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Thread: Define Downtown

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Define Downtown

    I'm helping to write a piece of legislation dealing with downtown revitalization. One of the concepts is to target a package of programs to qualified areas. The key is being a certified "downtown."

    What defines the downtown as a distinct place? Is it the zoning (commercial or mixed-use)? A pedestrian orientation? Status as the traditional commercial center? Developed prior to 1950 or containing potentially historic buildings? How would you define "downtown" in a legal sense?

    Another thought - how would you treat neighborhood commercial districts or the new downtowns some communities are creating?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Of course, when I think of downtown I think of Philly, which isn't too hard to define.

    So...

    Downtown Philly (center city) is defined by skyscrapers, commercial districts, artsy districts, "freak" districts, huge pedestrian counts, lack of parking, thus parking garages, historical center (around Independence Hall).

    I would say out "downtown" has a boundary defined by 3 major roads and the Delawae River, where the "downtownish" development ends and residential neighborhoods begin.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I characterize downtown as the historic centre of business, shopping entertainement and other forms of commerce that service the region as a whole, not just adjacent residential and commercial neighbourhoods.

    Random thoughts

    Just a small kink, Saint John, NB's downtown is called uptown.

    How the province directs funds to these areas is by creating Business Improvement Areas. These areas can be anywhere in teh City, but must be approved by the local council.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Re: Define Downtown

    What's the purpose of the legislation? Is it grant eligibility? Smartgrowth TND certification? Some other wack-o liberal Doyle Plan?!

    Is this only applying to Cities and Villages or are towns eligible? One could argue that the Fox River Mall is the "downtown" of the Town of Grand Chute.

    I would avoid definitions that associate year or historic status. Your other elements are all part of downtown, but don't "define" it. To me, Glendale WI and New Berlin WI have a new "city center" downtowns which are predominatly auto oriented, but they retain all of the traditonal civic center functions. Focus on context and you'll do fine.

    BTW - Webster says: "The lower part or the business center of a city or town". I'm not sure what that means....

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Here's a little more information on what is being done.

    Wisconsin Downtown Act

    The idea is to create a set of programs that would be available to communities for downtown revitalization. The intent, I believe, is to limit it to cities and villages. The issue is how to define the eligible areas.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Here is the link to our BIA legislation

    It primary focuc is for "typical" downtown situations, however, it has been used to upgrade services and sidewalks in areas with malls.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  7. #7
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Main Street doesn't really define it, but states that downtown's are 'traditional commercial centers', for what that's worth

    The state of Virginia did some sort of downtown bill, and this is how they defined a downtown:
    "Downtown" means the traditional central business district of a community, that has served as the center of socio-economic interaction in the community, characterized by a cohesive core of commercial and mixed use buildings, often interspersed with civic, religious, and residential buildings and public spaces, typically arranged along a main street and interesting side streets and served by public infastructure."

    Maine and a few other states use this definition as well. I found that by going to google.com (the best search engine, in my opinion), and tying in 'definition of downtown'. There are a bunch of other results that I didn't go through, so you might want to check that out too.

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