Forest Park, IL Chicago’s Village of Cemeteries

Forest Park was officially incorporated in 1907 when the community hosted around 6K residents. The bulk of Forest Park’s development occurred btwn 1910 and 1930 as it grew from 6.5K-14.5K souls. Forest Park topped out at 15K residents in 1970s and has more or less remained at that level in the ensuing decades. For much of its history, Forest Park was known as a “Village of cemeteries”, with more dead “residents” than living ones; some figures estimate the ratio at 30:1, dead to alive. Forest Park also hosted the Forest Park Amusement Park, a small but popular amusement park located just north of Waldheim Cemetery where the current Forest Park T station now resides.

In general more affluent and more urban development are located north of I-290 containing Forest Park’s best urban business district along Madison. This area also contains much better streetscaping and urban form than south of 1-290. Forest park also excels with great diversity across all metrics, lots of diverse housing options, good cultural and retail amenities, excellent access to public transit, and high levels of safety. For Forest Park to have a similar level of urbanity as its Oak Park neighborhood it needs more density, especially along the rather auto centric corridors of Roosevelt and Harlem, much better bike infrastructure, and more walkable school options.

Click here to view my Forest Park, IL Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent public transit access.
* Great diversity indicators, especially racial and economic.
* Great variety of for sale options! Lots of-bed condos selling btwn 65K-250K, Lots of 2-bed condos selling btwn 115K-350K, 2-bed SF homes sell btwn 240K-400K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 175K-750K with condos being on the cheap end.
* Decent # of rentals. 1-beds lease btwn 1K-2.5K, 2-beds lease btwn 1.5K-2K, 3 beds in the high 1Ks or 2Ks.
* Decent Park space including the expansive Historic Forest Homes Cemetery and the multi-faceted City Forest Park with a swimming pool & aquatic Center and Recreation Center.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & bev bizs along Madison Ave. a public local museums and easy access to Dwtn Oak Park just a couple blocks east of Forest Park.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Good retail amenities including several supermarket & drugstores, a Walmart and the Forest Park Plaza, a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Hardware store, several brand name clothing stores, lots of boutiques and unique stores along Madison, a couple bookstores, several dessert joints & gyms, a couple post offices, a public library, plenty of medical offices, and several churches.
* Good streetscaping along all the Commercial districts.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* ADA curb cuts are actually less common south of I-290 but quite good north of I-290.
* A couple decently rated elementary and middle schools but the High school is pretty far away and not walkable.
* Much of the commercial amenities are auto oriented.
* Good urban massing along Madison but poor along Roosevelt and Harlem.
* So  density, somewhere between a City and a typical Suburb.
* Bike infrastructure is very limited.

Lincoln Park- Denver’s Historic Hispanic Heart

Lincoln Park is one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods located just south of Denver’s founding. Most of the homes were constructed in a modest working class brick style in the late 1880s.  Many houses date from about 1900. The neighborhood is also referred to ass “La Alma/Lincoln Park “or the West Side.

Ethnically this was a very eastern European neighborhood until the district’s large influx of Hispanic immigrants in the mid-century. By the 60s & 70s the neighborhood became the heart of Denver’s Chicano Movement and continues to be a major Hispanic hub to this day. Lincoln Park is also home to El Museo de las Americas on Santa Fe Drive, the region’s first museum dedicated to the art and culture of Latinos.

This is a solid neighborhood from a urban perspective with good density, a great walkable biz district (Santa Fe), great public transit/bike infrastructure, excellent cultural and solid retail amenities, and racial and economic diversity. There are still some auto centric dead spaces that could use better urban in-fill, lingering crime issues, and limited tree canopy.

