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  #1  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:22 PM
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Is your city a strong neighbourhood or strong downtown city?

Is your city known for having a busy, solid downtown or for putting its energy into a wider array of vibrant neighbourhoods?

Many cities have both, but one aspect is usually more developed than the other.

For example, if we do the perennial Chicago-Toronto comparison, my experience is that Toronto is a stronger neighbourhood city than Chicago, and Chicago is a stronger downtown city than Toronto. That's not to say that Toronto's downtown is weak or that Chicago's neighbourhoods are boring. Far from it. It's just that, relatively speaking, the Loop + Near North Side are more impressive than anything in downtown Toronto, but streets like Queen and Bloor and College have much more vibrancy and are interesting for much longer stretches than streets like Milwaukee or Clark.

Relatively speaking, how would you classify your city?
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:32 PM
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For Montreal I'd have to say neighborhood.

The Plateau/Mile end area is a cliche example but probably for a good reason.

I'm a big fan of the industrial hoods - St Henri, Pt St Charles, Verdun..... especially Verdun - a world onto itself and imo the best example of the essence of Montreal. It oozes character.

Almost forgot Little Italy and Villeray. Rosemont too. Anywhere really where you have lots of triplexes.

Downtown is a bit too disjointed. Ugly buildings mixed in with classics. Areas of banality. The Peel/Mc Gill corridor is great though and has a big city feeling.

Last edited by matthew6; Apr 11, 2017 at 6:48 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:33 PM
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It depends on what we're measuring.

Urbanity? Strong downtown and core neighborhoods. Exceptionally weak everywhere else.

Identity? Strong neighborhoods (and municipalities), from Pleasantville to Paradise, Georgestown to Goulds. Muddled, shared downtown identity. Though there is definitely a difference in being a Townie (someone from St. John's), and a Downtownie, the neighborhood association is more important in all but a few residential blocks that are in the commercial core. I'm a Rabbitownie. I live in Rabbittown. A lot of people, father out from the core, would say I lived downtown. That's probably all I'd say to them too. And downtown really is the heart of the city still so everyone everywhere in town has some connection to it, some reason to go there. Your life here would really have to suck if you didn't. It'd be Costco, industrial park job, home.

Great question BTW. Can't wait to read the responses.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:36 PM
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Neither.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:46 PM
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Edmonton is definitely more of a 'neighbourhood city', though this is quickly changing with the billions of dollars being invested into downtown. But I think of Edmonton's strong suit, urbanity-wise, as being in places like Old Strathcona, Garneau, Westmount, Alberta Ave, McCauley, the Highlands, and so forth. Very interesting and dynamic neighbourhoods with their own character.

I think of Calgary as the opposite. Not to say Calgary doesn't have great neighbourhoods like Inglewood, Bridgeland, and Marda Loop, but just that Calgary's downtown is so omnipresent and hegemonic. It dominates over the neighbourhoods and is clearly ahead of the curb relative to its size and age.

Funnily enough, I'm trying to think of another Canadian city where it is more of a "downtown city" like Calgary. Maybe Quebec City? But QC is kind of vague in what is "downtown", as it could merely be the Old City, or it could include the Grand Allee area (what is it called? Haute-Ville?) or St-Jean-Baptiste and St-Roch, which functions more as the true downtown for Quebecois. The other cities I tend to think of like it are more the smaller cities, like St. John's, Kingston, Regina, Saskatoon, and maybe Victoria.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:47 PM
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^

From the looks of it on google map, St John's core seems very walkable.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 6:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SignalHillHiker View Post
Identity? Strong neighborhoods (and municipalities), from Pleasantville to Paradise, Georgestown to Goulds. Muddled, shared downtown identity. Though there is definitely a difference in being a Townie (someone from St. John's), and a Downtownie, the neighborhood association is more important in all but a few residential blocks that are in the commercial core. I'm a Rabbitownie. I live in Rabbittown. A lot of people, father out from the core, would say I lived downtown. That's probably all I'd say to them too. And downtown really is the heart of the city still so everyone everywhere in town has some connection to it, some reason to go there. Your life here would really have to suck if you didn't. It'd be Costco, industrial park job, home.
One thing that's relatively less prevalent in almost every town in Atlantic Canada is the belt of "streetcar suburbia" that makes up those longer commercial strips and neighbourhoods in most other Canadian cities. These are areas like the Danforth or Vancouver's Broadway and Commercial Drive. Halifax has a small example with Quinpool Road.

My impression of St. John's is that you pretty much have the old town, which was more or less pedestrian-oriented at one time, and then the suburbs. The old town was more homogenously developed than a lot of newer cities; people mostly lived in medium-density buildings, rowhouses or tenements, and there were businesses scattered throughout. You might or might not consider all of that to be "downtown". Some of these areas were destroyed by redevelopment and slum clearance in the 1950's and onward.

