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Thread: Small town looking to create a downtown. Any examples?

  1. #1
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    Small town looking to create a downtown. Any examples?

    A small bedroom community of 10,000 population does not currently have a true downtown. There is no street level retail, though the town is not completely sprawled out. There is some light density as retail is about 30' off the road, houses are about 20' from the street. The city is in the process of defining a formal downtown centered around public buildings and some of the most active retail.

    Does anyone here know of any other towns that have done something similar?

    Does anyone have any experience or tips for a community trying to do this?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Novi Michigan (a far suburb of Detroit) tried this about 12-15 years ago. The results are mixed. Downtowns need to be more organic than planned. If you have a place where you can grow a downtown naturally I suppose it can happen. Much of what I see typically around here are a collection of interconnected stripmalls and buildings that still face primarilly parking lots. Each has some of the elements of a downtown but they are not one.

    Here are some suggestions, and I need to preface them by saying my expertise is in transportation, not economic development.
    - Allow on street parking where appropriate (where safe and free of congestion) and use those spaces in determining if a business has enough parking places.
    - Interconnect the separate developments withing the downtown district and the downtown area itself with nearby residential land uses to encourage a pedestrian environment.
    - Make the area a center of your transit needs by providing enough space for doctors offices. This way, paratransit can be provided and folks who can't get out much can link trips to the doctor with trips to the market, city hall or bank. Downtowns cannot perform correctly if they are one stop destinations.
    - Provide for benches, shade trees, and other streetscaping as appropriate for urban centers.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Iron Ring's avatar
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    Nelson, British Columbia... google it (or go rent the movie "Roxanne" starring Steve Martin). Nelson has about 10,000 ppl and honestly has a more vibrant downtown than many places 10x its size.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Go to page 46 of this site:

    http://www.cmpdd.org/Publications/20...0Directory.pdf

    It is the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District which includes Hattiesburg in its 15 counties.

    They exist specifically to help small towns such as yours organize around planning.

    The home page of this site has names and telephone numbers.

    There are 10 of these MAPDD's in Mississippi. We used CMPDD for advice and contracted with them for help on our Zoning Map, Ordinances, and Comprehensive Plan. Highly recommended.

    MAPDD just had their statewide annual convention on the coast in Bilioxi and I bet they are fired up with new ways to help you.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Question: where is there a main collector/through road of this community located? at the peripohery or right though it?. I.e. if ===== is the road and XXX is housing, is the arrangement like this:

    . . . . .XXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    ===============
    . . .XXXXXXX
    . . . . .XXX


    or like this:

    . . . . .XXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    ===============

    Any map/google map appreciated.

    (Disclaimer: my knowledge of urban form is purely amatorial . not a pro planner).
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Go to page 46 of this site:

    http://www.cmpdd.org/Publications/20...0Directory.pdf

    It is the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District which includes Hattiesburg in its 15 counties.

    They exist specifically to help small towns such as yours organize around planning.

    The home page of this site has names and telephone numbers.

    There are 10 of these MAPDD's in Mississippi. We used CMPDD for advice and contracted with them for help on our Zoning Map, Ordinances, and Comprehensive Plan. Highly recommended.

    MAPDD just had their statewide annual convention on the coast in Bilioxi and I bet they are fired up with new ways to help you.
    Oh yea I know all about the PDD's, my boss claims he taught them everything they know about planning.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    [QUOTE=fourthconchord;437419]A small bedroom community of 10,000 population does not currently have a true downtown...[QUOTE]

    I don't think you are referring to Hattiesburg? There is definitely a downtown there. Look to lifestyle malls as an example of how to do it successfully. I gave a presentation on this topic a year ago. Send me a private message and I will forward a copy.
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Question: where is there a main collector/through road of this community located? at the peripohery or right though it?. I.e. if ===== is the road and XXX is housing, is the arrangement like this:

    . . . . .XXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    ===============
    . . .XXXXXXX
    . . . . .XXX


    or like this:

    . . . . .XXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    . . .XXXXXXX
    ===============

    Any map/google map appreciated.

    (Disclaimer: my knowledge of urban form is purely amatorial . not a pro planner).
    It's more like your second scenario. I'm not looking for planning theory on the location or demarcation of a downtown but more or less what the actual process that took place to create a successful downtown and how these communities got the developers to actively support the plan. IE tax incentives? public-private partnership on land redevelopment? streamlined review process?

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    I don't think you are referring to Hattiesburg? There is definitely a downtown there. Look to lifestyle malls as an example of how to do it successfully. I gave a presentation on this topic a year ago. Send me a private message and I will forward a copy.[/QUOTE]

    Though my location is Hattiesburg I am not referring to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg has a small but active downtown that is growing slowly but surely.