Click here to view my Lincoln Park Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid urban density with 12K people per sq mile.
* Highly convenient access to Dwtn given its proximity.
* Great public transit access and a very multiple modal neighborhood thanks to a great bike infrastructure and good access to retail amenities.
* Wonderful economic and racial diversity.
* High # of walkable schools across a diverse age range here but mixed ratings.
* Fair amount of affordable housing located in the neighborhood. This is certainly reflected by the fact that 1/4 of the population is living in poverty.
* Good but not great park amenities with La Alma Park and Sunken Gardens Park.
* Great cultural amenities including a good array of restaurants, bars, cafes & a couple breweries. Many art galleries, several community theaters, and a couple museums as well. Great access to all the museums in neighboring Triangle Square.
* Solid retail amenities including a supermarket, a couple grocerias, a drug store, good # of boutiques/consignments stores and creative stores, a couple antique stores & gyms, a public library and a couple churches.
* Lots of cute historic bungalows and generally good urban in-fill.
* Overall great urban massing along Santa Fe. Autocentric areas creep in along 6th Ave, and western/industrial edge and the northern edge.
* Great streetscaping along Santa Fe.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

*  Generally good sidewalk infrastructure but ADA curb cuts are often generally dated, especially on residential streets.
* Good amount of auto centric crud in spots.
* Limited generational diversity. Lots of single young adults living here.
* Good # of rentals but on the pricy side. Studios & 1-beds lease btwn the mid 1Ks to 2K, 2-beds mid 1Ks -mid3K. Some 3-beds available generally leasing in the 3Ks.
* For sale properties are also expensive but decent variety and a good # of 1-beds and 2 beds in the district. 1-bed condos/homes selling in the 300KS-600Ks. 2-beds range from 450-800K,  3 & 4 beds homes sell btwn 475K-1 M.
* So  tree canopy.
* Some crime and safety issues in Lincoln Park but overall the neighborhood feels safe.

Charlottsville, VA- Downtown

I consider Downtown Charlottesville to be the area between High St down to the railroad tracks and btwn Ridge St and 9th St from west to east. This is also referred to as the Charlottesville Historic District. The District is a decent sized downtown area for a City of Charlottesville’s size. Main Street functions as the central heart of Downtown where the bulk of cultural and retail amenities are located. And its a pedestrian street! Charlottesville and Burlington are running neck and neck for the smallest US cities with a functioning pedestrian street. Some of the energy of Main street spills over to Water and Market Streets. I particularly like the mixed-use urban form of Water Street, which combines both old and new, low rise and mid rise buildings. Market street is a mix of residential and institutional uses. Great 19th century architecture here. he area between Market and High has a decent # of surface lots and can feel pretty dead. North of High street is primarily a residential area called North Downtown. 

Click here to view my Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great pedestrian street along Main.
* Great cultural amenities including tons of restaurants, bars, and cafes, plenty of art galleries & several theaters, etc.
* Lots of local retail options including plenty of boutiques, several bookstores, a couple grocerias, and other typical neighborhood retail.
* Great array of historic bldgs.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Decent # of parking lots and underutilized areas, especially btwn market and high.
* Not a major jobs center.
* Ok bike infrastructure.

San Fran’s Marina District- a lovely district with pastel colors and unique 1920s architecture

Prior to the 1906 earthquake consisted the Marina District consisted of bay shallows, tidal pools, sand dunes, and marshland and some limited development. This was all destroyed in the earthquake thanks to the districts sandy foundation and the area was completed redeveloped in the 1910s & 1920s. More density occurred with the completion of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge and widening of  Lombard Street. Sadly since much of the Marina is built on a former landfill, the district is very susceptible to soil liquefaction during strong earthquakes. This resulted in extensive damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Demographically the Marina District shifted from mostly middle class families to young professionals in the 1980s & 1990s. The neighborhood is also one of San Francisco’s “Whitest” neighborhoods. The Marina District has a very unique set of architecture styles and pastel coloring unique from other parts of San Francisco. From an urban perspective this is a very walkable and comfortable urban district. The urban business district along Chestnut Street is wonderful one is still within walking district to Cow Hollow’s Fillmore St. and Union Street along with Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Marina District also contains excellent public schools, great park amenities, solid public transit, good bike infrastructure, and excellent cultural amenities. Areas to improve upon include redeveloping some auto centric spots along Lombard St., limited economic and generational diversity, extremely expensive for sale housing, and a tree canopy that is somewhat wanting (especially for San Fran standards).