Most towns in Atlantic Canada follow this pattern, because they were well-established by 1850 or so and missed out on the boom times of 1880-1930. They stand out for having very little in the way of interesting shops and services in the outer neighbourhoods or suburbia.

I wouldn't really call them "downtown cities", because that has connotations from cities like New York and Chicago that don't fit. They are more like "urban core" cities? There is probably a better term. You find almost all of the interesting stuff in the neighbourhoods that were built before about 1880. In St. John's and Halifax, these are the rowhouse neighbourhoods.
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  #8  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 7:03 PM
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Originally Posted by ue View Post
Funnily enough, I'm trying to think of another Canadian city where it is more of a "downtown city" like Calgary. Maybe Quebec City? But QC is kind of vague in what is "downtown", as it could merely be the Old City, or it could include the Grand Allee area (what is it called? Haute-Ville?) or St-Jean-Baptiste and St-Roch, which functions more as the true downtown for Quebecois. The other cities I tend to think of like it are more the smaller cities, like St. John's, Kingston, Regina, Saskatoon, and maybe Victoria.
I think Vancouver is a strong downtown city - downtown including, of course, the West End/Stanley Park, Yaletown and the whole Gastown/DTES/Chinatown area.

I actually find Vancouver's off-downtown urban neighbourhoods to be relatively weak, considering the size of the city.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 7:03 PM
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Yeah outside of Halifax and Saint John, there really isn't much in the way of commercial main streets outside of the downtown in Atlantic cities. It really is just the downtown and then suburban strip malls and such. Very weird because cities similar in size, but much newer, out here, will often have alternate main streets (eg Victoria, Saskatoon). I wouldn't necessarily expect it in smaller cities like Charlottetown, or newer cities like Moncton, but it's a bit surprising in St. John's, at least.

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Originally Posted by hipster duck View Post
I think Vancouver is a strong downtown city - downtown including, of course, the West End/Stanley Park, Yaletown and the whole Gastown/DTES/Chinatown area.

I actually find Vancouver's off-downtown urban neighbourhoods to be relatively weak, considering the size of the city.
Yeah, I was thinking about Vancouver, but was on the fence about it. I could see it either way.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 7:12 PM
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Lace posted a picture of Quebec City in another thread that shows the contrast with Atlantic Canadian cities perfectly:

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1. Quartier Saint-Sauveur

Winter in Quebec City by Pierre-Olivier Fortin, sur Flickr
There is absolutely zero of that in St. John's. I couldn't even fake it with camera angles. Good post, Someone123:

In the core (basically, inside Empire Avenue, the former ring-railroad), there are different types of rowhouse neighbourhoods that run from mine at the poor end (flat-front, two-floor) to the Ecclesiastical District at the rich end (broad, three-floor rowhouses with bay windows and servants' garrets).

Beyond that, you have post-war suburbia. Some interesting and innovative examples of it from the mid-1940s here, but still post-war suburbia (even though some was built with the intention of streetcars). There's no real visual difference between Cowan Heights and Little Canada, or Georgestown and Hoylestown, but the neighbourhoods are distinct just the same.



See the giant Pippy Park block? Just below that is a neighbourhood called Churchill Park. That already is post-war suburbia. So you can see the rowhouse neighbourhoods between that and the harbour take up quite little space.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 7:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SignalHillHiker View Post
Lace posted a picture of Quebec City in another thread that shows the contrast with Atlantic Canadian cities perfectly
When I saw that picture I thought it was kind of similar to what you see in parts of Halifax. One big difference is that there's not much in the way of green space, backyards or trees in that Quebec City neighbourhood (it's a winter picture too so that no doubt contributes). Another difference is that you can't find an area that large in Halifax that postwar urban planners didn't somehow mess with. A lot of Quebec City looks like Halifax from 1950, built in a different style, and with less greenspace.



The original construction in this neighbourhood is mostly 2-3 storey rowhouses and flats. When the area was first built, it had a mix of businesses throughout. Original development happened during 1770-1850 or so.

The lower half of the photo with the towers and wider street was originally the most densely built up, so it was the most ripe for redevelopment according to postwar planners. It still more or less typifies what I think of as the inner-city neighourhoods that make up a relatively large portion of Atlantic cities, and contributes to the "downtown" vs. "neighbourhood" balance. Western cities like Vancouver and Calgary don't have any neighbourhoods like this.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 7:44 PM
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Yeah, that is similar enough, really.

