Ravenna, OH- Historic Satellite Suburb of Akron, OH

This evaluation includes just the pre WWII urban fabric of Ravenna. That is more or less the entire with of the Town between the north and south railroad tracks.

Ravenna was founded in 1799 and is named after Ravenna, Italy. Ravenna grew pretty quickly in the 1800s reaching almost 2K residents by the Civic War. Historically it was know for producing some of the highest quality hearses in the Country, hired to escort Presidents McKinley and Garfield to their final resting place. Rail service arrived in Ravena via the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad in 1851. In 1877, the Quaker Oats Company was established in Ravenna with the familiar Quaker Oats logo patented in in the City. The City reached 4K residents in 1900. Thanks to this decent sized population in the 1800s Ravenna hosts an Italianate styled heavy Commercial District. The City’s population continued to modestly climb in the 1900s reaching 7K in 1920 and 8.5K in 1940. Population peaked at 12K in 1990 and has since slowly declined to 11,300 souls. Ravenna is also well know for its Balloon Festival that occurs around mid- September.

Ravenna is a mixed-bag when it comes to quality urbanism. There is a good compact Downtown core along Main St and a couple blocks off, but the quality of Main Street quickly becomes auto centric outside the Dwtn core. Quality historic residential is also pretty limited and population density is very low. Ravenna does have solid retail and cultural amenities and a decent # of good walkable schools. The City, however, lacks quality public transit, bike amenities, housing diversity (esp. rentals), and is a very homogenous White community. 

Click here to view my Ravenna Album on Flickr


* Decent grided and connected streets. Better in the core of Dwtn.
* Great economic diversity and decent generational diversity.
* Good # of schools and generally pretty well rated. High Schools is located a bit outside of Town and really isn’t very walkable.
* Some dedicated affordable housing in Ravenna.
* Good tree canopy.
* Lovely historic commercial bldgs. Residential is a bit uninspiring.
* Good urban massing in the Dwtn core but falls a part outside of the core along OH-59.
* Good cultural amenities including solid # and variety of food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex, a local dance and music school, a small conference center, and a couple local museums.
* Solid retail amenities including several supermarkets & drug stores, a couple dollar stores, lots of banks, plenty of boutiques, lots of gift shops, a couple antique stores, a toy store, a local hardware store, plenty of dessert shops, a couple gyms, a local library & post office, several churches, and a local hospital and lots of doctor’s offices sits just north of the Dwtn area. 


* Very low density for an urban area.
* So so sidewalk and ADA curb cuts.
* Pretty poor public transit.
* Some bus service to dwtn Akron but pretty  limited. Only a 20 min drive.
* Some nice regional recreational bike paths on the edges of Dwtn but nothing penetrates its.
* Poor racial diversity as this is over 90% White.
* For sale housing is pretty limited to affordable and moderately priced hsg. 2-beds sell btwn 50K-200K, 3 & 4 Beds btwn 85K-300K.
* Rentals are pretty limited but affordable.
* Limited modern infill and what does exist is very auto centric.

Grove City, OH- A Booming Columbus Suburban with an Attractive Historic Dwtn Core

This evaluation only includes the more walkable/historic part of Grove City. My boundaries broadly included Haughlin Rd/Orchard Ln to the East, Ross Ave to the North, Curtis & the Railroad tracks to the west and Kingston/Woodlawn Ave to the south.

By 1853, the newly formed village of Grove City had only 50 residents. The town founders named the village for the remaining groves of trees left standing after their initial clearing.  The City remained small in the 1800s reaching only 650 residents by 1900 and slowly growing in the early 20th century and hitting 1,800 souls in 1940. Like other Columbus satellite suburbs, the town exploded in the post War Era. Grove City officially become a City in 1958 on its path to reaching 14K residents in 1970, 27K in 2000 and 41K in 2020.

Fortunately the historic core, as small as it is has been pretty well preserved with an attractive main street (Broad Ave) with lots of locally owned shops, retailers, and food & beverage businesses. Dwtn Grove City also excels at a high level of safety, quality schools, good for sale housing diversity, quality park amenities, and pretty good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. For Dwtn Grove City to become a great urban area it needs a lot more population and in-fill development, much better public transit and bike infrastructure, more rental options, better economic and racial diversity, and crucial retail amenities like a full service walkable supermarket.

