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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 2:21 PM
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Why Downtowns Fail and How They Can Come Back

Quote:
Why Downtowns Fail and How They Can Come Back

by Richard Reep 02/15/2012

To many Florida developers in the last decade, downtown condo towers seemed to make a lot of sense. They were sold as the logical locale for active seniors and millennials, great affordable starter homes, and best of all, investments. Reinvigorating downtowns became fashionable currency in many of Florida’s second and third tier cities.

Sadly, many of these new structures have turned into hulking shadows today in places such as Delray Beach, Tampa, and Orlando. Many of Florida’s core urban districts suffer the dark windows, unoccupied balconies, vacant storefronts and wide open sidewalks that signify the opposite of thriving urbanity. Repairing this false renaissance in downtowns requires city leaders to see the central business district for what it really is: just another suburb needing attention to stay healthy, safe, and productive.
.....................
http://www.newgeography.com/content/...-can-come-back
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 2:34 PM
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They are failing because they are not walkable. We have no mass transit here other than buses and 1 commuter rail line......unless you are in Downtown Miami, which you still need a car to be successful.
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 2:42 PM
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They have failed because of massive decentralization.

For your downtown to come back, you have to have reasons for people to be there.
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  #4  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 6:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miketoronto View Post
They have failed because of massive decentralization.

For your downtown to come back, you have to have reasons for people to be there.
Well said.

But to defend Florida a little bit, these downtowns are better than they were 10 years ago. Some like Sarasota, St. Petersurg and Miami have done rather well at bringing back downtown residents.

And as the article mentions, the inner city neighborhoods are also rebounding in a huge way. They may not be "downtown", but they're much more urban than the rest of these cities.
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 7:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miketoronto View Post
They have failed because of massive decentralization.

For your downtown to come back, you have to have reasons for people to be there.
This hits in perfectly. An attempt (governmental or private) to rebuild a substantial downtown area is going to fail unless there is a good reason to go there. Typically, the ones that succeed do so because of something that is reasonably identifiable (commuting becomes too long, prices get so low as to be attractive, adjacent areas get too expensive) leading some movement in the first place. Helping this along with flexible conversion laws, good transit, improved schools and street safety, etc., is what the city can do.

What this warns against is trying to unilaterally subsidize housing, putting cute flower pots downtown or handing over money to developers (on the "build it and they will come" theory).
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  #6  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 7:49 PM
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  #7  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 8:02 PM
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It seems that, aside from Miami, the downtown isn't 'complete' enough- not enough residential variety; commercial, especially for daily necessities is not really existent, and there isn't yet enough draw to bring people in except for major events (read:boring on a day-to-day basis). Not to mention they were initially designed around the automobile, making the scale down to a pedestrian level much more difficult than in areas originally designed around pedestrians. Give it some time, and the increased demand for downtown living and vibrancy could change this if people and government are willing to let it happen.
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  #8  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 7:13 PM
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This is a weird and misleading title for the article. It is about Florida downtowns, in particular... which are far from typical downtowns.

Florida downtowns have not "failed" because they actually have yet to succeed -- in the way the author is describing.

Florida downtowns do not have to "come back" because they have nothing to come back from. They've never been "there"... at least not in the classic downtown sense.

They are newer places that have never been the neighborhoods and massive centers of activity that characterize traditional US downtowns.

Florida really developed with the advent of the automobile and air conditioning... and the suburban lifestyle. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to alter suburban lifestyles in favor of a "downtown lifestyle" -- especially when that type of lifestyle never existed there to begin with.

Florida cities that I am more familiar with (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, Sarasota, Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando) are doing just fine on this matter overall... better than many older urban centers because there is much more investment in Florida. It just takes time to reverse what was basically a backwards development scheme. Florida cities experienced their greatest growth in a "suburb-first" mindset. Now, they are going back to more fully develop their cores. Traditional cities did it the other way around, and many are really now struggling to experience the second major core development.
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  #9  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 8:24 PM
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From Google Streetview, Brickell Avenue looks less walkable than North York City Centre, which is no great shakes itself. I don't know how other downtowns in Florida compare (except Key West, which I've walked around extensively).
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  #10  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 9:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Will View Post
From Google Streetview, Brickell Avenue looks less walkable than North York City Centre, which is no great shakes itself. I don't know how other downtowns in Florida compare (except Key West, which I've walked around extensively).
The only "true" walkable area in Florida is Miami Beach (South Beach) and maybe Key West. Other cities have pockets.........but you are still car dependent.
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  #11  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2012, 4:48 AM
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Originally Posted by UrbanImpact View Post
The only "true" walkable area in Florida is Miami Beach (South Beach) and maybe Key West. Other cities have pockets.........but you are still car dependent.
Only two walkable areas in the entire state of Florida? I think not.
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  #12  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2012, 12:37 PM
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Only two walkable areas in the entire state of Florida? I think not.
So why don't you inform us? I haven't encountered another one living here.
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  #13  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2012, 4:51 PM
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Originally Posted by UrbanImpact View Post
So why don't you inform us? I haven't encountered another one living here.
Downtown Orlando is actually very walkable, and is more vibrant than it has ever been. Of course, it certainly helps that some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Central Florida are immediately east/south of the core.
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  #14  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 9:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Will View Post
From Google Streetview, Brickell Avenue looks less walkable than North York City Centre, which is no great shakes itself. I don't know how other downtowns in Florida compare (except Key West, which I've walked around extensively).
Brickell Ave isn't really walkable -- in a "pedestrian-friendly" sense. It's getting better than it used to be definitely... but still retains its multi-lane high-speed boulevard function. That will come with increased population density and the political will to make it so.

