Downtown Madison, WI

Madison’s Downtown comprises the State Capitol and the oldest residential neighborhoods of Madison. Collectively Downtown is also referred to as the Capitol Neighborhoods as it is in reality more of a quilt of several smaller districts that independently grew into a larger Downtown neighborhood. I expand the Capitol Neighborhoods District a bit for this evaluation to include almost everything between Blair and Park Avenue.  In the SE quadrant is the First Settlement, the oldest part of Madison first settled in 1837. The western half is call Miffland & Bassett, an area famous for its counter-cultural revolution in the 60s & 70s now an interesting mixed-use district. Abutting the University and along Lake Mendota is the State-Langdon District, home to many great historic mansions and many early 20th revival bldgs now owned by many fraternities & sororities. In the Northeast quadrant is the Mansion Hill District, which contains some wonderfully preserved mid-late 19th century housing but also feeds right to the Capitol Building.

Downtown Madison is perhaps the best mid-sized Downtown in American. This is mostly thanks to its great density, and mixed-use character that feeds seamlessly into the historic part of the University of Wisconsin via State Street, a vibrant pedestrian mall converted in 1974. The Dwtn is also designed with an elevated State House forming its heart with diagonal streets coming off its corners and cutting through Dwtn. Dwtn’s fabric is also unhindered by any freeways helping it to preserve most of its urban fabric and contains great retail, cultural, and recreational amenities. Dwtn  boasts a great array of housing diversity (esp. rental) while still being a major employment center. Some small areas that Downtown could improve upon include housing more walkable schools, which could attract more families. There are also some autocentric stretches/surface lots along Washington Blvd and the First Settlement subdistrict that could use better infill. These areas are also a bit sparse with retail amenities.

Click to view my Downtown album, my State-Langdon album and my Mansion Hill album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* This is one of the most dense and populated Downtown’s in America( only New York and Chicago have more dense Downtowns). Very impressive especially for a City of Madison’s size. It is twice as dense as the second most dense mid-sized metro (Lancaster).
* Thanks to several leafy residential pockets Downtown Madison has solid tree canopy for a Downtown.
* Madison has good public transit throughout Dwtn and the inner city neighborhood and decent access to the new parts of the City. Ok to poor service in the suburbs.
* Madison has no interstate highways that penetrated Dwtn and the inner City. Instead one must exist I-90 and I-94 and drive in for 15 minutes on the east side or take route 14-18 that loop south  of the Downtown. This is certainly the ideal in my opinion as it provides decent auto access to Dwtn but keeps it in tact.
* Well gridded Dwtn with the addition of 4 diagonals radiating from the capitol bldgs. Dwtn does well at avoiding wide streets but its maze of one-way streets can be rather confusing.
* Excellent bike infrastructure including great bike lane connectivity throughout most of the City and into the suburbs and dedicated bike stations within almost all of the pre WWII neighborhoods.
* Excellent racial and economic diversity from residents living here.
* Lots of rental supply and diversity. Tons of studios and 1-beds that lease btwn $800-2K, 2-beds lease btwn the low 1Ks-low 2Ks, lots of 3-beds leasing btwn the low 1Ks to mid 2Ks and even some 4 beds btwn the mid 1Ks to 4K. There also appears to be a fair amount of dedicated affordable hsg dwtn.
* Decent amount and diversity of for-sale housing too with 1-bed condos selling btwn 200K-500K, 2-beds sell btwn 300K-1M, and a good number of 3 & 4 beds for a dwtn selling btwn 400K- the low 1Ms.
* Solid park amenities including lots of lake front parks, several attractive plazas throughout dwtn, Alumni Park and Library mall near Dwtn, the UW recreational center, and the well activated Capitol Square, a strong civic heart.
* Excellent cultural amenities including tons of food beverage bizs, good # of art galleries, several live music venues, theaters, and night clubs, a indie theater, several quality museums, and all the University of Wisc. Cultural amenities.. For regional amenities the City has a decent convention center, a couple sports arenas (UW).
* Tons of government jobs dwtn with both city and state offices concentrated here. About 50K jobs in Dwtn Madison.
* Great retail amenities including a target, a couple supermarkets, a DGX, a couple drug stores, plenty of banks, plenty of clothing stores gift shops, and home good stores, a bookstore, a hardware store, tons of dessert joint & Gyms, Dwtn Library & post office.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Generational diversity is rather poor due to the overwhelming college age/young adults living in the Capitol Neighborhoods District.
* Only one walkable elementary school within the Dwtn area. A couple good schools in neighboring districts but not really walkable to Dwtn.
* Retail amenities are a bit light in the First Settlement and Mansion Hill Districts.
* As nothing is taller than the State Capital building not a striking skyline in Madison, although I respect the City’s decision to do this. I actually don’t mind the mid-rise skyline this has created allowing the capital building to shine.
* Generally excellent form throughout Madison but a good amount of autocentric uses along Washington Avenue and some surface parking lots in the First Settlement area. Not surprisingly this is also where the dead spots are Dwtn.