Click here to view the Marina District on my Flickr Page

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* High quality architecture but not as nice as older parts of the City. Very unique in its pastel color palette and Spanish revival styling.
* ADA infrastructure is overall quite excellent. Several residential intersections are missing modern ADA curb infrastructure.
* Excellent neighborhood commer. district along Chestnut and several side streets.
* Good bike infrastructure with a couple dedicated bike lanes and numerous bike stations.
* Decent racial diversity.
* 75% of the total residential units are rent controlled, a very high Pct for the City.
* Several well rated schools within the District or nearby. Public education is especially good here.
* Excellent park amenities including parks like the Presidio, Golden Gate Nat. Park Conservancy and  Marine Time Nat. Plenty of medium sized parks too (e.g. Little Marina Green, the Marinas, Palace of Fine Arts, and Moscone Park
* Culturally the Marina District hosts a great array of movie, community, and performing arts theaters, plenty of bars, restaurants & cafes, several night clubs, and a  few art galleries. This district also hosts the Marina District (Golden Gate Nat. Conservatory, Museo Italo, & Maritime Museum) and the Presidio of San Francisco along with a few other local museums.
* Great neighborhood amenities including a Safeway, a couple smaller independent grocerias, a butcher shop, several drug stores, plenty of banks, lots of boutiques/clothing stores, several home goods shops, a couple book stores, and tons of gyms & fitness centers and dessert places. Marina district also offers convenience access to a public library, 2 post offices and is walkable to all the biz districts in Cow Hollow and Ghirardelli Square.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Some spots of more auto centric development along Lombard St. and to a lesser extent Van Ness
* The northwest corner of Marina District has good but not excellent mass transit access.
* Fair economic diversity and very limited generational diversity as only 17% of households have kids.
* Few public housing developments here and the medium rent ($2,370) is high compared to the City average.
* Studios start in the low $2,000s, 1-beds anywhere btwn the mid 2Ks and 4K, 2 & 3-beds anywhere btwn 3K-5K.
* For sale housing is expensive with 1-bedrooms generally selling btwn 700K and 1.3 M.  2-bedroom condos range from 1-2.4 M. 3-bedrooms generally mid 2 M-4 M. 4-Bedrooms are generally 2-5M.
* For San Fran standards, tree canopy is a bit sparse.
* Not walkable to any hospital.
* Modern in-fill is pretty limited but generally urban.
* Not as mixed use as other parts of San Fran but still very good,

Lower Pacific Heights- Home to San Fran’s Japantown

Lower Pacific Heights was historically known as Upper Fillmore and a part of the Western Addition. This follows a common trend in America cities where neighborhoods are further subdivided when they gentrify and are rebranded. Lower Pacific Heights was a middle-class district for much of its history but became much wealthier in the 1980s and 1990s. This was the time when “Upper Fillmore” fell out of favor in exchange for “Lower Pacific Heights”. I don’t sense the district ever had a major period of disinvestment.

Japantown is a small sub-district within Lower Pacific Heights adjacent to the northern edge of the Fillmore District. Japanese immigrants began moving into the area following the 1906 earthquake (along with the Fillmore District). By World War II, the neighborhood was one of the largest Japanese enclaves outside Japan and took on an appearance similar to the Ginza district in Tokyo. WWII created a bit of a Japanese diaspora as Japanese families following several years of internment camps often resettled in other parts of San Fran and its suburbs. But the district retained its Japanese identity, especially as a center of Japanese shopping and culture. The district’s focal point, the Japan Center, was opened in 1968 and is the site of three Japanese-oriented shopping centers. This shopping center still remains a vibrant, dense collection of Japanese shops and is one of the most interesting parts of the City.

Lower Pacific Heights is a high quality urban district in line with central San Fran neighborhoods. It has a couple of urban deficiencies that lead to a lower score than other surrounding districts, namely, limited dedicated bike lanes, few schools within the neighborhood boundaries, okay park amenities, and only 18% of households as family households. The neighborhood’s strengths are Japantown and a great array of cultural and neighborhood retail amenities. 