Click here to view my Grove City album on Flickr


* Only 15-20 minute drive to Dwtn Columbus.
* Generally good sidewalk and ADA infrastructure but about 25 of roads are missing sidewalks. ADA modern curbs are pretty consistant when there are sidewalks.
* Lots of family households with children here.
* High levels of safety here in line with most exclusive suburbs.
* Several well rated walkable public elementary and middle schools. High school is more on the outskirts of Grove City.
* Pretty good for sale diversity with a handful of 1-beds available selling in the 100Ks and low 200Ks. Plenty of 2-beds that sell btwn 150K-the low 300Ks, 3 and 4  beds sell btwn 200K- 500K.
* Solid parks and recreational in Dwtn Grove City leading with the expansive Windsor Park with all its ball fields. A couple of small/medium sized parks.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Good cultural amenities with a good # of good & beverage biz, a brewery, a couple night clubs and live music venues, a local performing arts theater, and a couple local museums.
* Decent retail amenities including a drug store, lots of boutiques/gift stores,  several locally owned businesses, dwtn public library, a couple antiques and home good stores.
* Solid architecture with quality historic homes and commercial and a decent amount of good urban in-fill.
* Pretty good urban form and streetscaping along Broadway Ave (the main street).


* Very low density for an urban area.
* Bike transit is pretty poor, although decent direct connection to Dwtn.
* Dwtn connectivity is so so.
* Some bike lanes in Grove City and the Dwtn area but none go through the heart of Dwtn nor connect it to the rest of Grive City. No dedicated bike stations.
* Poor economic and racial diversity.
* Some rentals Dwtn but more 2-beds than 1 beds. Moderately priced.
* Missing retail amenities include churches, doctor’s offices, post office, a supermarket, a hardware store, and larger retails.

Newport, KY- Wonderful Historic Urban Suburban Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati

For this evaluation I included just the northern half of Newport north of the railroad. While much of the southern half was development before WW II its often blight, disconnected, and the Monmouth St (the commercial district) becomes very auto centric.

Newport was established as a town in the late 18th and incorporated as a City in 1834 with a population of only about 1,000. The first bridge spanning the Ohio River to Cincinnati opened here in the mid 19th century and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge). By that time Newport’s population was exploding reaching 10K residential in 1860, 20K in 1880 and 28K in 1900. The late 19th century also brought a large influx of German immigration. Population growth significantly slowed by the early 20th century and Newport reached its peak of 31K residents in 1950. The 20th century also brought  waves of “vice” to the City with liquor smuggling in the 1920s, gambling and racketeering in the 30s-1950s and sex clubs in the 60s-80s. In response the City demolished a significant part of the Downtown/waterfront area to create Newport on the Levee, a family friendly new urbanist development with a cineplex and a mall. This opened in 1999 but has lost much of its luster going into the 2020s.

South of the Newport on the Levee is a the Dwtn area, anchored along 4th & 5th Streets that have been ravaged by urban renewal and autocentric development. Fortunately the perpendicular street running up from the south (Monmouth St) is a fairly intact historic biz district with a good array of retail and cultural amenities. The eastern half of Historic Newport is Mansion Hill, filled with tree lined mid-late 19th century residential streets and a mix of grand and more modest homes. The western half is very working class historic stock. Newport also has solid public transit, great housing diversity, decent levels of safety, and solid walkable schools. For Newport to be a great urban district it needs more urban infill Downtown, along York and Monmouth, and other dead spots. There is a funny juxtaposition of great historic urban form and awful senseless post WW II development.