Downtown Milwaukee

The Downtown District is broken up into 3 main sub-districts: the Old 3rd Ward- A rejuvenated warehouse district; East Town- home to some stunning turn of the century commercial bldgs esp. along Wisconsin Avenue but also lots of modern high rises along the lake forming Milwaukee’s mini Golden Coast. Also some very nice late 19th century residential/instructional development in East Town between Kilbourne and Knapp. Milwaukee is the most in-tact historic downtown street cutting across both West and East Towns.  West Town- this is the most underinvested part of Dwtn with lots of dead spots but some good nodes including the old Department store district on Wisconsin, the German themed block on Old Word 3rd St., the redeveloped Pabst complex at the Brewery District, and Civic Complex at McPherson Park.

Both West Town and East Town hosted more or less original settlements in Milwaukee established in the 1830s. East Town was historically called the Juneau Town and West Town was called Kilbourn Town. Along with being a major warehousing district in the City the Historic 3rd Ward was once home to Irish, and then, Italian immigrants.

From an urban perspective Downtown Milwaukee is very similar to Downtown Cleveland and Detroit with its broad streets, striking historic buildings, and warehouse district. But it also has Chicago influences with its expansive lakefront park feeding seamlessly into Downtown, river promenade, and great bike infrastructure. Downtown Milwaukee also has solid cultural amenities, decent retail amenities (although still missing a supermarket), diversity of housing types, stunning public buildings (City Hall, Public Library, and McArthur City complex), and many public plazas spread throughout. The biggest area of improvement needed in Dwtn Milwaukee is more urban in-fill especially in all the dead spots and surface parking lots in West Town but Dwtn could also use better tree canopy, better racial and generational diversity, better walkable schools, a more interesting skyline, and a narrowing of its many wide streets.

Click here to view my East Town Album, West Town Album, and Historic 3rd Ward

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent density for a downtown.
* Good dedicated bike coverage throughout most of the City and to many of the suburbs.
* Good dedicated bike coverage in Dwtn, Northside, inner west side, and limited to the southside. The urban suburbs of West Allis and Wauwatosa also have great dedicated bike station coverage.
* Excellent economic diversity living Dwtn.
* Solid for sale options with a wide range of price points. 1-bed condo sell btwn 100K-600K, 2-beds btwn 225K-900K but some high end product in the Millions. Good # of 3 & 4 bed selling btwn 400K-2 M.
* Pretty good rental options pretty inline pricewise with most Dwtns. Studios 1-beds lease btwn 1K-2K- 2-beds 1K-3K, and some 3-beds leasing btwn 3K-6K.
* Great park amenities especially the expansive lake front parks and the City Malls. Good amount of other smaller parks & plazas too. Cathedral Square is what I would consider the Civic plaza. Good layout but not centrally located and themed.
* Generally a pretty safe Dwtn but some pretty dead and sketchy felling places in West Town further from the river.
* Marquette University Students with its 11K students sits just west of Dwtn but its pretty insular. A several smaller colleges Dwtn including Milwaukee Area Technical College.
* Solid cultural amenities with a good array of food & beverage bizs, several night clubs & theaters, plenty of museums, and some art galleries especially in the 3rd Ward.. Dwtn also hosts the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks play and a smaller arena where the UWM and minor hocky team play.
* Wonderful Historic library Dtwn, which is a block away from the impressive McArthur Square surrounding by impressive Beau Arts Gov’t Bldgs and Museums.
* Dwtn certainly punches over its weight class with around 80K employees working in the CBD (at as of 2020).
* Good retail amenities include an active public market, tons of banks several butcher shops, a drug store, several boutiques & gift shops, a TJ Maxx, a couple book stores, some dessert joins and gyms and several churches. Large hospital on the western edge of West Town.
* Some good infill in East Town with several attractive high-rises near the lake and mixed-use infill.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Generally good connectivity with the street grid but and good number of wide roads often 1-way.
* So so racial diversity living Dwtn.
*Very few children living Dwtn but good amount museums and child friendly destinations.
* Decent # of walkable schools within or near Dwtn but mixed ratings.
* There are a couple post offices on the edges of Dwtn but the historic post office is no longer active.
* Decent skyline with several landmark buildings but not enough cohesion to be a great skyline.
* Lots of surface parking lots in West Town and uninspiring auto centric structures in spots. Lots of surface parking lots on the eastern and southern edges of the 3rd Ward as well.
* Tree canopy is so so.
* Some good pedestrian activity is spots and plenty of dead spaces in between them especially the western half of West Town.