Click here to view my Japantown album and here Lower Pacific Heights

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Quality historic architecture mixing late 19th century Italianate and Victorian with 20s apartment bldgs. The modern architecture design wise isn’t super inspiring but generally very good urban form. This is concentrated along Geary Blvd and in Japantown.
* Urban massing is overall very good but some autocentric spots along Ghery Blvd and Presidio Ave.
* Great access to Downtown and a highly walkable district. 
* About 55% of all units are rent controlled but also several public housing bldgs in the district. Medium rent is $2,077, slightly higher than the City’s median.
* Great racial diversity with a large Asian (Japanese) population here. Decent economic diversity.
* By all appearances, this is a very safe district.
* Cultural amenities include a great array of restaurants, bars, and cafes particularly in Japantown. There are also a handful or art galleries, two movie theaters in Japantown, the Vogue historic theater, the Regency Ballroom, and several live music venues and clubs.
* Great retail options concentrated in Japantown, many of them very unique cultural stores but also plenty of general retail options (i.e. hardware, grocerias, boutiques, and medical offices). Retail assets throughout the Lower Pacific Hghts include: several major supermarkets (i.e. Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Wholefoods), plenty of grocerias, a target, several drug stores, 4 book stores, great array of boutiques & creative stores along Fillmore, plenty of banks, a couple antique stores, a hardware store, and plenty of dessert places. 2 hospitals within are near the district and decent array of churches.
* Vibrancy is great esp. in Japantown. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Good but not great bike infrastructure. 2 dedicated lanes in the district and good array of dedicated bike stations.
* 1-bedrooms lease in the mid 2Ks-low 3Ks, 2 bedrooms in the 3Ks & 4Ks, 3-bedrooms 4K-5K.
* Cheapest for sale units are some 1-bedroom condos selling btwn 650K-900K. Plenty of 1-bedrooms selling in the low 1 Millions. 2-bedrooms sell for anywhere btwn 800K-mid 1 Millions, 3bedrooms low 1 Ms to 3M. Larger & higher end produce selling in the 3 & 4 Ms.
* Poor generational diversity. Only 18% of households are families.
* Compared to most San Fran. Districts Park amenities are pretty limited. Lower Pacific Heights does have a great recreation decenter and a handful of small parks and plazas. Several medium sized parks just outside the district borders.
* Only a few schools within the district but plenty of good ones in surrounding districts.

Fishtown- One of my favorite Philly neighborhoods

Fishtown is a largely working class Irish Catholic neighborhood, but has recently seen a large influx of young urban professionals and gentrification. The name Fishtown derives from the major original occupation of its residents. Early settlers were fishermen and over time they controlled the fishing rights to both sides of the Delaware River from Cape May to the falls at Trenton, NJ. The neighborhood was originally built up by German immigrants in the early-mid 19th century followed by Polish and Irish Catholic immigrants in the late 19th century. Poverty grew in Fishtown in the 70s-80s after many good jobs left during the deindustrialization era, however many of Fishtown’s workers stayed keeping the neighborhood for slipping into widespread poverty like so many surrounding North Philly districts.

This neighborhood is one of my favorites in Philly. This may surprise some, but Fishtown’s recent revitalization builds upon an existing neighborhood with quality urban fabric. Fishtown is very similar to the better South Philly neighborhoods but it still retains good economic diversity and its improving its racial diversity. Housing is certainly increasing here but much lower the “hot” neighborhoods like Northern Liberties to the south. Plenty of 2 & 3 bedrooms selling for 200K/300K. Fishtown’s recent gentrification has certainly added to its retail and cultural amenities. My biggest concern for the future is that rising housing prices will spiral out of control as this is such an attractive urban area. City leaders would be wise to building a significant amount of affordable housing here immediately. Other urban metrics where the district could improve include better street trees and bike infrastructure, ADA curbs, and more generational diversity. 

