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Thread: Define Downtown

  1. #1

    Define Downtown

    The small city in which I live has only been incorporated in the last thirty years or so. The city started out as more of a bedroom community for the larger city that it is directly adjacent to. These facts being the case, there was never a development of a central business district as we traditionally define "downtown".

    I have been given the not so distinct honor of attempting to establish a downtown association. My only question is, "How do we establish a downtown association when nobody knows where in the h*** downtown is in this place?"

    That brings me to my question for you...Define downtown, go beyond the traditional trappings or even neotraditional trappings of what is normally considered downtown. Is it the geographical center of commerce? Is it an area surrounding primary government functions? I am at a loss with this one. I randomly polled about a half-dozen people in the community and literally got a half-dozen different answers. Help please.

  2. #2

    Jul 2002
    Chicago, IL
    I think using the term "central business district" can better define what most people mean by "downtown" or "town center".

    Central -- A location commonly referred to as the focal point of town.

    Business -- A location where a critical mass of business/office/retail/ commercial/institutional uses take place, and are the predominant use.

    Not every place has a central business district/downtown/town center, nor was every place meant to have one. But most places have the building blocks to establish a reasonable facsimile.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    I feel your pain. My city is going through the same situation. See my thread about artificial downtowns under economic development.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    I've been there. In my city, we can't decide if the other side of the dam is downtown or not. If it is, is it just up to the railroad track, or does it take in some of the commercial and residential uses just beyond. Some don't belive my building is in the downtown, saying it ends a block away, where the brick commercial buildings end. This is despite the fact that there are offices on both sides of the street all the way up to my building. Long ago I gave up on trying to define it. Now I just draw the map where I feel it is best. If that is at all a possibility for you, I'd suggest doing the same. If you need to define it for zoning or the like, I feel for you.

  5. #5
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    May 2003
    Near the Geysers
    Downtown is traditionally the transportation, government, financial, banking, retail, office, entertainment, dining, residential, lodging, educational, institutional, postal, industrial, religious, and cultural center of the community. The key strength of the downtown is the mix of activities.

    You really need a comprehensive mix of uses to qualify as a downtown. If you can walk from home to work (at city hall) in the morning, then walk to lunch, the post office, a shoe repair shop, the drug store, then the bank in a single lunch hour, you have a downtown.
    Last edited by Wulf9; 15 Jul 2003 at 12:21 AM.

  6. #6
    Although my cities are drawn on paper, i can tellyou this. I think the word "downtown" refers to a commercial are. Because all downtowns have commercial. As far as i can see, they are.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Feb 2003
    Deep question.

    My first reaction is to say,

    “Downtown = Center of Activity”

    But then when I think about this statement I realize that the activity center in may areas have shifted to the ‘burbs. So maybe Downtown is more of an “identifier”. In big cities you think of the skyline, in small towns you think of the fair on the square, but this is the center (not necessarily geographically) of the community. What hold it together, the common bond.

    I also believe that it should also be the center of activity, and maybe it will be again someday.

    This is why I cringe every time gov facilities (courts, post offices, admin) move out of Downtown.

  8. #8
    A line on the map....

    In my mind, "downtown" includes the "central business district", but not vice versa. Downtowns are the much broader area containing central business district (of commercial, institutional, government, mixed uses) and the surrounding residential neighbourhoods. Really, the term downtown is simply a relative term to differentiate it from other areas, mainly due to location and density.

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