    Lifestyle mall? really? Every lifestyle mall I've seen has been a mall, located on the periphery that appeared to be sliced up by a knife and labeled "town center" with no signs of activity past 8pm and no residential space. I'm open to all new ideas and are all ears but I must say I'm sorta skeptical.

  10. #10
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    Cardinal, I do not currently have the capability to private message. I believe that my fresh new account is in some sort of probationary period until a certain amount of posts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fourthconchord View post
    Every lifestyle mall I've seen has been a mall, located on the periphery that appeared to be sliced up by a knife and labeled "town center" with no signs of activity past 8pm and no residential space. I'm open to all new ideas and are all ears but I must say I'm sorta skeptical.
    This is a good description of a Lifestyle Mall. I may have to use it as my own.

    The artificial creation of a "downtown shopping mecca" has rendered people confused in my experience. I seem to have trouble with a more or less "walkable" space, but one that you must drive to. Or even drive within, as I have seen people do this with our local "lifestyle center".
    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

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I have also seen many instances where such 'cities' are, as opposed to isolated entities all to themselves, functionally little more than neighborhoods of a larger demographic 'city' that, through an accident of their history and state law, are simply not politically a part of that city. In those instances, such a new 'downtown' may not even be practical and such a 'town center' will never look and feel like anything more than just another big strip/big-box retail center at a major local transport node that can come crashing down whenever the winds of local commerce start blowing in other directions.

    Are the people elected to your local governing body (and the neighbors, of course!) willing to do away with the 'strict separation of uses' tenet found in the typical post-WWII zoning and development code and allow for the eclectic mixes of uses, densities, setbacks and building appearances that typical traditional 'downtowns' have in that area?

    Mike

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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    This is a good description of a Lifestyle Mall. I may have to use it as my own.

    The artificial creation of a "downtown shopping mecca" has rendered people confused in my experience. I seem to have trouble with a more or less "walkable" space, but one that you must drive to. Or even drive within, as I have seen people do this with our local "lifestyle center".
    The bedroom community I speak of doesn't have massive single use districts but instead has a rather organic, yet haphazard mix of land uses with a marginal amount of density. There is really not a large amount of open space the city can purchase and build a faux-downtown or "town center" but instead will have to rely on the natural growth of a downtown with a little boost from the city.

    Here's our train of thought so far.

    1. demarcate a downtown district
    2. master-plan the downtown
    3. implement regulations that enforces (not optional/overlay) the future growth to fit within the master-plan
    4. implement incentives for businesses to stay or relocate to the new downtown district.


    thoughts?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I was unable to find any links to info, but my time is tight right now. You may consider looking at Rio Rancho, NM. This is essentially a bedroom community (born of a dubious land deal scam, but that's another story) for Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The population is 70,000, quite a bit bigger than your 10,000, but the city has no movie theater, no downtown or even central commercial area. Really very little of any kind of local retail save for car dealerships, supermarkets and the state's largest mall. Just miles and miles of housing.

    Now, however, they are in the throes of designing and retrofitting a walkable downtown where there never had been one before. I am not clear if the planning phase is complete yet, but its worth poking around for as it sounds like a similar situation, if larger in scale. Plans include some college branch campuses, an arena, movie theater, and I don't know what else. There is a big emphasis on New Urbanist design principles and all the requisite talk about pedestrian scale, small retail spaces, some mixed use action, etc. I'm actually very curious to see how they will tackle this challenge. Its a vexing problem in so many areas, I'd like to see someone do it well.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    [QUOTE=fourthconchord;437530]
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post

    Though my location is Hattiesburg I am not referring to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg has a small but active downtown that is growing slowly but surely.

    Lifestyle mall? really? Every lifestyle mall I've seen has been a mall, located on the periphery that appeared to be sliced up by a knife and labeled "town center" with no signs of activity past 8pm and no residential space. I'm open to all new ideas and are all ears but I must say I'm sorta skeptical.
    Yeah, many lifestyle malls are really not much more than glorified power centers. What I focused on were the ones that are mixed-use, with office, entertainment, and residential in addition to retail, and that are somewhat connected to an existing community.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fourthconchord View post
    The bedroom community I speak of doesn't have massive single use districts but instead has a rather organic, yet haphazard mix of land uses with a marginal amount of density. There is really not a large amount of open space the city can purchase and build a faux-downtown or "town center" but instead will have to rely on the natural growth of a downtown with a little boost from the city.

    Here's our train of thought so far.

    1. demarcate a downtown district
    2. master-plan the downtown
    3. implement regulations that enforces (not optional/overlay) the future growth to fit within the master-plan
    4. implement incentives for businesses to stay or relocate to the new downtown district.
    thoughts?
    Why does it not have a downtown NOW? I would think that with 10K people in proximity there would be one already.

    Is it because the zoning mandated ‘residential only’?

    Is it because the density is too low to support a ‘walkable’ downtown and anyhow people are sued to schlepping for miles in their car every time thy need to purchase goods/service?