Downtown Denver, CO

For this  evaluation I combined the Union Station and CBD districts. Both districts have Dwtn qualities and naturally flow into one another.

Dwtn Denver is home to the original site of the City at current day Confluence Park where the Platte and Cherry Creak rivers meet. This was founded in the late 1850s. Dwtn quickly grew as Denver became a boom  town housing the headquarters of many mining businesses operating in the Rocky Mountains. This produced a wonderful concentration of gorgeous turn of the 20th century historic architecture. As Denver became a major US city after WWII many corporate headquarters located here and modern high-rises naturally followed. In the 50s & 60s many Civic leaders desired to sweep away most of Downtown’s historic fabric with an ambitious urban renewal campaign. Fortunately, thanks to the tireless efforts of Dana Crawford, much of historic Downtown was saved, especially the Union Station (aka LoDo) area. Her first big win was the preservation of Larimer Square, a now vibrant mixed-use restaurant area. After this Dana went on to preserve the Union Station area and helped pull together Union Station’s revitalization as a major transit hub.

The 16th Street Pedestrian Street is also a major urban asset to Dwtn and one of America’s most successful pedestrian streets still lined with numerous retail and clothing stores. With Denver’s growth, blocks of blocks of dense mixed-use development were built between Union Station and the Platte River creating an urban environment on par with Portland’s Pearl District. McGregor Square and the Ballpark District are part of this area. There are still many surface parking lots on Dwtn eastern edge near Broadway ripe for new in-fill development.

Click to view my Denver CBD album and my Union Station Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great density for a Dwtn area.
* Generally very good sidewalk infrastructure and ADA curbs throughout downtown.
* High quality transit within Denver and to many of its suburbs especially Lakewood & Aurora.  This is helped Denver’s several rail lines spurring out in every direction.
* Very  consistent gridded street system Dwtn.  Streets are pretty wide but only a handful of the main  streets are too wide (i.e. Broadway, Colfax, and  Market). Much of the width has been converted into a great bike lane system.
* The Denver region has a great dedicated bike system almost as good as West Coast cities. Good dockless bike and scooter system that covers most of urban Denver.
* Lots of for sale hsg options but certainly on the expensive end. Studios and 1-beds can range anywhere from 300K-1M but a good # of options btwn 300K-500K. 2-beds condos can range anywhere from 350K-2M Lots of diversity in product. Lots of 3-bed condos ranging anywhere from 650K-3 M. Some 4-beds that are even more expensive.
* Dwtn is generally safe besides a decent amount of homeless activity.
* Great array of small plazas and pocket parks Dwtn. Also an excellent trail along Cherry Creek and Speer Park and the expansive and multi-faceted Confluence park along Platte River.
* Union Station Square has been a quality Civic Heart of Dwtn. Very active, well designed and good # of events. 16th Mall is also a great plaza like space.
* Culturally great array of Food & Beverage biz, several theaters in the PA Complex, a Cineplex, many art galleries, several live music venues, and decent # of museums. 2 major sports stadiums Dwtn and a large Convention Center.
* Dwtn Employment is around 100K but closer to 130K when adding Golden Triangle.
* Great retail amenities w/ a target, a couple supermarkets, plenty of boutiques, Denver Pavilion Shopping Mall, plenty of banks, and plenty of other retail.
* Great university presence with ~ 40K on the western edge of Dwtn.
* Great vibrancy and mixed-use character.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Scooter regulation is a real issue in Denver. Scooters rides frequently use sidewalks and create a rather uncomfortable walking environmental for pedestrians.
* Some racial diversity living Dwtn but much lower than the City as a whole.
* Not a very kid friendly dwtn nor do many reside Downtown.
* Really no schools within the Dwtn area but several decent options on the edges of Dwtn.
* Great supply of rentals but pricey. studios and 1-beds lease btwn the mid 1Ks-mid 3Ks. 2-beds btwn the high 1Ks to 4K. Good # of 3-beds generally leasing in the 3Ks & 4Ks, some are more expensive.
* Some government offices Dwtn but many of them are just south of Dwtn in the Golden Triangle area.
*Good # of surface parking along Downtown’s eastern edge near Broadway.