Click here to view my Fishtown Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent density at nearly 25K per square mile.
* Solid architecture both modern infill and historic buildings.
* Great access to Dwtn as its well connected to a heavy rail line, short drive, and very bikeable via Delaware Avenue.
* Bike infrastructure is good but not great. Delaware and York have dedicated lanes and a handful of dedicated bike stations.
* While housing is getting price here lots of for-sale variety and sales prices thanks to the diverse housing stock. Plenty of smaller 2 & 3 bedrooms (rowhouses & condos) selling in the 200Ks and low 300Ks in good condition. Medium sized renovations or new construction 3 & 4 bedrooms selling between 350-500K. Higher end and larger product selling between 500K-800K. This is mostly new construction.
* Nice array of well dispersed smaller/diverse parks. Decent riverfront park as well.
* Great cultural amenities including a plethora of restaurants, bars, breweries, and cafes. Also a good amount of art galleries, a couple local theaters and live music venues.  No museums though.
* Good retail amenities as well including several smaller grocerias, a food co-op, and two discount groceries. Also convenient access to Giant, which is just over the line in Northern Liberties. Other amenities include a couple drug stores, lots of banks, great array of unique and creative stores, boutiques, thrift stores, a post office, and public library.
* Lots of walkable elementary/middle schools in Fishtown w/ generally decent rankings. View high schools.
* Commercial districts generally have very good urban form but decent streetscaping.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Good ADA infrastructure on commercial streets (Girard & Frankford) but hit or miss in the residential streets.
* Rentals are pretty plentiful but on the higher end. 1-bedrooms  lease in the low-mid $1,000s, 2-bedrooms generally in the high $1,000s and low $2,000s, and good amount of 3-bedrooms leasing anywhere between the high $1,000s and 3Ks.
* Some dedicated aff. housing but certainly less than ideal.
* Delaware Ave is pretty industrial and doesn’t have the best urban form or streetscaping. 

Highland Square- Akron’s most urban neighborhood

Like most Akron neighborhoods, Highland Square was built as a early 20th century streetcar suburb with medium density and a mix of SF homes and apartment buildings. Highland Square stands as the most urban Akron neighborhoods due to several decent urban commercial nodes along Market Street and quality walkable retail & cultural amenities. Most Akron commercial corridors are auto centric. Highland  Square is culturally also Akron’s most liberal and urbanite district.

For Highland Square to become a great urban district it needs to work to eliminate its remaining blight, encourage urban in-fill along Market to eliminate more auto centric stretches of the corridor, attract more neighborhood retail, and add more families and park amenities. Given its proximity to Downtown Akron, Highland Square should have much better transit service as well. This is more of a Citywide issue though.
Click here to review my Highland Square album on Flickr
URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Good early 20th century wood frame residential architecture with some mansions concentrated in the NW corner of the district.
* Good sidewalks and ADA infrastructure but most intersections don’t have current ADA curb cuts. Better along Market Street.
* Convenient access to Dwtn Akron but only so  public transit.
* Really nice bike path along the Little Cuyahoga River providing a great commuter path to Dwtn.
* Great racial diversity and economic diversity.
* Great variety of for sale SF housing price points ranging from 25K to 400K depending on size and condition. This is attributable to the mix of blighted and stable housing stock throughout Highland Square.
* Decent cultural amenities including a good array of restaurants, bars, and cafes, a historic movie theater,
* Retail amenities include a supermarket, post office, library, pharmacy and nice array of boutiques and local stores.
* Nice array of public and private schools.
* Great Tree Canopy
URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* No bike share stations in the neighborhood.
* Only 33% Family households but decent adult diversity.
* Decent amount of rental options but all are pretty inexpensive. No luxury apartments in Highland Square.
* Park and recreation space a bit limited. Only a handful of small parks within Highland Square along with several cemeteries. Schneider and Elm Hill Park are medium size but just west of the district’s borders.
* Still some crime issues and a fair amount of blight in Highland Square especially in the southern half of the district.
* Urban commercial district massing is hit or miss including some solid commercial nodes along Market like at Portage Path and some more auto centric areas closer to Dwtn. 

