Center City Le Mans would be a great downtown by American standards but for a mid-sized French City its pretty middle of the road. Center City hosts an excellent Old Town District clustered around its La Grande Rue, where dozens of medieval half-timbered houses and grand Renaissance mansions line dense cobblestone medieval streets. This comprises about 1/3 of the Center City in its northwest quadrant.
The Place de la republique is the flat part of Center City centered on Place de la République. This is a lively district with mostly historic 18th & 19th century architecture set on dense mix-use blocks and frequent pedestrian only streets. I find the eastern half of this district to be the most lively and healthy from an urban perspective with modern office buildings mixed in with historic blocks where lots of attractive small plazas, fountains, and pedestrian streets can be found. Pretty intense mid-century buildings in this area along General de Gaulle and François Mitterrand but a high quality urban form is still retained even if its pretty ugly from an aesthetic standpoint. The southern edge of Place de la republique is still good urbanity but is more residential in character and hosts some ugly modern buildings with poor urban design. Also some bad surface parking decisions were made here.
Click here to view my Le Mans album on Flickr
* Excellent half timber district (Old Town) on the bluff center on Grande Rue. Lots of attractive 18th and 19th century architecture in the flat part of Center City. (Republique)
* Beautiful historic Gothic Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Julian of Le Mans) located in Old Town.
*Place de la republique is a lively plazas hosting regular outdoor markets lots of outdoor seating
* Pretty consistent vibrant mixed-use blocks throughout dwtn. Very walkable and active.
* The two streetcar lines runs through Center City providing dwtn excellent public access to the rest of the City.
* Some bad connectivity given the hillsides and medieval nature of the street grid.
* River front park is a bid underwhelming. While there is a nice walkway, lots of surface parking concentrated here. Still some cool park spaces running along ancient walls going up to the Old Town district.
* ADA infrastructure is spotty especially in the Old Town District.
* Filled a plaza (Rue d’Alger) with surface parking. A very American thing to do!
* The southern edge of Center City can be pretty gritty with some poor urban design decisions.