Downtown Colorado Springs, CO

For this evaluation I used the stream/bike trail as the northern border, Wahsatch Ave as the eastern, Monument Creek as the western, and Dwtn (Unitah) as the southern border.

Old North End was developed for middle and upper-class people in the late-nineteenth century. Much of this architecture is preserved in a historic district characterized by Spanish Colonial Revival, Georgian Revival, and Mission architecture styles. The bulk of the neighborhood’s growth came between 1890 and 1910 largely due to the success of the gold mines in Cripple Creek and Victor and resulting industry in Colorado Springs.

From an urban perspective Old North End is a pleasant semi-walkable residential community with well shaded streets, great park and trail access, plenty of bike lanes, and convenient access to Dwtn. But due to a low-population density there is no cohesive business district and mixed-use development is largely elusive. Public transit also isn’t great here and walkable school options are limited. Along with densifying the district, I would also like to see a better infusion of diverse and affordable housing options.

Click here to view my Downtown Colorado Springs album on Flickr.

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Overall very consistent sidewalk and ADA infrastructure.
* Great gridded Dwtn.
* Great dedicated bike lane system connecting dwtn, inner city neighborhoods, and suburban areas. Also a decent dedicated bike station system covering Dwtn, areas close to Dwtn and Old Colorado City.
* Great economic diversity living dwtn and decent racial and generational diversity. High number of family households for a dwtn but so  amenities for kids.
* Decent school options including a public high school and middle school. A couple small private options too.
* Good amount of affordable housing Dwtn.
* Great parks Dwtn including the expansive Monument Valley Park with lots of trails and greenspace and America the Beautiful Park. Acadia Park functions as a decent Civic Heart hosts concerts, ice skating, a splash pad and is located right off Tejon St (Dwtn’s main drag). A couple other smaller parks dwtn too.
* Overall a very safe Dwtn some dead spaces in the western edge of Dwtn.
* Pretty good university presence with about 5-6K college students Dwtn btwn Colorado College, Pike Peak and a couple others.
* Even though there are a lot of dead spots and poor bldg massing dwtn, the streetscaping is pretty good, esp. along Tejon.
* Culturally a nice array of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Also a couple community theaters, a small movie house, several live music venues, art galleries & museums, and plenty of night clubs and a major performing arts center. Also several arenas Dwtn (i.e. hocky, baseball).
* Good # of jobs dwtn at around 25-30K.
* Good retail w/ Plenty of boutiques, consignments and clothing stores, plenty of gifts stores, a toy store, several bookstores, plenty of dessert stores & gyms, lots of salons & barber shops, a public library, dwtn post office, and tons of churches.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* So  density.
* Streets are generally too wide but few one way street Dwtn and lots of bike lanes.
* Public transit access is pretty limited in Colorado Springs. Decent service only exists Dwtn and to the north and east. Good transit connection at least from Dwtn to the airport.
* Rentals are pretty limited for a Dwtn area. Some 1-beds generally leasing in the low 1ks but a few luxury options too. Decent # of 2-beds leasing btwn the low 1ks-the mid 2ks. Few 3-beds leasing around 2K.
* Decent # of condos but on the pricey side. 1-beds sell btwn 300K-600K, 2-beds 400K-750K, decent # of 3-beds as some SF homes are available dwtn selling btwn 450K-800K. Even some  4 beds available.
* Rather bland and uninspiring skyline. Mostly short-medium sized square boxes from the 60s-90s.
* So  architecture with some nice historic buildings along mostly Tejon street and a nice historic district on the northern edge.
* Dwtn has its share of dead spots especially the western edge, but decent vibrancy along Tejon. Lots of surface parking, auto centric uses and 1 story manufacturing bldgs along the western edge of Dwtn.
* No major convention center dwtn.
* No supermarket nor drug store. The nearest hospital is also a couple miles away.