Fredrick, MD a satellite city with great History and Urban Environment

Fredrick is a City with a ton of history. Its location where the Catoctin Mountains meet the rolling hills of the Piedmont region made Frederick a crossroads even before European explorers arrived. The town was platted in 1745 and early settlement beginning in the late 1700s. Many of the first settlers were German reformers and Lutherans. Fredrick quicky became the county seat for Western Maryland and an important market town. It was also the center of the young nation’s leading mining area in the early 19th century. As a major crossroads, Frederick saw considerable action during the American Civil War. Fredrick’s population grew slowly after the Civil War and into the 20th century hitting 9,000 in 1900 and 16,000 after WWII. Suburban growth from DC  fueled explosive growth since WWII and Fredrick now tops 70,000.

The Downtown portion of Fedrick is the best part of the City complete with gorgeous 19th century architecture, especially the Italianate styles, a great main street along Market Street and several blocks of Patrick St. Recent interest in the town from DC residents looking for a quality walkable environment but cheaper housing has led to a renaissance for Dwtn Fredrick. This has sparked a great food & beverage scene, cultural arts, new recreational spaces, and lots of retail and independent stores. The next step to improving downtown Fredrick’s urban environment is investing in the gritty edges of town. Still room for quality urban in-fill here. Downtown also needs a supermarket. Some larger retailers would also be nice.

Click here to view my photo Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Wonderful historic 19th century architecture mixing Georgian, federalist, and Italianate styles.
* Infill limited overall but some great new construction in the NW section of downtown reflecting historic styles and massing.
* Quality local transit service.
* Great connectivity and street grid.
* Nice bike path along the Carroll Creek greenway. No bike sharing stations yet.
* Highly walkable neighborhood.
* Great economic diversity in Dwtn Fredrick.
* For sale housing is good mix of price points and cheap compared to DC prices. One bedrooms condos/rowhouses sell between 150-300K. 2-bedrooms 150K-450K depending on condition, 3 & 4 bedrooms between 200K-500K. Some higher end product selling for over 500K.
* Rental options pretty reasonable as well. 1-bedrooms rent in the low $1,000s. 2-bedrooms in the mid $1,000s. Limited 3-bedroom rentals. Generally above 2K. Some affordable rentals downtown as well.
* Carroll Creek provides great park & recreational amenities including a bike trail, playground, sport fields, a bandstand, and green space. Some smaller parks spread throughout dwtn Fredrick as well.
* Culturally dwtn hosts a great array of restaurants, cafes, & bars, many museums & historic sites, several theater company and an Arts Center, live music venues, and a plethora of art galleries.
* Retail options include a great variety of boutiques, creative stores, bookstores, Dwtn library & post office, a couple drug stores, and other general retail.
* Blighted limited to the edges of Dwtn. Crime rates in Fredrick near national average.
* Schools are well rated in Fredrick. 2 walkable elementary schools sit just outside of dwtn. The middle & high school ae located about a 2 miles away. 
URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* ADA infrastructure and sidewalks and generally good but ADA compliant ramps are limited and much of the sidewalks are brick due to historic preservation requirements.
* Not convenient to the District as its an hour drive (on a good day) and 1.5 transit trip. But lots of jobs nearby along I-270.
* Limited racial diversity. A mostly white population.
* Supermarket is located about 1 mile outside of dwtn.
* Very inconvenient assess to Downtown DC. Most jobs lie along 270 and are only accessible by car. 

Downtown Pontiac, MI

Click here to view the full Pontiac, MI album on Flickr
I decided to only review Dwtn Pontiac as that was mostly what I visited and because this is the most viable urban portion of Pontiac. During urban renewal Woodward was build as a loop around dwtn. I used this as the neighborhood’s boundary.