Click here to view my Newport, KY album on Flickr


* Decent urban density
* Good sidewalk infrastructure. Modern ADA curb cuts are hit or miss. Most curb cuts in the business districts have been updated but less than 50% of residential areas.
* Excellent historic architecture especially in Mansion Hill and the Monmouth Biz district. The western half is more working class.
* Modern in fill is mixed bag. Decent urban infill at Newport on the Levee and Dwtn but a good amount of auto centric crab as well.
* Solid public transit and great access to Dwtn Cincinnati being just across the river.
* Good connectivity.
* Good number of walkable schools but public schools were generally rated poor to fair. Several Catholic schools also mixed in.
* Good diversity of for-sale hsg options with 1-beds selling anywhere btwn 85K-400K, 2-beds btwn 100K-500K with some riverfront condos selling for more. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 150K-800K with some newer product selling for more.
* Good amount of rentals available and nice mix of new and old. 1-beds lease btwn 800K-1.5K, 2-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 3-beds 1.5K-2.5K. Good amount of afford. hsg here.
* Generally a safe place but good amount of grit, some vacancy, and medium levels of crime.
* Decent parks including the riverfront levee park, excel public plaza at Newport on the Levee, the expansive Ralph Mussman Recreational Complex, and a handful of smaller pocket parks.
* Excellent cultural amenities including many food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex,  a performing arts center, several live music venues, a couple art galleries, the Aquarium & a couple other local museums, and several historic sites.
* Good retail amenities including a couple grocerias, several drug stores, lots of boutiques, lots of antiques and gift stores, plenty of consignment/clothing stores, the Newport Levee shopping mall (no name brands clothing currently), a couple book stores, many banks, plenty of gyms & dessert stores, local post office & public library, lots of churches. Kroger’s and Target sit just outside urban Newport and other stores in the Newport Pavilion.


* Bike  infrastructure including a dedicated bike lane along the levee and a few bike rentals at Newport on the Levee. But much improvement needed.
* Decent economic and generational diversity. Racial diversity is pretty limited.
* Tree canopy was pretty sparse in parts, esp. the more working class western half and dwtn area. Mansion Hill has good tree canopy.
* Some bad urban massing along 4th and 5th Ave but otherwise pretty good.

Reading, OH- Historic Cincinnati Surbub rebranding its Downtown as “The Bridal District”

This evaluation only reviews the walkable pre WW II portion of Reading in the western half of the town.

Between 1830 and 1880, Reading grew rapidly to become the largest village in Hamilton County. It was incorporated as a village in 1851 and reached 1K in 1860. The village’s major industry in the mid 19th century was clothing manufacturing. By the turn of the 20th century like other communities in the Mill Creek Valley, Reading’s economy centered around industry suppliers for nearby aerospace and automotive plants. Sadly Reading has some very ugly segregationist history as it was a sundown town, meaning that African Americans were prohibited from living within the city or remaining there after dark. The law led to few Blacks living in Reading until the 60s. On a more positive note, Reading has reinvested itself as The Bridal District along Benson Street bosting the claim of the highest concentration of wedding-related businesses in the United States.

Reading has fair pretty good for an older Cincinnati urban suburb losing only about 4K of its peak population of 14K and keeping much of its historic fabric and commercial district in tact. This is thanks to newer suburban growth in its easter half (not part of this evaluation), solid schools, decent parks, high level of safety, and reinvesting its Dwtn. For reading to become a solid urban district it needs more housing diversity, mixed-use development especially along the run down parts of Reading Rd., much better bike infrastructure, more trees, and some key missing retail amenities.

Click here to view my Reading, OH album on Flickr


* Solid ADA infrastructure with consistent sidewalks and generally ADA curbs.
* Good economic and generational diversity and there are lots of families with children living here.
* Good ratings for the Reading schools. A elementary  &  middle school are located right in the Dwtn area. Catholic & public schools are in the more suburban eastern half of reading.
* Reading is overall a safe place.
* For sale housing is a mix of affordable and moderately priced housing with ok diversity. 1-bed homes available selling btwn 50K-100K, 2-beds sell btwn 85K-250K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 100K-300K.
* Decent park amenities with several ball fields, cemeteries and pocket parks.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & bev businesses, a couple art galleries and local museums, a couple night clubs and live music spots.
* Good retail amenities too including a drug store, a grocerias, a family dollar, an amazing concentration of bridal shops with supporting boutiques & salons, a couple banks & furniture/antique shops, several dessert joints, a couple doctor offices, a public library, and several churches.
* Attractive historic architecture esp. in the commercial district.
* Good urban massing along Benson Ave. Hit or miss along Reading and esp. auto centric south of Benson. Similar story with streetscaping.


