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  #1  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 6:49 PM
the urban politician the urban politician is offline
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What midwestern city seems most “urban” to you (except Chicago)?

In the Midwest, unlike on the east coast, you seem to have a huge drop off in urbanity from its premiere city (Chicago) to the cities that come after.

When you go to the east coast’s “second cities” they are still quite walkable and urban.

In the Midwest, though, it’s not quite so obvious.

This thread is not to discuss “second cities” in regards to importance or economic might. It’s about urbanity in regards to:

1. A large footprint of contiguous walkability, or at least areas that are well connected to eachother
2. Transit quality. That doesn’t have to mean trains. High frequency bus service deserves some merit
3. Density of population, employment, education, entertainment
4. Policies that favor urbanity versus continued erosion of core cities.
5. Shear size of extant prewar (or postwar but urban-designed) built environment.

Any thoughts? On the surface Minneapolis appears to be the lead contender, but I don’t know nearly enough about it (or this topic) to say that with any authority.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 6:52 PM
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I wonder how long it’ll take for this thread to devolve into bashing Detroit, St. Louis, or Cleveland.

To answer your question, I’ll go with Minneapolis. Madison, WI as well.
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  #3  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:05 PM
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Minneapolis probably has the best walkable environment overall given the large amount of recent infill, but the historic built vernacular of the city outside of its apartment districts (wood-framed detached houses) isn't very urban feeling, which leads to the same sort of schizophrenic feel as Seattle on a smaller scale.

Cincinnati has the single most urban neighborhood in the Midwest outside of Chicago (Over-the-Rhine) but it falls off pretty dramatically in terms of urbanity after that.

St. Louis has a truly massive area of moderate levels of urbanity/walkability, but the urban renewal era (and white flight) took a heavy toll on its historic fabric.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:17 PM
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Champaign-Urbana.

it has one more Urban than anyone else.

also, Kansas City. the big one, not the little one.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Boisebro View Post
Champaign-Urbana.

it has one more Urban than anyone else.

also, Kansas City. the big one, not the little one.
Columbus had Urban Meyer.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Minneapolis probably has the best walkable environment overall given the large amount of recent infill, but the historic built vernacular of the city outside of its apartment districts (wood-framed detached houses) isn't very urban feeling, which leads to the same sort of schizophrenic feel as Seattle on a smaller scale.

Cincinnati has the single most urban neighborhood in the Midwest outside of Chicago (Over-the-Rhine) but it falls off pretty dramatically in terms of urbanity after that.

St. Louis has a truly massive area of moderate levels of urbanity/walkability, but the urban renewal era (and white flight) took a heavy toll on its historic fabric.
agree with this statement. minneapolis does the best with what it has, as does milwaukee on a smaller scale. st. louis and cincinnati make some big moves that may exceed what is found in the first two in particular and very interesting ways, but the whole isn't as cohesive. st. louis had the most to start with of them all and doesn't win any prizes for doing the best with what it has, really, with some exceptions. cincinnati doesn't have very much of a regional metropolis feel like the other three, but takes the prize for the most impressive single urban neighborhood (and best overall vernacular and build quality with st. louis coming in second) in my opinion.

if i were going to pick one to crown, i'd go with the twin cities. st. louis has some great swaths across nine miles of urban and pre-war suburban fabric (actually goes further than that along the old commuter lines), but downtown is still too drowsy.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:00 PM
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St. Louis has the best traditional urbanity, albeit chopped up by abandonment and urban prairie.

Minneapolis seems to be the most healthy, consistent, and successfully urban city in the modern sense.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:16 PM
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Cincy and St. Louis. They're the only metros with sizable intact pre-auto walkable areas.

Minneapolis doesn't have very high quality pre-auto fabric.
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  #9  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Cincy and St. Louis. They're the only metros with sizable intact pre-auto walkable areas.
That is the correct answer. . .

. . .
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:33 PM
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I've never been but I've always assumed Columbus had some urbanity simply based on size... can anyone confirm or deny?
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  #11  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:13 PM
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I've never been but I've always assumed Columbus had some urbanity simply based on size... can anyone confirm or deny?
Columbus is better than the Indianapolis clone some people project it as being.

German Village is a legitimately great, finely-scaled, old urban neighborhood. The brick cottage vernacular is unlike anything else I've ever seen in the United States. Most of the streets and sidewalks are paved with brick or stone. The only real flaw is it lacks a well-defined business district, but scattered storefronts are peppered throughout, making it plenty walkable.

Columbus's greater downtown area is underwhelming given the level of new investment in the metro area overall. There's still lots of blocks dominated by parking and low-slung commercial buildings on its fringes.

The real densification of Columbus is taking place north of Downtown, along N High Street all the way to University District. This is a pretty impressive corridor. However, it's less than three miles long, and still has some big gaps. There's some nice historic residential neighborhoods on either side of it, but they're more or less built at streetcar suburban densities.

Outside of these areas, there's not really all that much, and it is rather akin to Indianapolis.

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Originally Posted by mrnyc View Post
cleveland had all that, but it too was chopped up by abandonment, teardowns and urban prairie.

younger people forget when it looked like when it was much more intact/connected than the neighborhood nodes visitors have to figure out today.
I don't think, even at its height, Cleveland was ever built as well or as urban as somewhere like Cinci or St. Louis. Great Lakes cities just tended towards a less intense vernacular (detached wood-framed structures set back from the street more) and Cleveland, like a lot of Great Lakes cities, eschewed the long linear commercial strips in favor of shorter ones and random stores plopped on street corners.