Downtown Boulder, CO

Downtown Boulder is built around its very vibrant pedestrian main street (Pearl Street) that cuts east to west through the heart of the Downtown area. The Pearl Street Pedestrian Street is one of America’s best. Generally good urban form surrounds Pearl Street.

Click here to view my Dwtn Boulder Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Arguably the best pedestrian street in America along Pearl Street
* Tons of shops and food & beverage businesses along Pearl Street.
* Generally quality urban in-fill. Boulder started building quality urban in-fil in the 80s, way ahead of most urban areas in America.
* Good array of historic architecture.
* Spruce Street is a decent secondary dwtn main street.
* Wonderful urban park and recreational  at the southern border of Downtown along Boulder Creek. Very thoughtful layout and design.
* The western edge of Downtown is the attractive West End Historic District. Pearl street continues here as a nice villagy biz district.
* Surface parking lots are limited.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Walnut Street has decent urban form but feels very corporate, cold, and pretty lifeless.
* Limited taller buildings and skyline. Dwtn footprint is rather small.
* Core of Dwtn isn’t very dense with population.

Downtown Buffalo, NY

My evaluation of Downtown Buffalo includes the entire area between Elmwood and Michigan from west to east and Tupper St to the north south to the Buffalo River. In the Southwest corner of Dwtn where Elmwood Ave turns to the Buffalo Skyway as it doglegs right, I draw an imaginary straight line south to Erie St and thus catch more of the waterfront in this evaluation.

One can tell that Downtown Buffalo was once a grand City by the Historic Architecture still largely in tact. Downtown has a wonderful array of antique skyscrapers (i.e. City Hall, the Electric Tower, Guaranty Bldg, Rand Bldg, Liberty Bldg, etc.). Buffalo’s Art Deco City Hall is one of my favorite City Halls in America. But Downtown Buffalo has struggled to built momentum even since the return to the City movement of the 1990s. Apartment bldg conversions have been limited, the Main Street pedestrian mall conversion of the 70s and construction of Main Place Mall largely failed, and much of Dwtn has languished and feels pretty dead after 9-5 work hours.

Things started to improve for Downtown Buffalo since 2014 with the Canalside development opened new apartment bldgs, office space, and the a new hocky area. This is south of what I consider the core of Dwtn Buffalo. More recently, a plethora of residential conversion and new projects have been announced for the core of Downtown. Main street is being converted back to car traffic (fortunately with major streetscaping and renovation dollars fixing its mostly in-tact but often vacant building stock). Downtown Buffalo still has a long way to go to catch up to the likes of Dwtn Cleveland, Buffalo, Cincy, and Pittsburgh but it seems poised to make significant progress in the 2020s.  

Click here to view my Downtown Buffalo Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* ADA infrastructure is generally good but some under invested intersections at the edges of Dwtn with proper curb cuts.
* Downtown Buffalo serves as a solid huge for public transit in the region. At least good public transit through the entire City of Buffalo. This extends a bit to the inner ring suburbs but quickly drops off.
* Good connectively in Dwtn and a nice set of diagonal streets similar to Detroit (but not as good). Lots of wide street s though. Fortunately most of them are 2-ways many have bike lanes on them.
* Dwtn has a nice array of bike lanes. Within the City there is great bike lane coverage along the lake, which extends well north of the City. An ok # of bike lanes in the City. Not great coverage in the suburbs. Great bike share system covering about 60% of the City and extending to some of the northern suburbs.
* Generally good diversity dwtn reflected in its residential demographics and activities. Plenty to do for kids with the AAA ballpark, children’s museum, ships, and other museums.
* Nice concentrations of schools across all grades. Mix bag with ratings.
* Decent college presence dwtn with several smaller colleges adding up to an enrollment of about 5K.
* Pre-pandemic Buffalo had about 50K jobs, a high number for its metro size. Total office space was pretty flat pre-pandemic and vacancy pretty height at ~25%.
* Dwtn is a major gov’t jobs center helped with its large Art Deco City bldg and several court houses. It also hosts a convention center, ballpark & NHL hockey arena & a smaller hocky arena next door. Historic post office is no longer a post office. Large modern library.
* Culturally many theaters (many historic), a cineplex, lots of live music venues & night clubs, plenty of restaurants, bars & cafes, several art galleries, and many museums.
* Great historic architecture. One of the best for its size.
* Buffalo generally holds its urban form together. Only a few streets like Main street are mostly in-tact but most areas of dwtn have over 60% of bldgs remaining. The eastern and southern edges host the most surface parking and low intensity bldgs.

