Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: What is Downtown Today?

  1. #1

    What is Downtown Today?

    In response to: What is Downtown Today? posted by Jim Lewis on 23 February 1999 at 15:31:43:

    I must say--without rancor or condemnation--that I think you guys are allowing nostalgic, romantic feelings to control your thought processes. We need new solutions to new problems, not houses with front porches.
    Interesting that you should choose "houses with front porches" to exemplify the old and irrelevant. The front porch is an old solution to an old problem, yes, but it's the kind of old problem that makes me think of the phrase "everything old is new again." What is this problem? It's the recurring issue of finding a balance between privacy and community. The front porch, where it still exists, serves as an effective kind of "buffer zone" that permits a measure of privacy, while at the same time permitting one to participate in the life of the street. Nothing we've come up with since, that I know of, does the job as well.

    Or, if you wish truly to live where there is more of a sense of community, move to a very small, old town. But be prepared for eagle-eyed old busy-bodies sitting on front porches, watching your every action, making sure you don't do anything unusual.
    Since when has it been possible to monitor others' "every action" from a front porch? Do the houses not have walls and curtains where you live?

    Yes, downtown areas in NYC, LA, Chicago, even Philadelphia contain wonderful little unique shops, and architecture with character. But then, unless you are wealthy, you have to go out to the suburbs and shop at Walmart.
    A gross exaggeration. I lived in central Washington, DC, for several years, in Dupont Circle, an area that I would assert fits your description of having "little unique shops and architecture with character." I didn't have a car, which meant that (1) going out to the suburbs to shop was not practical for the most part, and certainly not to Wal-Mart, and (2) going out to the suburbs to shop was not necessary, since avoiding the expense of an automobile meant that, even without being wealthy, I could well afford to do my shopping in my neighborhood.

    Most people who live in large cities aren't wealthy (as you ought to know, virtually all of the wealthy are either in the suburbs or in the country). Yet they are well capable of living comfortably without having to schlep out to the suburbs for every necessity of life. Just ask them.

    Tim Kynerd
    Sundbyberg (småstan i storstan), Sweden

  2. #2

    What is Downtown Today?

    "I am somewhat astonished. I guess it never occurred to me that there was anyone who doesn't love front porches. My wife and have lived in several different communities, large and small, and we always spent hours sitting on the porch, as did most of our neighbors. (The only exception was Fairbanks--after sundown, the mosquitoes pretty much drove everybody inside.) But I guess this goes to show that people have very different expectations regarding cities--some want a community, and some just want a place to sleep (and park the car, I suppose)."

    Oh, but I out-astonish your astonishment. Both you and Daniel Zack seem to feel that, because I'm not pro-front-porch, I must be some kind of people-hating loner. Gee, maybe I should inform my neighbors, with whom I only interact in the BACK YARD, that we need to go public.

  3. #3

    What is Downtown Today?

    All the interactions you mention in your first paragraph are certainly worthwhile...and if more of that kind of thing went on, we'd probably all be better for it. Lines of communication, and all that. As I said, though, I've just never found myself in that kind of environment; perhaps, unconsciously, a choice. I guess like most people I do most of my interaction with the people I've met on the job, in school, at parties, etc. And, since joining the internet, I've had lots of exchanges--mostly positive--with a big cross-section of people.

    And I have found, where I currently live, what is for me the best of both worlds. A half-acre lot in a smallish, 30-something-year-old subdivision, with houses ranging from very small and plain to pretty lavish. There's an almond orchard behind the property, but downtown is 7 minutes away. The town is small (50,000), but San Francisco is 3 hours away.

  4. #4

    What is Downtown Today?

    Hope y'all mind if I kibbitz here a bit.

    I see theres' some discussion of "suburbia". I think you all are talking about post WWII suburbia. Is'nt this type of developement a repsonse to technology as much as the product of public policy? It seems one can see the embryo of "suburbia" in the developements of the 20s & 30s, which seemed to indicate a trend to auto-oriented developement that was interrupted by the Depression and WWII. Theres' a good book on commercial developement in LA entitled "City Center to Regional Mall" that traces this evolving response to the automobile. I also recall the NW Side of Chicago, a large portion which was developed in the 20s'. The major commericial area in this are Belmont & Central, had pupose-built parking lots behind the stores, which fronted the street. The first postwar developement in this area, Harlem & Irving, flipped the parking to the front of the stores, resuliting in the familiar "suburban" strip center environment. Also, the 1920s era residential developement in the NW side was the bungalow, most of which garages for cars (and service alleys to access the garages). The big difference was these residential developements where laid out in a grid, not the curving streets and cul-de-sacs of the postwar era. So, I dont see suburbia as something that foreign. It was already with us in embryonic form in the 1920s, and was updated to better accomodate the auto in the postwar era.

More at Cyburbia

  1. Article: What is Downtown Today?
    Front Page Article Comments
    Replies: 16
    Last post: 01 Apr 2012, 8:19 PM
  2. Replies: 5
    Last post: 19 Sep 2007, 12:16 PM
  3. Hello, New today
    Introduce Yourself
    Replies: 14
    Last post: 14 Mar 2006, 2:07 PM
  4. Today is the day.
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 25
    Last post: 16 Apr 2004, 6:59 AM
  5. Today I Become a Man!
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 26
    Last post: 20 Nov 2003, 9:11 PM