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Originally Posted by SIGSEGV View Post
Milwaukee east of the Milwaukee river is quite urban.
In places, yes. But similar to Minneapolis there's this weird disconnect in terms of the historic form. Basically Milwaukee either built brick apartment buildings or detached-wood frame houses (or two units which looked identical to detached wood-frame houses) meaning you don't get that nice intermediate density level in terms of urbanity you get in areas which have rowhouses or two/three flats which front right on the sidewalk.

I'd also note that Milwaukee's overall density is helped tremendously by the Latino neighborhoods in South Milwaukee, which are not really all that urban in terms of built vernacular at all.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 3:54 PM
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post



I don't think, even at its height, Cleveland was ever built as well or as urban as somewhere like Cinci or St. Louis. Great Lakes cities just tended towards a less intense vernacular (detached wood-framed structures set back from the street more) and Cleveland, like a lot of Great Lakes cities, eschewed the long linear commercial strips in favor of shorter ones and random stores plopped on street corners.

quality yes perhaps, much of the vanquished brick was for the factory boomtown working class, but that it ever lacked for urbanity i would strongly disagree. there are plenty of long urban spine streets, detroit, broadway, euclid, etc. in cle, gap-toothed as many of them are today.

again, young people forget that, for example, the central hough neighborhood had 30k sq mi density 1940s-60s (hard to imagine looking at it today) and that cle had two other downtowns, at e55th and e105th, the latter of which, while in ruins, was still there in all our lifetimes, until fairly recently when the cle clinic tore what remained down.

and cle and east cle had plenty of cheap all brick apt buildings along with large old warehouses that were still around in my childhood, but most of which are gone now.
see the movie antoine fisher for the best most typical example. midtown cle today is just clear cut of these and a tabla rasa for redevelopment.

so yeah that is not always the pretty brick look you are referring to, but it was still plenty brick and urban.


below are a few examples, but you can look at more of these cle styled pre-war apts here:
http://toursbyjoshwhitehead.blogspot...partments.html

and more about another cle downtown here:
https://clevelandhistorical.org/item...our=43&index=7














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  #13  
Old Posted Sep 7, 2019, 5:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Cincy and St. Louis. They're the only metros with sizable intact pre-auto walkable areas.

Minneapolis doesn't have very high quality pre-auto fabric.
Pre-auto fabric is becoming less of a meaningful marker of urbanity as time goes on because we are building proper urban buildings again. Minneapolis has added hundreds of new urban format midrises over the last decade, which is why its population has grown by 10% since the 2010 census. There has been enough new development that it is a different city now than it was even three or four years ago. It is now basically the city Seattle was in 2010 in terms of fabric.
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Old Posted Sep 7, 2019, 12:33 PM
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Pre-auto fabric is becoming less of a meaningful marker of urbanity as time goes on because we are building proper urban buildings again. Minneapolis has added hundreds of new urban format midrises over the last decade, which is why its population has grown by 10% since the 2010 census. There has been enough new development that it is a different city now than it was even three or four years ago. It is now basically the city Seattle was in 2010 in terms of fabric.
My biggest beef with MN is all of those elevated walkways between buildings downtown.

On the surface it appears that that was a bad urban planning choice
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Old Posted Sep 7, 2019, 3:25 PM
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My biggest beef with MN is all of those elevated walkways between buildings downtown.

On the surface it appears that that was a bad urban planning choice
The Minneapolis skyways are pretty bad, and downtown Detroit wins on street-level aesthetic. But in terms of sheer activity, Minneapolis is a bit ahead. It will be interesting to revisit this in a decade now that downtown Detroit is in its first sustained rebound since the city started declining. Currently downtown Detroit is somewhere between 100K-120K workers in the square mile. Minneapolis is around 165K (according to JLL). I wouldn't be surprised to see downtown Detroit double in workforce by 2030.

http://minneapolisblog.jll.com/2017/...ers-residents/
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Old Posted Sep 7, 2019, 3:39 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
The Minneapolis skyways are pretty bad, and downtown Detroit wins on street-level aesthetic. But in terms of sheer activity, Minneapolis is a bit ahead. It will be interesting to revisit this in a decade now that downtown Detroit is in its first sustained rebound since the city started declining. Currently downtown Detroit is somewhere between 100K-120K workers in the square mile. Minneapolis is around 165K (according to JLL). I wouldn't be surprised to see downtown Detroit double in workforce by 2030.

http://minneapolisblog.jll.com/2017/...ers-residents/
I definitely look forward to this as well
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:20 PM
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There's a several of them; Indy, Detroit, Minneapolis, KCMO, St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati stand out. Louisville if you want to count that...
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  #18  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:24 PM
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There's a several of them; Indy, Detroit, Minneapolis, KCMO, St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati stand out. Louisville if you want to count that...
Indy, to me, might have the worst pound-for-pound urbanity in the Midwest. Their densest neighborhoods are pretty unremarkable, streets are crazy-wide and everything looks a bit ramshackle.

And, yeah, I would also say Louisville, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, alongside Cincy and St. Louis, but I know most will say these don't count.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:34 PM
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Is Ohio considered Midwestern? Then yeah, Cincinnati is up there for sure. I'd probably lump that in more with the Appalachian region personally though.

Columbus also seems to have a pretty solid & healthy core.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:35 PM
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Is Ohio considered Midwestern? Then yeah, Cincinnati is up there for sure. I'd probably lump that in more with the Appalachian region personally though.
cincinnati is 100% midwestern in the same way as st. louis...it's just a different mode of midwestern than say milwaukee.
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