* Pretty low density for an urban district.
* So so public transit access.
* Bike infrastructure is basically non-existent.
* Rental is pretty limited. Some 1-beds listed at moderate prices.
* Reading could use a full service supermarket, a hardware store, local post office, more creative (non wedding) stores, a book store, etc.
* Modern in-fill is non-existent except for some crummy auto centric bldgs.
* Tree canopy is so so.

Bellevue, PA- Pittsburgh Ohio River town with a Bright Future

The land on which the borough currently sits was once part of the Depreciation Lands reserved for Revolutionary War veterans. Bellevue was incorporated as a borough independent of Ross in 1867 after a dispute with the Township over developing along the Venango Rail line (now route 19). Development came slow at first to Bellevue with only 300 residents around the Civil War, but quickly accelerated in the late 19th century jumping to 3,500 in 1900, 8K in 1920 and peaking around 11,500 in 1950.  Bellevue’s population started to drop in the 1970s along with the rest of the Pittsburgh region and only recently has showed signs of bottoming out with only a small population drop between 2010 and 2020. The Borough now sits just above 8,000 residents, which for Pittsburgh standards is pretty good!

From an urban perspective Bellevue is a fairly compact inner ring suburb with good transit access, a pretty well maintained main street (Lincoln Ave) with a good number of retail still open, good housing diversity, and the typical suburban amenities of good schools and safety. For Bellevue to reached its urban potential it needs more population, a complete urban rehaul of I-65 (an auto centric disaster) better park & bike amenities, some improved sidewalk and ADA curb infrastructure, and key missing retail like gyms, clothing stores, and more higher end retail. But buzz is certainly building for Bellevue as trendy new businesses have recently opened up along Lincoln Avenue and homes starting to sell over 300K. Hopefully this positive trend can continue without significant displacement.

Click here to view my Bellevue Album on Flickr


* Solid urban density.
* Convenient access to Dwtn. Only 10 min drive and 30 min bus ride. Not great bike connection.
* Solid diversity esp. generational and economic.
* Several walkable schools in Bellevue, generally rated well, and good mix of private and public.
* Good mix of affordable and moderately priced for-sale housing. Very limited 1-beds but lots of 2-beds ranging btwn 100K-300K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 85K-350K.
* Decent # of rentals and pretty affordable. 1-beds lease btwn $800-1K, 2-beds btwn 1K-1.5K, 3-beds in the 1Ks. Also a good amount of dedicated affordable housing.
* Thanks to generally leafy streets and lots of hillsides, Bellevue has a solid tree canopy.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of restaurants, bars, a brewery a couple cafes, an art gallery, a couple local theaters & live music venues, a couple historic sites.
* Solid retail amenities including a couple supermarkets & drug stores, a hardware store, a couple of consignment stores, several gift stores/creative shops including a Hallmark, a couple family dollars, lots of salons/barber shops, several dessert joints, a historic library, and several churches, a major hospital, and several doctor’s offices.
* Overall a safe community.
* Most of Lincoln has seen a streetscaping refresh and is good urban form.
* Solid historic architecture both residential and commercial. Some homes date to the early-mid 1800s.
* Buzz in Bellevue is certainly bldg although I won’t consider it trendy yet.


* Most streets have sidewalks but about 10% are missing them. Modern ADA curb cuts existing in about 65% of all intersections. Hills in spots make walking more challenging.
* Really no bike infrastructure here.
* Bayne Park is a nice centralized medium size park but only a handful of other smaller parks in the Borough limits. Several larger park sit outside of the Borough but not very walkable to most Bellevue residents.
* Missing retail amenities include a gym, clothing stores, post office, other high end retail.
* Very auto centric road along 65 but at least it has sidewalks in most spots.
* In-fill is limited to most auto centric crud on 65.

Cuyahoga Falls, OH- Historic Akron Suburb with Impressive Valley & Waterfalls

This evaluation includes Downtown Cuyahoga Falls and the historic Westside mostly developed before WW II. The boundaries I choose more or less match this framework but I admit it’s a bit imperfect. I used State for the Western border, the Cuyahoga River for the southern and Easter Border (route 8 is used as the eastern border north of Dwtn), and Silver Lake Ave as the northern border.

