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Indianapolis Cooler than Brooklyn? Defining the Coolness Factor of Cities

How do you define a cool city? What makes a street or neighborhood hip? It's not too difficult to identify the right ingredients; it's putting them together that becomes the challenge.
July 31, 2016, 5am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Serge Melki

Writing in the Indianapolis Business Journal, urban designer Tom Gallagher finds that Indianapolis' glowing reviews from Bon Apetitmagazine and Cushman & Wakefield -- describing the city as "something way cooler than Brooklyn" and one of the hottest urban retail markets in North America, may give clues about what actually defines and makes a city "cool". The trend toward historic neighborhoods and a return to Main Streets by Americans has come from a desire to go to places that are "relentlessly local, authentic and as meaningful."

With little exception, they are in old quarters of cities where a dense arrangement of turn-of-the century storefronts remains intact. Is the draw, then, history, nostalgia, patina? I argue there is something more: the fine-grained urban fabric.


Some of this is intrinsic to being human. Psychologists suggest we are drawn to things that are complex but not complicated. We, generally, like a little mystery, maybe even some risk, without tipping over to scary; too simple and we lose attention. Disney understands this perfectly. When you walk down “Main Street USA,” though you know it’s not part of a real town, the tight rhythm of storefronts is comforting and inviting.

Gallagher writes that these cool streets and neighborhoods also offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to experiment and grow businesses, which creates a more authentic place in the community -- presumably because these spaces aren't overrun with chain stores found in every other city in America.

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Published on Saturday, July 16, 2016 in Indianapolis Business Journal
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