Founded in 1818, Pontiac is one of the earliest Michigan settlements. The city was best known for its General Motors auto plants from the early 20th century. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Pontiac boomed with thousands of new autoworkers moving here from the South. Like many Michigan manufacturing towns, the town fell on hard times. But in 2010, city leaders and business owners had launched “The Rise of The Phoenix” initiative to attract new businesses and retail space. This has certainly gone a long way to stabilize downtown and fill it with many storefronts but plenty of underdeveloped and vacant parts of downtown, especially along the edges where the Woodward loop road destroyed significant urban fabric. Unfortunately neighborhoods in Pontiac have not seen a whole lot of reinvestment.

The way forward to make Downtown Pontiac a truly viable urban place is continued in-fill and population attraction. 

URBAN STRENGTHS:

*  Fair amount of jobs dwtn as Pontiac is the county seat. Also 30 minute drive to dwtn Detroit but takes just over an hour to commute via bus.
* Nice cultural assets including several historic theaters, some night clubs, and decent array of restaurants, bars, and breweries.
* Nice array of neighborhood services and boutiques in many filled historic storefronts. Also the public and a major hospital are located Downtown.
* Dwtn Pontiac generally feels safe but a fair of blight and vacancy on the edges of Dwtn.
* Several schools on the northern and eastern edge of dwtn. Mixed ratings but nice mix of K-12 Schools.
* Great urban fabric and streetscape along Saginaw, the main drag, but certainly lacking on the edges of Dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* New bike lanes have been added to dwtn Pontiac but still a long way to go for Pontiac to be bike friendly.
* The residential population is generally lower income and Black. But the dwtn caters to a diverse population for work and shopping. Decent generational diversity though
* For sale housing limited to the north edge of dwtn. Generally between 50K-100K. Rental product is also pretty limited but some nice apartments generally listing around 1,000 for 1-bedrooms.
* Interesting modernist plaza and amphitheater at the City centered on top of a parking lot. Really not other park/plaza space outside of this.
* No supermarket, post office, or drug store located downtown.

Royal Oak, a stable Detroit Streetcar suburb

Click here to view the full Royal Oak album on Flickr
I am only evaluating the mostly pre-WWII section of Royal Oak, which is everything south of 12 Mile Ave. This includes the Royal Oak Dwtn and large neighborhoods surrounding it.

Royal Oak developed initially in the early 20th century as a suburb after Detroit boomed as a major industrial city. Low-medium density housing surround its traditional street-side shopping district which run between Washington and Troy. In the 2000s City leaders poured significant effort in revitalizing downtown with new businesses, restaurants, bars and high end stores. Significant mixed-use in-fill also filled downtown.

While already a stable upper middle class community, the City could improve with added density and urban in-fill along its commercial corridors (Main & 11th Street) out of downtown. 

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Best transit access runs along Woodland Avenue on Royal Oak western border.
* Very good street connectivity in Royal Oak.
* Pretty good bike infrastructure with several streets of bike lanes and a fair amount of Detroit’s bike share stations around downtown.
* Good economic and generational diversity.
* Diverse array of rentals 1-bedrooms range anywhere from 800K-1.6K; 2-bedrooms between 1.3K-3K. 3-bedrooms generally in the 2-3Ks. Same with for-sale properties -bedroom condos sell between 250-325K, 2&3-bedrooms anywhere between 250K-550K.
* Nice array of small-medium high amenity parks spread through the City.
* Extensive Downtown for a historic suburb spanning several streets between Washington and Troy. Dwtn hosts a great array of neighborhood businesses, restaurants & bars, several historic theaters, a cinema, a dwtn post office
* Royal Oak also hosts several supermarkets & drug stores but not larger retailers.
* Dwtn hosts great urban fabric and streetscape. Outside of dwtn the commercial streets of Main or Eleven mile are semi-autocentric. Still have sidewalks but plenty of auto centric buildings.
* Nice array of pretty well schools within walking distance to most residents.
* Decent historic architecture but very high quality urban infill. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES

* Pretty easy access to Dwtn via the car but about a 45 minute transit ride.
* Racial diversity is pretty limited.
* Density is not great and more akin to a 1950 suburb, but that’s Detroit for you.
* Outside of Downtown, not a lot of pedestrian activity.