Wednesday, April 19, 2006


What makes a downtown great, lively and attractive to locals as well as visitors? There are few cities in the US which can boast a lively and active downtown. While others are trying to revitalize their downtowns in vain. Cincinnati downtown is one such example. I used to wonder what was wrong with that downtown. They offered free parking, but still no one wanted to go there!

I am not talking about living in downtown here. Living in downtown is efficient, practical and desirable since most people work in downtowns. I am talking about the after-work hours. I am talking about weekends. How are some downtowns successful at attracting people while others are not?

We visited several cities in Southern California recently, and happened to experience several great downtowns. The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Gaslamp district in San Diego, Old Town in San Diego (pictured above) to name a few. They are bustling with activity on weeknights as well as weekends. BTW, don't miss the Angelaterie (sp?) when you visit 3rd Street Promenade. They offer over 100 varieties of gelati.

Here are some of my observations on what makes a great downtown:
- Plenty of affordable parking
- Sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping - Well lit and beautiful
- Open spaces for kids to play - Small parks, fountains, lawns, etc.
- Accessibility - Close by freeways
- Safety
- World class shopping
- World class restaurants
- Movie multiplexes
- Family friendly events
- Promotions - Promote a positive image, and market the downtown

Most of the above mentioned points can be clubbed under the wide umbrella of Design. A good design is functional, easy to use and pleasing to the eye, and hence attractive.