Are We In The Midst Of A Downtown Comeback?

The heyday of the American downtown was short -- from 1880-1920, so if we are experiencing a downtown 'comeback', exactly what are we coming back from? Guest blogger Michael Manville examines the what, how and why of downtown revitalization.
September 21, 2006, 1pm PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"A growing downtown is not, in other words, the historic norm, and there seems little reason to frame the decline of downtown as some sort of failure, rather than the next step in urban evolution."

Is a policy "that requires 50 years to bear fruit is really an efficient use of public resources. That’s where evaluation would be helpful. But many studies of downtown interventions are descriptive and prescriptive: they tell us what planners are doing and what planners should be doing. Policy recommendations and case studies abound, but there isn’t a lot of cost-benefit analysis."

"Why are large cities in the business of revitalizing their downtowns at all? ...[A]ssuming that our goal in economic development is to help people rather than places, downtowns seem a strange candidate for public resources, because they often don't have many people."

"...Another way of saying this is that we should ask what the goal of downtown revitalization is. Revitalizing the downtown is not necessarily the same as revitalizing the center city, nor is it necessarily progressive. A revitalized downtown might help revitalize a center city, but the causality could just as easily run the other way..."

Thanks to Randall Crane

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Published on Wednesday, September 6, 2006 in Urban Planning Research Blog
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