In 1812, Kelsey and Wilcox built a dam on the Cuyahoga River at a place where a railroad bridge crossed it in 1876. The town was incorporated in 1836. By the Civil War Cuyahoga Falls had 1,500 residents. It reached 3K in 1900, 10K in 1920, 30K by 1950, and peaked at 50K in 1970. In 1985, a referendum adding Northampton Township to the City, which helped negate a steep population loss in the 1970s. The City actually had modest population increase between 2010-2020 and now hosts 51K souls.

Downtown Cuyahoga Falls has seen a lot of investment centered along Front St and near Cuyahoga Falls. This has brought several new apartment buildings and townhouses, lots of restaurants, bars, and cafe and good cultural amenities. Unfortunately many of the Downtown side streets are auto oriented. Outside of Downtown are mostly medium density single family homes from the early 20th century. The closer one is to Dwtn the better the walkability. The secondary commercial district along State St is very auto oriented. Cuyahoga Falls scores well in my evaluation as it is very diverse but also does well with typically suburban amenities (i.e. quality schools, parks and high levels of safety). I don’t anticipate this happening anytime soon but it would be great to see a lot more urban in-fill Downtown and a conversion of State St into a more pedestrian friendly commercial corridor. Cuyahoga Falls also need better public transit and bike infrastructure.

Click here to view my Cuyahoga Falls Album on Flickr


* ADA and sidewalk infrastructure is best Dwtn and pretty good in the residential areas.
* Convenient access to Dwtn Akron across all modes. A 10 minute drive and 30 min bus and bike ride.
* Good connectivity and street grid.
* Cuyahoga Falls does well across all diversity indicators.
* Decent # and diversity of schools and overall they are well rated.
* A decent # of rentals are available and generally very affordable. Few 1-beds lease btwn $700-$900, 2-beds btwn $800-the low 1KS, 3-beds in the mid 1Ks.
* Better for sale housing diversity. Some 1-bed condos selling btwn 100K-200K, 2-beds sell btwn 125K-300K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 125K-325K.
* Good park and recreational amenities including the Metro Parks along the Cuyahoga River, a couple plazas dwtn, several small-medium sized parks spread throughout at the large Recreation Center Dwtn.
* Good tree canopy throughout.
* Good cultural amenities concentrated Dwtn but also some along State Street. Lots of Food & Bev business Dwtn and along State Street. A decent # of breweries, art galleries, live music venues and local museums concentrated Dwtn. Also a cinema in the NW corner of this evaluation area.
* Pretty good retail amenities include a couple supermarkets along State St, several drug stores, plenty of banks, lots of boutiques/gift shops/creative stores Dwtn, a dwtn public library & post office, and a good # dessert joints, gyms, salons, churches spread throughout the neighborhood.
* Generally a very safe community.
* Nice historic homes and good # of historic Dwtn bldgs still intact.


* Public transit is fair to mediocre in Cuyahoga Falls.
* Bike infrastructure is very limited here.
* Pretty good urban form along several blocks of Front Street Dwtn, but this becomes auto centric pretty quickly especially along other Dwtn Streets. State Street is very auto oriented although still has sidewalks
* Some urban in-fill dwtn. Form is generally good but often tacky design. State street has a lot of auto centric crud.
* Pretty low density for an urban area.

Cudell- One of Cleveland’s most racial diverse communities with the right urban bones to once again be a great urban district

The Cudell neighborhood has been a part of Cleveland since 1904. It was named after Frank Cudell who was a well know architect and bequeathed property to the city (where Cudell park and Recreation Center now stands). Cudell developed in the early 20th century as a streetcar suburb and mostly a working class community with residents working in nearby factories concentrated along W 117 and Berea Road. The construction of Interstate 90 in the 1960s isolated the neighborhood’s southern quarter and the Lorain business district. The neighborhood is now half of its peak population of 17K. Fortunately most of the residential streets have remained in tact especially the large homes along West Blvd. The commercial districts (especially Madison Ave) have not fared as well. Commercial uses along Madison are mostly gone and there is still significant vacancy along the corridor.

Cudell excels at great public transit access, affordable for sale homes, decent access to retail amenities (Target, Home Depot, and Stables are all located on W 117) and great racial diversity. With no racial group exceeding more than 1/3 of its population, this is probably Cleveland’s most diverse community. Cudell has the urban bones to be a great neighborhood, it just needs more investment and retail and cultural amenities to fill the vacancy, especially along the commercial corridors. My guess is that Cudell increasing sees the revitalization of neighboring Detroit Shoreway spill over. By 2035 I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a thriving urban district again. But that of course is not a done deal!

