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Thread: "What If" for Cities

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    "What If" for Cities

    I saw a movie recently about the growth of Motown Records in Detroit during the '50s and '60s, and one of the points made was that Detroiters were deflated when Motown decided to move to LA in 1971. The thought occurred to me: if Motown had stayed, Detroit could've become to the national R&B music industry what Nashville is to country, and that could've been the post-industrial economic boost that would've completely altered the city's fortunes. Imagine: if you wanna make it big in R&B (or later, rap), you gotta go to Detroit -- singers, musicians, producers, choreographers, sound technicians, music executives, etc.

    Surely there are other pivotal moments in other cities. What if they did or did not happen? Can you think of some for your city of choice?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    What if the Braves had stayed in Milwaukee. We might have something more than a washed up crappy team.

    What if they would have completed the 1970's Freeway System Plan. I don't even want to think of it....

    What if Great America was never built in Gurnee, IL. Our little hometown amusement park might still be alive and kicking today.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Great topic

    What if Walt Disney had built Disney World in the New Orleans area like he originally planned? Don't know....

    What would have happened to the French Quarter if the Riverfront Expressway hadn't been fought and defeated? That would have been the end of the biggest tourist attractions.

    What if the same people who fought against that Riverfront Expressway fought against the I-10 overpass along Claiborne Avenue? The oak trees would still be standing tall and the once-successful African American neighborhood of Treme would be still be thriving.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  4. #4

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    Originally posted by Planderella
    Great topic

    What if Walt Disney had built Disney World in the New Orleans area like he originally planned? Don't know....

    What would have happened to the French Quarter if the Riverfront Expressway hadn't been fought and defeated? That would have been the end of the biggest tourist attractions.

    What if the same people who fought against that Riverfront Expressway fought against the I-10 overpass along Claiborne Avenue? The oak trees would still be standing tall and the once-successful African American neighborhood of Treme would be still be thriving.
    I had no idea Disney considered New Orleans for Disney World.

    If the Crosstown Expressway had been built in Chicago, my current commute time would be easily cut by one-half.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Originally posted by pete-rock
    I had no idea Disney considered New Orleans for Disney World.

    I did a presentation on Walt Disney and his planning interests my first semester in grad school. He modeled the Magic Kingdom and that Main Street after the French Quarter.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    What if the capitol of Wisconsin had remained in Belmont, instead of moving to Madison (courtesy of some very generous bribes)?

    What if the Esterly Reaper Works (Deere's biggest competitor at the time) had remained in Whitewater, instead of moving to Minneapolis in 1893?

    What if the Bureau of Reclamation had not damned the Colorado River, creating the reservoirs that have supplied the water to allow cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas to grow? What if the current drought continues, given that the average reservoir in the Colorado Basin is at 59% of capacity, and there is only enough water to sustain current levels of usage for three more years, unless rainfall significantly increases? www.livingrivers.org

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    If AC hadn't been invented...

    there would be no present-day Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson...

  8. #8

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    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    What if the capitol of Wisconsin had remained in Belmont, instead of moving to Madison (courtesy of some very generous bribes)?
    What if the University of Michigan had remained in Detroit, instead of accepting 100 acres for $1 from farmers in Washtenaw County (that would later become Ann Arbor)?

    What if Mayor Richard J. Daley had gone ahead with plans in the '50s to complete the Burnham Plan and establish a "necklace of islands" in Lake Michigan?

    What if there was no Kurt Cobain? Would Seattle have ever become trendy?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    What if Henry Ford had never been born?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Great topic! There's a lot of big "what ifs" for my old hometown, Buffalo.

    * Ground was ALMOST broken on a 20 km heavy rail system in Buffalo in 1974. It was essentially a Washington Metro clone, right down to the subway station design. EIS reports were issued, federal and state grants lined up, the line engineered, requests for bids sent out ... BUT then the NIMBYs came forward. Part of the line was to be on an elevated structure, which some neighborhood groups opposed. When the proposed line was rerouted, the federal funds for the heavy rail system dried up. In 1980, ground was finally broken on a much smallerer light rail system.

    * Buffalo only built a third of its proposed freeway network. Let's see ... what if the Outer Beltway, West Side Expressway, East Side Expressway, Lancaster Expressway, Crosstown Expressway, South Shore Connector, and the complete Lockport Expressway were built? Ugh.

    * What if ...no wide right? I think the collective mindset in Buffalo would be entirely different today, wth a Super Bowl win or two under the city's belt.

    * What if ... the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to Buffalo in the mid-1980s? It almost happened. Pilot Field, the first HOK-designed neotraditional baseball stadium, was built with provisions for expansion to accomodate a major league team.

    * What if ... no S&L crisis in the late 1980s? Buffalo was hit hard; it was a rival to Charlotte as an up-and-coming banking center in those days.