We have some pockets, a few blocks only, that are gridded - in neighbourhoods like Pennywell and Rabbittown. But, even though those areas are often SFD, they're kind of... not close enough to that streetcar suburbia Quebec example.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 9:12 PM
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Windsor is difinately a neighbourhood city, not so much a DT city. We have multiple old streetcar town centres like Olde Sandwich town, our oldest neighbourhood which dates back to the mid 1700s, Old Walkerville (our trendiest and most gentrified neighbourhood) which dates back to the late 1800s, and was built exclusively for Hiram Walker Distillery's workforce.
Just east of Walkerville you have historic Ford City, which sprang up around the earliest Ford plant in the early 1900s, and was an epicentre of the Eastern European population, it is one neighbourhood that is still struggling with drugs and prostitution unfortunately, but things are starting to turn around.
Just east of there is the old town of Riverside, which today is a very nice neighbourhood with great riverfront parks and a very nice condo cluster, as well as a cute commercial district.
Most of our historic buildings DT have been razed unfortunately, and the neighbourhoods surrounding the core are some of the poorest in the city, but there have been improvements and it seems like the area is ripe for investment, especially with the local economy doing so well.
Our ethnic neighbourhoods are also very popular and very vibrant, and really help to make the city feel very urban and diverse!
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 9:48 PM
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^ Those neighbourhoods that you mentioned all used to be separate towns until they were annexed by Windsor in 1935 (or 1966 in the case of Riverside). Their historic cores have all been preserved today as business districts.

London is a strong downtown city whereas Windsor is a strong neighbourhood city...that's a major difference between the two.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 10:47 PM
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^ Those neighbourhoods that you mentioned all used to be separate towns until they were annexed by Windsor in 1935 (or 1966 in the case of Riverside). Their historic cores have all been preserved today as business districts.

London is a strong downtown city whereas Windsor is a strong neighbourhood city...that's a major difference between the two.
Yes, and they were all connected by streetcars by the 1880s as well!
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 10:55 PM
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I think Vancouver is a strong downtown city - downtown including, of course, the West End/Stanley Park, Yaletown and the whole Gastown/DTES/Chinatown area.

I actually find Vancouver's off-downtown urban neighbourhoods to be relatively weak, considering the size of the city.
I find Vancouver to be a mix. Newcomers may think it's a downtown city, but much of the action, and where many eventually choose to live, is in the neighbourhoods: Commercial, Mt. Pleasant, Riley Park, Strathcona, Kits, Hastings-Sunrise, Kerrisdale, etc. Many of the best restaurants, bars and boutiques are in those areas. That being said, downtown is also active and isn't depleted like in other cities, so it is more balanced I suppose.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 12:56 AM
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Winnipeg is definitely a neighborhood city. The city has great neighborhoods like Osborne Village, Corydon and the Exchange among others. Downtown is often seen as being the weakest link in the city by many, a place to be visited for Jets games or a day at the Forks only, and then its back to the suburbs. That perception is changing at least, with many projects under construction and proposed.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 1:09 AM
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There is absolutely zero of that in St. John's.
I'm sure you have that in St. John's, you just have to factor in scale -- St. John's is a smaller city so its equivalent will be smaller in area.

Quebec City is 4x the city St. John's is, and historically was likely more important as well (capital of Canada then capital of Canada's #1 province) while that type of neighborhood was getting built... in both of them.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 1:12 AM
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Originally Posted by ue View Post
Funnily enough, I'm trying to think of another Canadian city where it is more of a "downtown city" like Calgary. Maybe Quebec City? But QC is kind of vague in what is "downtown", as it could merely be the Old City, or it could include the Grand Allee area (what is it called? Haute-Ville?) or St-Jean-Baptiste and St-Roch, which functions more as the true downtown for Quebecois.
As you and I discussed already, I would think any city that would wish to have its tallest building get built in an area that's clearly external to the main downtown is likely not a "downtown city" the way hipster duck means it.

If Calgary gets a building that dwarfs the Bow, what are the odds of this building not being downtown? That's a downtown city.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 1:58 AM
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As you and I discussed already, I would think any city that would wish to have its tallest building get built in an area that's clearly external to the main downtown is likely not a "downtown city" the way hipster duck means it.

If Calgary gets a building that dwarfs the Bow, what are the odds of this building not being downtown? That's a downtown city.
By that logic, La Defense is Downtown Paris, not the Central City. The Red Square isn't the heart of Moscow, the International Business District is. Tall buildings =/= downtown.

If Quebec's downtown is merely Vieux-Quebec, I'd agree that it is more of a neighbourhood city, but if it includes the more "functional" downtowns of St-Roch, St-Jean-Baptiste, and whatever the area around Grand Allee and Bv Rene Levesque is called, then I'd argue it's more downtown focused, as nice as Limoilou, Saint-Sauveur, and Avenue Maguire are.
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