URBAN WEAKNEESES:

* Density is pretty low here. Not a ton of hsg in Dwtn Buffalo.
* For sale housing is pretty limited in Dwtn. Not even any studio options. Some 1-beds (esp. near the waterfront), these sell btwn 200K-350; 2-beds sell btwn 300K-800K, 3-beds are concentrated along the waterfront and sell btwn 500K-1.2M.
* Rentals are very limited for a dwtn area but at least are moderately priced. 1-beds lease  in the low 1Ks, 2&3 beds 1.5K-3K.
* Parks are pretty underwhelming Dwtn. There are a handful of nice smaller parks (i.e. Lafayette, Fireman’s, Niagara Sq, Fountain Plaza & Roosevelt) but nothing is outstanding. Decent park at Canalside a waterfront trail for about 1/4 of a mile.
* Fountain Plaza is Buffalo Civic heart but is pretty mediocre in my opinion. The fountain takes up more than half of the space. Some seating and another fountain.
* Pedestrian activity dwtn is so .
* Buzz is slowing growing for Dwtn Buffalo but its coming from a pretty low point. Locals have loathed their Dwtn for a long time.
* Retail amenities are a bit limited dwtn. The best amenity is a local supermarket. Dwtn has a drug store, a handful of boutiques & clothing stores, several banks & dessert joints, plenty of gyms & churches, and decent access to Buffalo General a mile away. Retail amenities dwtn went downhill when the Main Place Mall closed.
* Modern in-fill Dwtn is so . Handful of mid century towers, a couple 80s/90 office bldgs, and some better modern in-fill at Canalside. The Convention Center and the Main Place Mall are examples of unattractive 1960s-1970s in fill.

Downtown York, PA

Downtown York is another great example of a well-built historic PA mid-sized Downtown. For a long time York lived under the shadow of Lancaster 40 minutes to the east. Lancaster was the sought out and revitalized downtown with great vibrancy, shops, and tourism. York was the beat down, poverty stricken old and dying Pennsylvania city. Fortunately that dynamic is changing thanks to Hispanic immigration, which has stabilized and even grown the city’s population since 2000. And the revitalization efforts of a wealthy civic leader who has begun renovating historic buildings and filling them with local artists and local businesses.

I would categorize George Street as York’s Main Street. It’s lined with the City’s tallest buildings, many significant institutions & office towers, the Capitol & Valencia theater, and the City’s central Market Square. Market St is the Downtown’s second main street. The western half functions as a traditional main street, which is nicely streetscaped and hosts several historic sites. The eastern half is regal 3-5 story buildings from the 19th century with mixed-uses. The Western half of Philadelphia St and Queen St. are also pretty important streets hosting significant Downtown buildings and quality historic fabric.

My hope is the Downtown York can continue its positive revitalization trajectory and begin to fill in its dead spaces and add more retail and cultural amenities.

Click here to view my York Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Very compact and intact Dwtn area.
* Great historic architecture.
* In tact and active historic market.
* Lots of rowhouse, residential fabric within the Dtwn area.
* Good cultural amenities including plenty of restaurants, bars & cafes, several art galleries, a couple local theaters, several breweries and a couple live music venues.
* Pretty good retail amenities including the Central Market, plenty of boutiques & gift shops, some small grocerias, dwtn post office & library, a couple of drug stores, etc.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

 * So  density and dwtn population. Could be better.
* There is one dedicated bike lanes cutting down King St. but bike infrastructure could certainly be better.
* No supermarket are other retail amenities found is very vibrant districts.
* Some underutilization, grit, and vacancy on the edges of Downtown. 