    * What if ... the University at Buffalo, instead of building the Amherst Campus, densified and expanded in the city instead, like Buff State and Canisius? What if it built the new campus downtown?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  11. #11
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    What if the Union lost the Civil War and Richmond remained the confederate capital? Would it be a huge government and commercial center by now or a backwater third world capital?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Originally posted by Alan
    What if Henry Ford had never been born?
    Europeans would be driving sweet Oldsmobile Scorpios and Mondeos, Aussies would be cruising long paved outback roads in fast Oldsmobile Falcons, and North American moms would be picking up their kids from soccer practice in road-hogging Oldsmobile Explorers, Excursions and Expeditions.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Burlington, VT

    What if the Church Street Marketplace (a pedestrian mall) had not been created in the downtown area?

    Would Burlington still have a strong Italian neighborhood where it once was?
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

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    What if federal subsidies/insurance for 30-year home mortgages never came about? They didn't exist prior to WWII, if I remember correctly. The post war building boom/frenzy likely wouldn't have been as great, if mortgages weren't so easy to come by.

  15. #15
    Originally posted by pete-rock
    What if the University of Michigan had remained in Detroit, instead of accepting 100 acres for $1 from farmers in Washtenaw County (that would later become Ann Arbor)?
    i salivate at the thought
    (no offense to a^2, or wayne state)
    detroit wouldn't be the one-horse town, er....one car, no wait, two car...oh never mind

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    Cyburbian oulevin's avatar
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    What if we got the United Airlines plant?

    For Oklahoma City, a good parlor game would be wondering if we had landed the United Airlines maintenance facility in 1993. Millions of dollars of wages would have resulted, but...

    Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick would not have felt compelled to ask United why they chose Indianapolis over OKC;

    United would not have frankly told him it was Oklahoma City's lack of "quality of life";

    Norick would not have searched for answers from civic and business leaders on how to change this;

    He would not decided to bundle together a capital improvement, 1-cent sales tax increase plan for a vote, which would have been the largest in the nation's history (and groundbreaking for an anti-tax city)

    Downtown improvement wouldn't be as aggressively pursued, even for the booming 90s;

    Nine projects would't have been built;

    Oklahoma City would have suffered more psychologically and economically from the bombing;

    Oklahoma City wouldn't be as unconventional and forward-thinking in its decision-making;

    It simply wouldn't be as confident a place as it is now.

  17. #17
    How would Milwaukee look today if the great Chicago Fire had never happened? The fire wiped out Chicago's brewing industires making way for Milwaukee to become Brew City.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

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    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    What would cities in California look like if the state's river systems hadn't been replumbed?
    RJ is the KING of . The One

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    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Illinois Capitol

    What if Abraham Lincoln and the "Long Nine" had pushed to relocate the state capitol from Vandalia to Decatur instead of Springfield? The local lore around here is that Decatur came in a close second. I bet we could have done a better job with it.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    What would Valdivia be like if it hadn't been destroyed by the 1960 Earthquake or the 1909 fire?
    What would Valdivia be like if no german inmigrants had arrived in the mid 1800's and early 1900's Or if it had been regional capital or national capital?
    What would Chile be like if Pedro de Valdivia hadn't come? Or if Diego de Almagro hadn't discovered Chile?
    What would Santiago be like if it wasn't the national capital of Chile? (probably it wouldn't be a 5-6 million inhabitant metropolis and wouldn't have smog problems)

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Orlando FL.

    What if (thank you, Planderella) WDW had not been built in Orlando?

    What if air-conditioning hadn't been invented?

    What if pesticides hadn't been invented?

    What if Yankees didn't like hot summers?

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    What if St. Louis had become the center of the nation's rail network in the 1850s, instead of Chicago? Probably wouldn't have happened, because St. Louis' proximity to the South would have made Northern investors nervous during and after the Civil War.

    What if there was an Public Transit Act supporting local public transit nationwide in the '50s?

    What if Indiana's State Capital was not Indianapolis? It would've been like Anderson, Marion, Terre Haute, Columbus, Richmond, etc. -- a small to mid-size Midwestern town.

  23. #23

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    What if GM and Goodyear Tires (as the urban legend goes) hadn't bought up Los Angeles' streetcar system and replaced them with buses?

    What if NASA wasn't based in Houston?

    What if Fidel Castro never succeeded in Cuba, and there was no Cuban influx to South Florida?

    What if the Mississippi was allowed to run its natural course, and completely bypass New Orleans?

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Originally posted by Dan
    Europeans would be driving sweet Oldsmobile Scorpios and Mondeos, Aussies would be cruising long paved outback roads in fast Oldsmobile Falcons, and North American moms would be picking up their kids from soccer practice in road-hogging Oldsmobile Explorers, Excursions and Expeditions.
    So you're saying someone else would have come up with the mass production scheme?

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by pete-rock
    What if the Mississippi was allowed to run its natural course, and completely bypass New Orleans?
    Have you read "Atchafalaya," from John McPhee's book, The Control of Nature? It is a riveting story/essay centered on a control structure where the Mississippi will eventually claim a new route.

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