Downtowns were designed to be destinations, they evolved to be destinations. Downtowns have always been magical. Downtowns have been the soul of our communities, and then they died. Killed by malls and the big box stores on the highway.
Recently, there has been a shift back to downtown living. The annual rate of growth in American cities and their surroundings has surpassed that of exurbs, those areas on the other side of suburbs. This is not just the case in cities of talent and advantages, like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, but in older industrial cities like Cleveland and Detroit, and smaller cities like Utica.
Downtowns have become entertainment machines, with an influx of restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, and other venues catering to urban dwellers, millennials, and suburbanites seeking something new and different. Millennials in particular might be driving this renaissance; they don’t all drive so they want to live near where they can work, shop, play, and party. Millennials look for real or genuine experiences. They don’t want mass produced products; they tend towards the unique and the handmade in everything form clothes to furniture to beer. Millennials want a real bar, not another Applebee’s. Can’t blame them.
Big box stores and malls miss the mark.
Department stores and designer boutiques are seeing this trend and returning to downtowns. Of course, not all downtowns are created equal. Downtown DC is one example. The Design District in Miami is another. These are very different from Utica; a much more working class city pulling itself up.
The Miami Design District reclaims land that was all but abandoned when I-95 (an elevated expressway) cut its way through the city. Some developers see this trend and have hopped on board, mostly for the High End ride.
This can only be why Governor Christie seems to be willing to let Atlantic City die while he tosses money at the quote-unquote American Dream Mall located in the parking lot for Giant’s Stadium, just outside of Rutherford, Newark, and Manhattan. Another brilliant decision.
Go visit a downtown, support small businesses, artists, and restaurants.