Click here to view my Cudell album on Flickr


* Solid sidewalk and ADA infrastructure with most intersections having up to date curb cuts.
* Excellent public transit service here and good access to Dwtn across all modes.
* Connectivity is generally good but the railroad and industrials areas cut into the street grid at points.
* Excellent racial diversity with no racially group exceeding 1/3 of the population. This is probably Cleveland’s most diverse community.
* Decent generational diversity. While households with children are a bit limited good adult diversity.
*Good amount of rental product that is generally pretty affordable. 1-beds lease btwn $500-750$, lots of 2-beds leasing btwn $800-the low 1Ks, plenty of 3-beds too leasing btwn 1K-1.4K.
* Pretty good tree canopy.
* Decent retail amenities concentrated on W 117th and Lorain including several Middle Eastern & Latino grocerias, a Target (with grocery), Home Depot, Staples, Save a Lot, a large Habitat Thrift store, a couple drug stores, several boutiques/clothing stores, several banks, a couple dessert joints, a public library, several churches, and a couple doctor offices.
* Excellent historic homes along West Blvd. Quality of housing off the Blvd is hit or miss. Some excellent but beat up historic commercial bldgs along Lorain.


* Decent Density
* No bike lanes in Cudell but it should be served somewhat by the City’s new dockland bike/scooter share.
* Poor economic diversity as 40% of residents are living in poverty. The Medium household income is just under 30K.
* Schools are so so. Good number of elementary schools (public, charter, and Catholic) but with mixed ratings. No walkable high schools or public middle schools.
* For Sale housing is mostly affordable with some moderate priced hsg. Really no 1-beds available. 2-beds sell btwn 50K-135K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 50K-250K. Higher end product includes the larger homes along West Blvd, newer hsg around the West Tech and some of the gentrification is pushing in from Detroit Shoreway.
*Cudell park is a nice and multi-faceted park with a recreational center that includes a pool but really not other park spaces in the neighborhood.
* Some cultural amenities including several restaurants & bars concentrated on Lorain, a couple coffee spots and art galleries and the Cudell Fine Arts Center and a couple night clubs.
* Good amount of vacancy here especially along Madison and its side streets. Some crime as well.
* Lots of auto centric crud along W 117 and Lorain.

Downtown Naperville, IL- A New Urbanist Downtown with a Triving Retail and Culutural Scene

For this evaluation I considered Downtown Napersville to be between the DuPage River, Aurora St, Ellsworth St. and the railroad tracks.

Naperville was founded in 1831 by Joseph Naper. The settlement was incorporated as the Village of Naperville in 1857, with a population of 2,000. The population slowly grew from there only reaching 5K by WW II. A predominantly rural community for most of its existence,  beginning in the 1960s, Naperville experienced a significant population increase as a result of Chicago’s urban sprawl. The population reached 20K in 1970 and quadrupled in sized by 2000 and by 2020 reached a whopping 150K residents.

Unlikely other Dwtn’s of historic Chicagoland suburbs, Naperville is mostly modern in-fill construction. West of Eagle street is almost exclusively rebuilt homes built in a quasi New Urbanist-Suburban manner. Between Eagle and Ellsworth is the Dwtn commercial district where some historic 2-3 story buildings are mixed in with mostly modern in-fill. Fortunately most of the in-fill is good urban form but a mixed bag aesthetically. The urban form is best along Jefferson and Washington St but gets more auto centric on the side streets. Napersville, however, has used its immense wealth to create an amenity rich Downtown. Their parks along the DuPage River are the envy of any historic exurban community with tons of variety and diversity of amenities. Downtown also has great retail and cultural amenities and a good variety of modern housing options. Dwtn Naperville benefits with the spill over of high quality schools from the Naperville suburb at large.

For Dwtn Naperville to become a top notch urban district it needs more density, mixed-use infill on its existing surface parking lots and auto centric side roads, better bike infrastructure, more rental product and affordable housing, a downtown supermarket and perhaps a small department store like a urban Target format.