Downtown Roanoke, VA

Downtown Roanoke is a very  intact downtown with much of its historic fabric and buildings still standing. The City also managed to keep its historic market, which has become a wonderful catalyst for the revitalization of the Downtown area. Many non-food related stores (boutiques, clothing, and specialty retail) have opened within or near the historic market. Outside of the Market District other parts of Dwtn are experiencing revitalization including Campbell St., Jefferson St.,  and the West Station Conversion. Just north of Downtown is the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, a historic hotel built by the Norfolk & Western railroad company next to their large station. This is a reminder that Roanoke used to be a major railroad town.

The Western and southern edges of Downtown are pretty underutilized but promise hope for additional revitalization efforts Dwtn. Fortunately there are still plenty of historic buildings in these areas that can help spark revitalization efforts before the market is ready for new construction.

Click here to view my Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Very intact historic fabric.
* Vibrant historic market and district in the heart of Dwtn. In addition to restaurants & food stores there are plenty of boutiques and unique stores in the market district.
* Lots of recent renovations and rebirth Dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Pretty limited skyline.
* Decent number of surface parking lots in the SW quadrant of Dwtn.
* So  density Downtown. Could certainly use a larger population to support important retail amenities like a supermarket.

Downtown Huntsville, AL

Dwtn Huntsville is contained mostly within the Lincoln/Monroe/Williams boulevard loop. Good urban fabric of mostly low and medium rise historic buildings in the core of Downtown around the court house and between Jefferson and Greene Streets. Out of this area, the urban fabric breaks down with lots of surface parking lots and autocentric uses. The Big Spring park development just west of the core is a decent modern appendage to the Dwtn core. Nice walking paths and park around a lake along with newer office/residential/hotel development. Big Springs, however, felts pretty suburban office park like. Some quality mixed-use development is popping up along Jefferson near the historic core of Dwtn. Hopefully more of this type of development is built to better fill out the dead spaces of Dwtn and expand its vibrant core.

Click here to view my Downtown Huntsville album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Nice in-tact historic core around the Court house and between Jefferson and Greene Streets for several blocks.
* Big Spring provides a great dwtn park seamlessly connected to the heart of Dwtn at Courthouse Square.
* Great cultural amenities typical of most southern Dwtns. More atypical is the dense concentration of museums.
* Decent retail amenities including the typical dwtn stores of banks, boutiques, creative stores, dessert shops, and gyms.
* Good parks.
 * Lots of early- mid 1800 century sites have been preserved.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* So  downtown residential base. About average for a southern Dwtn. Certainly is poised for more residential growth.
* Missing major retail amenities like a supermarket, drug store and Dwtn library and post office.
* Not a huge jobs presence. Office bldgs are pretty limited.
* Lots of surface parking & autocentric uses outside of the core of Dwtn.

Downtown Ann Arbor, MI

Downtown Ann Arbor is really the convergence of several historic commercial streets that create a small rectangle just west of the University of Michigan (i.e. Main Street, Huron, State, and Liberty Streets). Each one of these streets has a slight different character but all have great urban form and mixed-use development. One can easily argue that Downtown spills out a block beyond these streets as dense mixed-use development continues into adjacent urban neighborhoods and newer, more dense development has sprung up. Ashley, William, and Ann streets all have segments that feel increasingly as part of Downtown.

Downtown Ann Arbor captures the inputs of a large college town, burgeoning economy and growing MSA into a vibrant and compact urban environment. It shows that you can create a wonderful urban environment with a mix of low-rise and medium rise buildings as long as you have consistant mix-use buildings. Downtown also stiches together so well to the University of Michigan and other attractive urban districts (Old 4th Ward, Old West Side, Kerrytown, Germantown, and Burns Park) creating a pretty seamless urban environment.

Click here to view my Downtown album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great mixed use environment.
* Vibrant, lots of people on the streets.
* Great cultural amenities including many restaurants, bars, cafes, a couple movie theaters, and several museums.
* Great architecture including many historic properties and quality urban infill.
* Very bike friendly and walkable environment.
* Very dense environment- about 20K per square mile.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Not a huge jobs center.
* Only a couple walkable schools.
* Park space is limited.
* Housing is expensive