Downtown New Haven, CT- one of my favorite American Downtowns

Downtown New Haven was originally laid out as nine squares in 1638. This includes modern day New Haven Green, the immediate surrounding central business district, as well as a significant portion of the Yale University campus.

Dwtn New Haven has become one of the  most residential mid-size city downtown helping to support downtown businesses and retail extending even to secondary streets. Its vibrancy, mixed-use development, cultural amenities, and strong walkability make it one of the best Dwtns in the United States.

But as always there are still areas that could be improved from an urban perspective including more rental product and affordable housing, a larger office population and several key retail amenities (i.e. supermarket and a department store).
Click here to view my full Downtown New Haven album on Flickr


* Excellent public transit access Dwtn and throughout the full New Haven City. Good transit access to surrounding inner ring suburbs.
* Pretty good bike infrastructure within Dwtn including several dedicated bike lanes and a bike sharing system within Dtwn and inner ring neighborhoods. Limited bike lanes out to the suburbs other than a lengthy lane going to the north.
* Excellent racial and economic diversity helped certainly by Yale.
* Pretty nice mix of for-sale options with condos selling between 100K-500K, and larger townhouse and rowhouses selling between 500K-800K.
* Good vibrancy Dwtn.
* Great historic architecture especially with Yale University buildings. Solid urban infill as well.
* Wonderful urban form and streetscape in Dwtn as well. Some surface parking lots on the eastern edge of Dwtn.
* Nothing spectacular with the skyline but some nine consistently with the midrise building and some very nice Yale University towers.
* Great imageability with numerous historic landmarks, New Haven Green, and well laid out streets.
* New Haven Green is a wonderful civic space located in the middle of Dwtn and Yale. Lots of programming here. Other greenspace include plenty of gorgeous quads in Yale University but this is still public space. Some nice rec spaces just outside dwtn as well.
* Generally very walkable infrastructure but good amount of ADA current curbs missing.
* Good array of public and private schools generally forming a ring about 1/2 mile outside of dwtn. Rankings are ok but very walkable schools.
* Large student population in Dwtn including over 12,000 at Yale, 7,000 at Gateway Community College.
* Lots of cultural amenities including a movie theater, several community theaters and live music venues, tons of restaurants, bars, & cafes, several art galleries, and a great array of museums. Many of these amenities are run by Yale.
* New Haven has a dwtn improvement district and safety ambassador program.
* Good array of retail amenities including several small grocerias, great array of clothing stores, many banks, several books stores, several pharmacies, and a dwtn post office and library


* 25% of households are family. Pretty decent for a Dwtn, but limited age diversity as most residents are students.
* Rental product is a bit limited and expensive.
* No large convention center dwtn, although there are plenty of small ones. No major sporting arenas.
* Not a ton of office jobs in Dwtn by Yale University itself brings 15,000 jobs. Probably 25,000 total jobs in Dwtn New Haven, an okay number for a metro of  862K.
* Very low vacancy rates though, speaking to the demand of office space dwtn.
* Large supermarket is about 1 mile outside of dwtn.

Downtown Hartford, CT- More than just the Insurance Capitol of the World

I used pretty standard boundaries to measure Downtown Hartford, but excluded Downtown North of it is a mostly vacated district.

Downtown Hartford is similar to other east coast midsized cities like Syracuse, Albany, Scranton, Allenton… compact with great historic architecture, but still struggling to rebound from disinvestment. Yet Hartford still excels as a major employment hub hosting over 80K jobs bolstered by being the state capital and hosting many corporate headquarters. Insurance is one of Hartford’s strengths earning it the nickname the “Insurance Capital of the World”.

Dwtn Hartford also contains many great cultural amenities including a gorgeous statehouse, Fredric Olmsted designed park located right in its heart, a gorgeous historic train station and many museums including the Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the US. Some live, work, play momentum has come within the last decade adding more vibrancy and night life. But dwtn Hartford still has a ways to go before being a truly mixed-use center. Plenty of parking lots in the NW section of Dwtn to in-fill with dense apartment buildings to help make this happen.

Other urban attributes Dwtn Hartford could improve upon include better bike infrastructure, more economic & racial diversity among its residents, a real civic gathering space, and more neighborhood amenities like a supermarket and larger format retail.
Click here to view my Downtown Hartford album on Flickr


* Excellent public transit within Dwtn, Hartford City Limits, and well out the Hartford Metro area. Decent access btwn dwtn and the airport via an express bus line.
* For sale condos and flats are a bit limited but good diversity in price. 1-bedrooms sell in the 100Ks & low 200Ks. 2-bedrooms go for anywhere btwn 150K-400ks. 3-bedrooms are limited and diverse in price.
* Rentals are more plentiful generally pretty reasonable in price, esp. for an east cost town. Studios start around a $1,000, 1-bedrooms in the $1,000s, 2-bedrooms in the high $1,000s. 3-bedrooms are very limited. 
* Dwtn Hartford have their very owned Olmsted designed park (Bushnell Park) which in the middle of Downtown, This transitions into the statehouse grounds. Several other plazas in dwtn but most of them or pretty dead or bland modern plazas. None of these are viable civic plazas. Bushnell Park fulfills this role.
* Culturally a nice array of historic and boutique theaters, plenty of music venues, and a small theater. Also plenty of restaurants & bars, lots of museums, and some art galleries. 
* Most dwtn amenities are here including the main post office & library, convention center, and many governmental offices esp. as this is dwtn.
* Dwtn is very high for the size of the metro at 80K and it is the largest employment center in CT.
* Office vacancy rates are high though hovering around  18%.
* Pretty good retail amenities with boutiques and neighborhood amenities.
* Great historic architecture and one of my favorite statehouses.
* Curb cuts fill every intersection but a mix of current and date ADA infrastructure.
* Great good urban streetscape but dependent on whether the street has seen major investment.
* While not terribly vertical, this is a nice compact skyline.


* Hartford’s bike share system is generally disjointed and in small bits and pieces. Yes there are several large regional bike paths that pass through the Metro, but they aren’t built for commuters. A bike Share system appears to be in the works as of 2020.
* Downtown residential population definitively skews white and young professional.
* Sport venues are limited to a minor league baseball stadium.
* No department stores or supermarkets.
* Dwtn feels sketch in parts but generally pretty safe.
* Plenty of schools kind of within walking district west and south of dwtn but generally not well rated.
* Decent college enrollment dwtn with about 4,000 students at the community college and a dwtn branch of UConn.
* Modern architecture not bad but generally modern office bldgs with so  urban form.
* Tree canopy is so  but great coverage in Bushnell Park.
* Fair amount of surface parking lots in the NW section of Dwtn but good urban form in the rest of dwtn.
* Dwtn Hartford still has an image problem but this seems to be getting better.