Monday, May 17, 2010

Downtown & Suburbs

As we have been blogging on for years, here and here for example—inspired by the premium suburban narrative and data blog, New Geography—people prefer suburbs to downtowns for a whole bunch of reasons, and fighting that obvious trend is city suicide…with the endless K Street drama as case one.

Dan Walters, as usual, nails it.

An excerpt.

“California's population exploded in the post-World War II era, thanks to a wave of migration from other states and the postwar baby boom. It nearly tripled from 6.9 million in 1940 to 19.9 million, the largest in the nation, by 1970.

“As the state's metropolitan areas expanded, agricultural fields evolved into vast housing tracts. A new phenomenon, the sprawling suburban shopping center, sprang up to serve the appetite of young families for consumer goods.

“The trend petrified traditional downtown retailers and property owners, who saw suburban rivals as not merely serving growth but luring away existing customer bases. They desperately sought ways to dam the outgoing tide of trade.

“Fresno offered one of the earliest responses in the mid-1960s, erasing auto traffic and parking along Fulton Street, its chief retail boulevard, and converting it into a pedestrian mall with ample off-street parking. The Fulton project's backers theorized that if the suburban mall's chief attractions were free parking and the ability to stroll from store to store without dodging cars, they could be matched in a downtown setting.

“Fresno was not alone. While larger cities shunned the downtown mall concept, some smaller ones embraced it – most notably Sacramento, which soon followed Fresno's Fulton Mall with its own K Street Mall, decorated with a series of concrete fountains.”