Miami Beach (South Beach) is probably Florida's best example of a walkable downtown-type area.
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  #15  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 9:57 PM
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Even in Brickell, at night the most active walkable part isn't Brickell Ave itself but rather S Miami Ave and the blocks to the west of Brickell Ave these days. This is where most of the newer condo development took place. Brickell avenue and especially Brickel Bay Drive were mostly built out in the 1970's and 80's and as such are parking pedestal heaven.

The easiest way with Miami to know where the new "boom" buildings are is to see the buildings that are pedestrian friendly.
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  #16  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2012, 10:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Private Dick View Post
Brickell Ave isn't really walkable -- in a "pedestrian-friendly" sense. It's getting better than it used to be definitely... but still retains its multi-lane high-speed boulevard function. That will come with increased population density and the political will to make it so.

Miami Beach (South Beach) is probably Florida's best example of a walkable downtown-type area.
That's not even my issue. My issue is that so many of the buildings are set back from the street. And their entrances are 8-10 feet above sidewalk level on top of some stairs. There seems to be almost no semblance of a streetwall except for short stretches on a few individual buildings. Setbacks are find for residential sidestreets, but not for what is supposed to be the main commercial street for the neighborhood:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bricke...63.39,,0,-6.61

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bricke...5.18,,0,-13.39


Even this building that has a restaurant at the bottom is set way back from the sidewalk and raised on top of stairs:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bricke...104.44,,0,-0.1
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  #17  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2012, 2:26 PM
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That's not even my issue. My issue is that so many of the buildings are set back from the street. And their entrances are 8-10 feet above sidewalk level on top of some stairs.
Two words, "storm surge". Buildings on Brickell Ave are only a block from the water.
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  #18  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2012, 6:00 PM
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Great read. thanks
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  #19  
Old Posted Feb 18, 2012, 3:49 AM
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If that's your plan, your city will have to make it clear that after a while, there will be an upzone. If you say that, much of the land will still wait for it. Meanwhile they'll have a good reason, potentially, to do nothing.

Your 3-5 story density is too low if you're really talking about a downtown. Even the future mixed highrise/lowrise district won't be very dense. It would be better for neighborhoods a few blocks away.

Here's an idea that (a) doesn't preclude highrises if someone already wants to build one and (b) might kick-start some lowrise density: Do a tax abatement program (if you don't already have one) or even a partial subsidy, but have it apply only for the first wave of projects and only for housing at certain income levels, maybe 50-120% of median. The subsidy could be justified as workforce housing toward the low end. Also don't require very much parking. Maybe fill a few acres at 100-150/acre.
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  #20  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2012, 3:55 PM
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It should be about people


February 22, 2012

By Nathaniel M. Hood

Read More: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2...ut-people.html

Quote:
For a place to be successful, it needs people. All types of people. This is why the idea of creating “entertainment districts” might not be such a great idea. Proposals for entertainment districts occasionally sprout up in City Councils meetings as the next big thing. While it certainly is tempting in its efforts to capitalize on people’s passion for retail, sports, food and drink; it is a development prospect that should be viewed with skepticism.

- While entertainment districts certainly have people during the odd event, they are otherwise deserts of large infrastructure investments. Don’t believe me? Check out examples of entertainment districts across the county in Cincinnati, Phoenix, Des Moines, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and even the so-called successes of Denver (here & here) and Los Angeles. Entertainment districts, even the best ones, fail at creating a lively mix of retail, residential, commercial and civic space. In fact, most all mega projects have failed in this regard.

- Large and mid-size towns have started to classify downtown’s as entertainment districts. This is a dangerous precedent to set and often times contradictory to Strong Towns place making principles. Kansas City’s Power and Light District comes to mind. It’s hard not to argue that the area is charming, fun, exciting and a few other hedonistic adjectives. It’s all of these things … if you’re 25. But, unfortunately, these types of environments don’t help in attracting other sorts into the urban settings; baby boomers and families with young children aren’t going to be attracted to these places.

- Paris and Florence don’t have entertainment district. Neither does San Francisco. Melbourne doesn’t either. What these cities have are spaces for people. They also have sports stadiums and bars – just not as the focal points of their city centers. When a large building fails at creating a lively mix of retail, residential, commercial and civic space – it creates an isolating space not worthy of the public affection. It doesn’t help that these places aren’t cheap – taxpayers usually end up taking on the initial bill, and all the risk.

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