Click here to view my Dwnt Naperville Album on Flickr


* Solid public transit access and a Metro stop that goes directly to Dwtn Chicago.
* Excellent sidewalks and ADA curb cuts in the core of Dwtn Naperville where the commercial streets are located. A bit more hit or miss in the residential areas.
* Decent generational diversity due to a decent # of households with kids and all the college age students living here.
* For is certainly on the more expensive side but pretty diversity. 1-beds are extremely limited but good # of 2-beds selling anywhere btwn 175K-700. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 300K-1.5M.
* The parks and recreational space around DuPage River are some of the best designed park space I’ve seen around a small dwtn including a river board walk, skating/volley ball park, amphitheater, playgrounds, gardens, hiking trails, pavilions, greenspace, ballfields, a sled hill, paddleboat facilities, fountains and even a main made beach! Also a great some great hiking in Burlington Park and couple small-medium sized parks in Dwtn.
* Excellent cultural amenities including lots of food & beverage bizs, several breweries, a  handful of art galleries, several theaters (most associated with North Central College), Naper Settlement Historic Village, Children’s Museum & several night clubs and live music venues.
* Excellent retail amenities too including a drug store, several banks, tons of boutiques, clothing stores & gift shops (including many name brand stores), several book & toy stores, lots of home goods/furniture/antiques, plenty of dessert joints & gyms, a post office and library, several churches and doctor office, and a hospital just to the south.
* Extremely safe dwtn.
* Excellent array of well rated public schools elementary- high school. Also a larger Catholic school.
* Good urban form and streetscaping on the main streets (Jefferson & Washington) but a good amount of surface parking and some auto centric uses on the side streets.
* In fill can feel tacky and cheap at times but generally its good urban form and lots of it.


* Density is low here for an urban area.
* Bike infrastructure is limited.
* Generally gridded streets but plenty of dead ends especially in the residential western half.
* Poor economic and racial diversity.
* Decent # of rentals but pretty expensive. 1-beds lease around 2K, 2-beds in the 2Ks, and 3-beds around 3K.
* Still missing a supermarket dwtn and target.
* Sadly much of the historic commercial fabric was demolished. Some remains and its very nice. Mostly of the residential historic fabric has been cleared dwtn replaced my new urbanist/suburban hybrid residential homes.

Downtown St. Charles, IL

For my Downtown St. Charles evaluation I included the area between both sides of the St. Charles river going to 5th to the west and east and south to Prairie St/South Ave and north to the train tracks.

Lack of regional connections in the early years of Saint Charles’ development kept the town relatively small especially compared to nearby Aurora and Elgin. St. Charles only reached 6K by WW II. Thanks to the auto mobile and Highways St. Charles became part of Chicagoland and grew rapidly in the post War years. Now the City’s population sits at 33K.

St. Charles in general is more affluent than most Fox River cities. This has led to much more high end in-fill and many townhouses and condos selling over 500K. Downtown has still managed to keep the Historic Hotel Baker open, which has helped spur lots of other entertainment, dining, and nighttime businesses. Dwtn St. Charles also excels at excellent park and retail amenities, has retained a significant amount of its historic architecture, and is safer and boasts a better tree canopy than other similar Fox River towns. But for Dwtn St. Charles to be a thriving urban district it still needs more population, which would help attract important retail amenities like a supermarket and drug store. Rentals are also limited here and public transit service is pretty limited.

Click here to view my St. Charles Dwtn album on Flickr


* Good sidewalk infrastructure but modern ADA curb cuts are limited on more residential streets but consistant on the commercial streets.
* Highly connected dwtn.
* Dedicated bike trail on both sides of the Fox River.
* Solid school options including several well rated schools both elementary and middle schools.
* Decent for sale options. A handful of 1 bed condos selling in the 100Ks, 2-beds sell btwn 200k-600K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 250K-800K. Good # of newer townhouses and condos available.
* Good park amenities including several riverside parks complete with recreational trails, 3 quality urban squares, and two larger parks north and south of Dwtn with lots of amenities.
* Solid cultural amenities including lots of food & beverage biz, several breweries, a couple art galleries, a couple theaters & local museums.
* Solid retail amenities as well including several banks, plenty of boutiques & clothing stores, a couple of bookstores, plenty of gift shops & unique stores, a couple florists, tons of dessert joints, a couple gyms, a post office and public library, and lots of churches.
* Dwtn St. Charles is a very safe area and so is  St. Charles overall.
* Solid architecture including plenty of historic commercial bldgs (some of them iconic) and good amount of modern in-fill generally to a high standard.
* Excellent tree canopy for a dwtn area.