    I seems to me that you could;
    > Pick a spot and place any and all municipal buildings plus semi-government stuff like the post-office, etc. around two sides of a small square
    P provide some off-street parking in a good-looking structure near the ‘square.
    > Re-zone the area around the square based on from-based codes instead of uses
    > Details matter, Miss is (AFAIK) hot and relatively rainy. Surround the square with arcaded buildings (mandate it) with enough space for under-arcade cafes/etc.
    > Publicize this with local business (and yes, that includes chains)
    > If that fails, you could offer subsidies but does that really create sustainable businesses?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    downtown

    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Why does it not have a downtown NOW? I would think that with 10K people in proximity there would be one already.
    Excellent question. Due in large part by poor planning, the lack of design controls and overall poor leadership by the city. Luckily, like I've said previously, the city isn't that sprawled out. It has it's McDonald's, Wal-Marts and other unsightly structures but they aren't that far off the road and uses aren't segregated that much.

    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Is it because the zoning mandated ‘residential only’?
    I'm not sure. The zoning and subdivision regulations that I'm familiar with have made it much easier to build mixed-use and otherwise urban building. I have a feeling it was probably very difficult to do this in the past. This is a Mississippi bedroom community, I doubt there was much desire to build urban structures in the past.

    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Is it because the density is too low to support a ‘walkable’ downtown and anyhow people are sued to schlepping for miles in their car every time thy need to purchase goods/service?
    They have to drive but not very far. It's a small Mississippi community.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Take a look at Williston, Vermont. They're attempting to create a downtown in a suburb of Burlington, and both the plan and the code are pretty interesting to read.

    All documents are online. Just google it.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    [QUOTE=fourthconchord;437530]
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post

    Though my location is Hattiesburg I am not referring to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg has a small but active downtown that is growing slowly but surely.

    Lifestyle mall? really? Every lifestyle mall I've seen has been a mall, located on the periphery that appeared to be sliced up by a knife and labeled "town center" with no signs of activity past 8pm and no residential space. I'm open to all new ideas and are all ears but I must say I'm sorta skeptical.
    Are you in Petal?
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  20. #20
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    http://www.americanaatbrand.com/

    This opened last month in Glendale, California, as part of an already thriving downtown. It's in an urban setting in what is essentially a suburb of Los Angeles. The gallery has pictures -- the rest of the site could use some work.

    Of course, a $400 million project is probably out of reach for a town of 10,000, but this is a "lifestyle center" that is seamless with the downtown. If you did not know it was a development, you'd think it was part of the downtown.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    http://www.americanaatbrand.com/

    This opened last month in Glendale, California, as part of an already thriving downtown. It's in an urban setting in what is essentially a suburb of Los Angeles. The gallery has pictures -- the rest of the site could use some work.
    That actually looks very good. I wonder if they'll add to the desnity or wehther it will remain an isolated island of urbanity.

    Nonetheless, top marks.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Glendale itself is like an island of urbanity in a metro area that tends to be quite suburban. The downtown features several 20 to 25 story office towers, a couple of high rise condos with several more on the way, one of the region's largest and busiest malls (built on street fronts with no surface parking -- parking is all in garages), several stand-alone big-box stores such as Circuit City and Borders -- but in a very urban, downtown, street front setting. You see many pedestrians, there are street musicians... basically, throw away every sprawling L.A. stereotype, and you have Glendale. It has a very European feel -- roughly 50% of the city is born outside of the U.S., many from Armenia or various areas of Europe.

    The city is a little over 200,000, about 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium, 20 minutes from downtown L.A., just southeast of Burbank and just west of Pasadena.

    To top it off, it routinely ranks in the 10 safest U.S. cities over 100,000. This becomes especially impressive when you consider many of the other cities on that list are suburbs with little, if any, commercial development to bring people in from outside of the city limits.

    To me, it's a model suburb -- still safe, it has areas with single family homes on normal SoCal lots, but it also has an incredibly vibrant downtown.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fourthconchord View post
    Cardinal, I do not currently have the capability to private message. I believe that my fresh new account is in some sort of probationary period until a certain amount of posts.
    Moderator note:
    Welcome to Cyburbia! You should have private messaging now. From the Rules page:


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    Try a city called Spokane Valley, Washington. They are working on a downtown plan. You should be able to find it through google.

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    Nodes are the best place to start

    Start with an single level intersection or a train station or a bus transfer point. A popular one, either light controlled or a four way stop controlled intersection. Zone the corner properties Commercial with one level of residential above. Restrict car parking for about 200 to 300 feet from the intersection. Nothing else need to be done.

    I don't have any modern examples of this working, but it certainly worked before we started to depend on cars.

    As good source is City Repair out of Portland, Oregon - cityrepair.org

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