforadable for people that want a decent old house in a decent streetcar urban area, but want a relatively short commute to Hoffman Estates or Schaumburg, or Elk Grove Village, then this is the place to buy.
    Yes!!

    I love Elgin, IL (yes, I know it's within 20 minutes of me, but oh well). It is a very attractive town. The riverfront and bluffs are amazing. Wing Park and Lords Park are amazing. On the Fox River bike trail, I biked through downtown, and it is really coming around. They just built a beautiful library. There are also fine bricked areas, statues, benches, overlooking the beautiful Fox River. They could still use some better retail downtown, as most of it goes to Clock Tower Shopping Center instead. Hemmens Auditorium is also a great place to see plays. There's also the Grand Victoria Riverboat Casino.

    To me, it's just as worthy as Rockford, and 10 times better than Aurora.

    Elgin is experiencing an explosion along and west of Randall Road though. They are making a rapid westward annexation march, and 1000s of new SF houses are being built as I speak. But I think the new and the old will eventually make for a fine mix.

    Elgin also has its own industrial and retail corridors along Randall Road and I-90 and has convenient commuter train serivce with 3 stations.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Elgin, IL.

    The pre-WW2 portion of th city is really quite nice in form and housing stock. The downtown is a little sleepy, though, but there is now a coming resurgencance for the City's core. The old part of Elgin has been given a bad rap over the last couple decades, and has a high population of...gasp ....Hispanics...so many uptight whites have maligned the City. But the place is still rather afforadable for people that want a decent old house in a decent streetcar urban area, but want a relatively short commute to Hoffman Estates or Schaumburg, or Elk Grove Village, then this is the place to buy.
    In the same vein, I've always been impressed with the old part of the Fox River Valley, St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia, IL. Each is now a distant suburb of Chicago, some 40 miles west, but they grew as independent river communities that served local farmers until suburban growth mushroomed in the last 30 years. The Fox River meanders its way through some nice slices of small-town downtown, with some fairly good restaurants and entertainment.

    I like the older housing of these towns, extending about a half-mile to a mile east or west of the river. There's some pleasant pre-war homes of all styles, and built at a comfortable pedestrian scale. Illinois Routes 25 and 31 parallel the river on each side, and they are very pleasant drives. But once you get past these core areas, further east or west, you find acres of low-density, mono-residential development (aka sp%@wl).

    Elgin and Aurora are also in the Fox River Valley, but they're a little further away, and they've probably done more to alter the orginal character of the downtown and near-downtown areas.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    Everybody's favorite eminent domain abusers . . . New London, CT.

    Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME - although most people who have been there don't under-appreciate them.

    oooh, i love Portsmouth, NH. i'd love to live there one day. anybody know of any planning jobs there? or in a city near there with a university?
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol
    oooh, i love Portsmouth, NH. i'd love to live there one day. anybody know of any planning jobs there? or in a city near there with a university?
    One of my favorites, too. It's like a miniature Berkeley or Davis with that greta New England feeling.

    Didn't they get their economic base kicked out from underneath them during the latest BRAC base closing?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Didn't they get their economic base kicked out from underneath them during the latest BRAC base closing?
    They were on the list but survived along with Groton, CT.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Jersey City, NJ

    Camden, NJ

    Gary, IN

    Compton, CA

    Commerce City, CO

    City of Industry, CA






    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

  20. #20
    zmanPLAN, have you ever been to Jersey City? It's well on its way to being "the next Hoboken," swelling with PATH train commuters to Manhattan, and not really anything like the other cities on that list.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Gary would be a commuter suburb right now if US Steel weren't taking up the entire lakefront. It's less than an hour from Chicago by train right up next to what would be some amazing dune shores.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by passdoubt
    zmanPLAN, have you ever been to Jersey City? It's well on its way to being "the next Hoboken," swelling with PATH train commuters to Manhattan, and not really anything like the other cities on that list.

    Thanks I forgot Hoboken.

    South Gate, CA

    Centralia, PA

    Security/Fountain, CO

    Pelican City, CO













    ...and....I'm....spent.
    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

  23. #23
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    I'm going to concentrate just on those cities that either only receive negative press or no press at all. There are plenty of cities that many consider highly overrated, to the point that they are of course underrated b/c they are so overrated! (if that made sense...)

    My list - Louisville & Richmond. Two cities that are generally dismissed as dead southern cities, they don't have the 'bling' of Charlotte or Atlanta but also don't have the dedication of New Orleans. But these two are absolutely beautiful, incredible residential sections & pretty friendly downtowns that are at times lively.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Marquette, MI.....The biggest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is also home to a bike trail system considered among the best in the nation, has a beautiful shoreline along the greatest body of water in the world, is surrounded by beautiful forests, hundreds of smaller lakes, rugged hills. The downtown area is attractive and olde.....very "interestingly" olde.

    Steep hills in the city add adventure to a bike ride or a stick-shift car ride. Northern Michigan University dominates the north end of town, very near a wonderful peninsula of land that is a great park.....Presque Isle. Many of the suburbs are original "company towns", built for and all about the iron ore mining that was so strong at one (1) time.

    Kick-axx weather that even a dude like michaelskis would love. Expect a couple hundred (200) inches of snow in the winter and don't be suprised by a string of 90-degree days in the later summer.

    The big Air Force Base, south of towne (Gwinn, MI) is now closed, but many of the buildings were converted to other types of use, such as aircraft maintenance and pop-up portable ice-fishing shanties. This base housed a fleet of jets that was prepared to do battle with "the Evil empire".....USSR (Soviet Commie Pinkos).

    Housing is very affordable, unless your dig requirements involve a place on the big lake (or even a small lake). Natives talk in that famous "Da Yoopee" style, as they drive their rusted Chevys (that's a song) to "da fish camp".

    What a great place.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    I'm going to concentrate just on those cities that either only receive negative press or no press at all. There are plenty of cities that many consider highly overrated, to the point that they are of course underrated b/c they are so overrated! (if that made sense...)

    My list - Louisville & Richmond. Two cities that are generally dismissed as dead southern cities, they don't have the 'bling' of Charlotte or Atlanta but also don't have the dedication of New Orleans. But these two are absolutely beautiful, incredible residential sections & pretty friendly downtowns that are at times lively.
    Amen! Lousiville inspired this thread, in fact. The whole East Side of Louisville is just stunning, including the suburban "villages." I love The Highlands Business District. The record store I mentioned actually had some doom metal cds I haven't seen in the Bay Area (Esoteric, the new Primordial, the new Opeth is excellent!)

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