* Pretty low density for an urban area.
* 50 min drive and 1 hr. train ride from Aurora to Dwtn Chicago. But dwtn Elgin has some jobs itself and only a 30 min transit ride to Dwtn Naperville.
* Rentals are limited to most 1-beds leasing in the low-mid 1Ks
* Public transit service is limited to a call for service model. No direct train service here. One needs to go a couple miles south to Geneva.
* Without direct train access, St. Charles has poor access to Dwtn Chicago or other satellite dwtns in the area. Its over 1 hr. drive to dwtn Chicago as well.
* So so diversity indicators. St. Charles is pretty white and affluent.
* Rentals are pretty limited and generally moderately priced.
* Missing a dwtn grocery store, a drug store, and really no medical offices here.
* Some surface parking on the edges of Dwtn but not too bad.

Downtown Aurora, IL- A Downtown built over the Fox River including an Island

The Downtown Aurora District is confined to a smaller 1/4 mile area between Lake St to the west, 4th St to the east, Clark to the south, and Spring St to the north. This unique mid-sized City Downtown traverses both sides of the Fox River and includes Stolp Island. Because of its unique geography, several gorgeous antique skyscrapers, well know buildings by Louis Sullivan and  George Grant Elmslie, and several historic theaters, Downtown Aurora is a very iconic district. Fortunately most of Downtown’s fabric has been preserved and the district has made great strides especially since 2010 with the expansion of Waubonsee Community College Campus, a revitalization plan putting in parks and new walking paths, and major investments in the arts.

Downtown Aurora also excels with great ADA and sidewalk infrastructure, solid public transit and bike infrastructure, great economic diversity, a riverfront recreational path, great cultural and retail amenities, good urban form, and lots of pedestrian activity thanks to all the college students here. For Dwtn Aurora to become a great urban district it simply needs more residents. Dwtn hosts less than 5K residents per square mile. Dwtn could also use more trees and more urban infill to replace a fair amount of surface parking lots and the auto oriented Lake St.

Click here to view my Downtown Aurora album on Flickr


* Excellent ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. 
* Solid public transit dwtn.
* Decent bike infrastructure including a dedicated bike path along the Fox River and 3 dedicated bike stations.
* Good diversity indicators, especially economic diversity.
* While few families w/ children live here good adult diversity.
* Solid school options including several elementary schools (mostly public) with generally good ratings.
* Several dedicated affordable housing buildings Dwtn.
* Decent park space including the lengthy Fox River recreational trail, McCarty Park, and the North River Street Park.
* Great cultural amenities in Dwtn Aurora including the Hollywood Casino, plenty of food & bev bizs, several breweries, lots of art galleries, several theaters including a mix of historic and modern, a couple live music venues, a couple local museums, and a local convention center.
* Pedestrian activity is pretty good here largely due to the sizable college population coming here.
* Solid retail amenities a Save a Lot, a couple Hispanic grocerias, lots of banks, several boutiques/clothing stores & Gift shops, a Campus bookstore, plenty of dessert joints, a couple gyms, a couple antique/home good stores, a dwtn library & post office, lots of government offices, a couple medical offices, and tons of churches especially in the eastern half of Dwtn.
* Excellent Historic architecture including some exquisite boutiques towers, a Louis Sullivan bldg, and historic theaters.
* Very distinct Dwtn built across the Fox River with an island in-between. Some bldgs are built right up to the River.
* Generally quality urban form and great streetscaping.


* Pretty low density for an urban area.
* 50 min drive and 1 hr. train ride from Aurora to Dwtn Chicago. But dwtn Elgin has some jobs itself and only a 30 min transit ride to Dwtn Naperville.
* Rentals are limited to most 1-beds leasing in the low-mid 1Ks.
* For sale housing is also limited and generally is pushed to the edges of Dwtn where there are SF homes. For sale prices are affordable-moderate.
* Not a ton of in-fill but some really quality recent infill. Some auto centric crud along the western edges of Dwtn.
* Tree canopy is so so.