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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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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 6:52 PM
IrishIllini IrishIllini is offline
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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, 7:00 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, 7:05 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, 7:16 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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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, 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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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:24 PM
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Originally Posted by JManc View Post
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, 7:25 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, 7:29 PM
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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.
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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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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Originally Posted by MonkeyRonin View Post
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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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:39 PM
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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.

these days minneapolis/st. paul is a clear leader in modern urbanity.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 7:39 PM
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cincinnati is 100% midwestern in the same way as st. louis...it's just a different mode of midwestern than say milwaukee.
Yep.

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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 8:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyRonin View Post
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.
I would say that Ohio starts to really be more "midwestern" from around the Columbus area west. Basically, if you took a N-S line down the middle of the state. That pretty much coincides with where the land gets much flatter, and intensively agricultural -- the "corn belt" I guess.

NE OH is more similar to western PA/western NY and SE OH is more similar to western PA/WV. But once you get to Columbus (or Toledo), there's a palpable difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post
cincinnati is 100% midwestern in the same way as st. louis...it's just a different mode of midwestern than say milwaukee.
yeah, the vast region is very far from being uniform.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 9:10 PM
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I would say that Ohio starts to really be more "midwestern" from around the Columbus area west. Basically, if you took a N-S line down the middle of the state. That pretty much coincides with where the land gets much flatter, and intensively agricultural -- the "corn belt" I guess.

NE OH is more similar to western PA/western NY and SE OH is more similar to western PA/WV. But once you get to Columbus (or Toledo), there's a palpable difference.



yeah, the vast region is very far from being uniform.
Eh, I don't really agree with that. Cincinnati is very hilly and looks more like SE Ohio, while parts of NE Ohio are very much intensely agricultural.

Architecturally and topographically, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are very dissimilar. They have somewhat similar immigration patterns, with way more in the way of Eastern and Southern Europeans than cities like Columbus or Cincinnati. But Cleveland has a much, much larger African American population than Pittsburgh, and also has a pretty sizable Latino (predominantly Puerto Rican) community, while Pittsburgh has a minuscule Latino community. Demographically, Cleveland seems to be like Detroit meets Pittsburgh.

To answer the OP's question, I can think of several cities that could lay claim to being the most urban non-Chicago city in the midwest:

- St. Louis has a pretty impressive corridor from downtown out to Clayton. Lots of high rises and dense neighborhoods around this corridor and some very pleasant and walkable urban neighborhoods.

- Cincinnati has the most impressive core neighborhood in the midwest (imo), but topography helped to contain the intensely urban stuff to the basin, and urban renewal took out a huge chunk of those basin neighborhoods. Outside of those areas, Cincinnati definitely has some great urbanity, but the city functions more like a collection of towns than a big, cohesive city. Definitely doesn't feel as 'big city' as other midwestern cities.

- Columbus probably has the most in-tact, cohesive walkable urban corridor in the midwest outside of Chicago. High Street from downtown to north of OSU's campus is very impressive and dense. The neighborhoods flanking High are fairly dense, but mostly consist of detached housing and leafy neighborhoods. Also, outside of High Street, there isn't much else in Cbus that I would categorize as particularly urban, and their downtown is still incredibly sleepy and dead, though improving.

- Cleveland has the rail transit and there are parts of the city that do feel like the large city it used to be. Lakewood has a pretty high population density and the wall of high rises along the lake give a pretty 'big city' vibe. Shaker Square and Ohio City are other Cle neighborhoods that give off a big city feeling, in large part thanks to the rail. But the city as a whole has lost so much, and there isn't much in the way of unbroken vitality.

- Detroit's downtown probably feels the most significant of any non-Chicago midwestern city. Outside of downtown, the city has lost most of its functioning urban neighborhoods, and much of the city wasn't even developed in the classic urban sense, anyway. Neighborhoods like Palmer Park give a snapshot of what once was, but they're outliers in the city that is mostly characterized by detached, single family homes.

* Never spent any appreciable time in MSP or Milwaukee, so can't speak to those. Indy has a nice downtown but nothing urban outside of it. Kansas City is cool, but never feels very intensely urban to me. Everything else in the midwest is too small to warrant discussion in this thread, I think.
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Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 9:13 PM
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None? I don't really like the question, but I'll play along. No other city in the Midwest has anything more than a modest train system, unlike the major cities in the northeast corridor, which, if not a cause, is definitely a symptom of the urban state of Midwest cities.

I've set foot in four major Midwest cities in the past 15 years: Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis. If you include Pittsburgh, five. Of those, ignoring Chicago, the most vibrant was Minneapolis, with Pittsburgh as a solid second place. Cleveland and Detroit seemed about even, but Cleveland is the one I haven't been to in the longest so memory is fuzzy.
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  #19  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 9:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the urban politician View Post
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.
Detroit (obviously).
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  #20  
Old Posted Sep 6, 2019, 9:45 PM
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Eh, I don't really agree with that. Cincinnati is very hilly and looks more like SE Ohio, while parts of NE Ohio are very much intensely agricultural.

Architecturally and topographically, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are very dissimilar. They have somewhat similar immigration patterns, with way more in the way of Eastern and Southern Europeans than cities like Columbus or Cincinnati. But Cleveland has a much, much larger African American population than Pittsburgh, and also has a pretty sizable Latino (predominantly Puerto Rican) community, while Pittsburgh has a minuscule Latino community. Demographically, Cleveland seems to be like Detroit meets Pittsburgh.
Yes, Cincy is an Ohio River valley city, so it’s going to resemble others of the region, like SE OH, Pittsburgh/SW PA. But outside of the river valley, the flat land/agricultural topography holds true in the surrounding region. And much of PA is heavily agricultural (both western and eastern PA) (and update NY for that matter) like NE OH and SE OH. But not predominantly grain/corn. It’s not the “corn belt”... which is an accepted proxy for”Midwest”.

Pittsburgh is an ethnic anomaly due to completely missing out on immigrants in the 70s-2000s since that was the same time of steel’s collapse. It was Depression era economics in Pittsburgh for around 30 years... and it did not see sizable influx of Latinos or Asians. And it’s Appalachian. It’s isolated from other large population centers where Latinos would likely migrate from. Cleveland’s Latino population derives from NYC migration and Chicago/Detroit migration. Very similar to what is seen in cities Buffalo and Erie.

But NE OH (Cleveland area) is not like Pittsburgh that much anyway (I never claimed it was). Its more like NW PA and western NY. SE OH is more like SW PA (Pittsburgh)... Appalachian.
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