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  #81  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
as for the answer to the thread topic, there is no one answer.

different people are going to weigh different aspects of "urban" differently, and depending on how one weights those variables, you can get lots of different answers here.
I was going to say the same thing.

My first reaction is to want to say "Detroit", same way I'd say, without thinking, Philly for Northeast's 2nd city and Orlando for Florida's 2nd city (when maybe depending on the metric, it could well be respectively Boston and Tampa, haven't checked lately).

However, I can see at least three candidates depending on the metric.

For prewar downtown skyscrapers, Detroit;
For sum of prewar urbanity, St. Louis;
On paper, using today's data, Minneapolis.

All things considered, the latter is probably the winner. I love old architecture but it's illogical to draw such a solid line there that it would dwarf actual data for density and walkability.
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  #82  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 8:09 AM
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Minneapolis is the easy answer for me.
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  #83  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 1:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post
i agree with steely.

i think it IS funny that chicago people are like:

DETROIT: beautiful downtown!

CINCINNATI: historic neighborhoods!

MINNEAPOLIS: progressive!

ST. LOUIS:

MILWAUKEE: walkable and compact!

I certainly mentioned STL in my posts. It has a lot of prewar bones, my biggest criticism though is that its best prewar districts are not well connected to eachother.
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  #84  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Handro View Post
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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  #85  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
if i had a gun to my head and had to give an answer, i'd probably say minneapolis because it not only has widespread healthy neighborhood urbanism along with a pretty good downtown (with VASTLY improving peripheral areas), it also seems to be taking some rather aggressive and impressive steps towards meaningfully upping its urban game throughout the whole city - getting rid of SFH exclusionary zoning, banning new drive-thrus, etc.
I agree. It seems to be the most proactive midwest city in imagining itself in post-industrial America.
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  #86  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 3:19 PM
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If I had a gun to my head then I'd probably say St. Louis's surviving wedge would be the best combination of traditionally urban+functional.

Minneapolis is the most functional but isn't really urban at all in a traditional sense, it's like saying Houston is urban, it means nothing to an urbanist. And that awful skyway system knocks off a lot of points for their downtown.

Cincinnati's downtown+OTR area is small and surround by spaghetti junctions and parking garages behind the main corridors, it's not very functional for live+work even though it has the best urban "look" at the street level facade.

Metro Detroit probably has the most urban nodes of all of them but they're not well connected right now, give it another 10 years when regional transit gets figured out.

Pittsburgh seems to be in the same position as Cincy and it's very disconnected as well.

This is a pretty generalized surface analysis.
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  #87  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 3:30 PM
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Pittsburgh seems to be in the same position as Cincy and it's very disconnected as well.
Pittsburgh's not in the midwest, but the best way to describe it is basically as follows:

First, a well-preserved, dense downtown area with extremely minimal usage of sufcace parking lots for a rust belt city.

Second, a "ring of ruin" basically surrounding downtown on all sides where traditional urban form was either destroyed or all-but destroyed. Lower Hill, Uptown, Strip District, North Shore, Station Square, etc. All of these areas are seeing massive new investment today, but it's very much "urban light" in the modern sense and won't hold a candle to what was lost.

Third, a series of very-well preserved, finely-grained, traditionally urban neighborhoods which are found on the North Side, East End (including Oakland) and South Side. Altogether it makes for a very large swathe of urbanity, but the lack of cohesive traditional urbanity between them and downtown is palpable. Still, the overall scope of this grouping is way larger than Cincinnati, and it's way more intact than anything remaining in St. Louis.

Last edited by eschaton; Sep 9, 2019 at 4:55 PM.
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  #88  
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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  #89  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:08 PM
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Still, the overall scope of this grouping is way larger than Cincinnati, and it's way more intact than anything remaining in St. Louis.
here's pittsburgh at the 2000 ft scale: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.4602.../data=!3m1!1e3

here's st. louis at the 2000 ft scale:
https://www.google.com/maps/@38.6160.../data=!3m1!1e3

the north side of st. louis is completely cropped out, along with the far south side which is historic enough to have had an ironclad drydock/shipyard on an out of site on the map canal/tributary. neighborhoods like this are nine miles west of downtown: https://goo.gl/maps/DK4zpSUg98MNxSpb7

st. louis has some decent scale and a massive mostly intact area...i think the perception of intact st. louis gets totally out of whack due to the legit scale of abandonment.
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  #90  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:15 PM
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Originally Posted by mrnyc View Post
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.
apartment cleveland and apartment st. louis have some huge similarities. here's a "back wall" view of the scale of these kinds of apartment neighborhoods in st. louis, which stretch well into the pre-war suburbs - especially along rail transit lines - in a way that is uncannily like cleveland: https://goo.gl/maps/piHZx1LAT3Nap9oG6
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  #91  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:23 PM
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i routinely walk 5 miles into the central west end from my pre-war suburb through unbroken urbanity (or through forest park), not crossing an expressway or any kind of abandonment, along a route like this: https://goo.gl/maps/Hcw8X2LW5AeSmzxJ7 sometimes going through the loop, sometimes not. i used to do similarly unbroken long walks in south city.
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  #92  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post

st. louis has some decent scale and a massive mostly intact area...i think the perception of intact st. louis gets totally out of whack due to the legit scale of abandonment.
I've been to Saint Louis three times in the past few years now, and I'm impressed each time with its expanse of urbanity. Given the sheer size and density of pre-war urban development, what has surprised me most each time is the lack of corresponding neighborhood vibrancy that I would expect comes with the impressive built environment. Downtown/Lacledes Landing, Soulard, Central West End, Loop, Little Italy area... I wandered around and ate and drank all over and was constantly wondering why more people aren't out and about. I found the area to be really nice, and just wonder why more people don't go out in St. Louis.

Though I wonder if it's just my Pittsburgh perspective, where commercial districts are just more lively, concentrated areas of activity due to the topography separating them from each other...
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  #93  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:28 PM
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I've been to Saint Louis three times in the past few years now, and I'm impressed each time with its expanse of urbanity. Given the sheer size and density of pre-war urban development, what has surprised me most each time is the lack of corresponding neighborhood vibrancy that I would expect comes with the impressive built environment. Downtown/Lacledes Landing, Soulard, Central West End, Loop, Little Italy area... I wandered around and ate and drank all over and was constantly wondering why more people aren't out and about. I found the area to be really nice, and just wonder why more people don't go out in St. Louis.
weird, i can't explain that. i had dinner on the loop saturday night and could barely get by on the sidewalk, it was crushed. the central west end is the same. downtown can be busy during sporting events, but is oversized and massively underutilized and overall sleepy, which is why i would disqualify st. louis for anything like the purpose of this thread. also, lacledes landing is a mess right now. i guess the grove picked up a lot of that traffic, along with a half dozen + other strips that out of towners don't know about i guess.

a lot of people leave town on weekends in the summer but it picks up a lot into the autumn. not sure what the deal was in your case...there are most definitely lulls in st. louis like that, though.
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  #94  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post
i agree with steely.

i think it IS funny that chicago people are like:

DETROIT: beautiful downtown!

CINCINNATI: historic neighborhoods!

MINNEAPOLIS: progressive!

ST. LOUIS:

MILWAUKEE: walkable and compact!

I don't know why, but my impression of St. Louis has always been that its urban areas are quite sleepy and spread out. However, I do think the city has probably some of the greatest potential of any American city to become very urban again. I mean, imagine the city with Austin-level growth!
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  #95  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:39 PM
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I don't know why, but my impression of St. Louis has always been that its urban areas are quite sleepy and spread out. However, I do think the city has probably some of the greatest potential of any American city to become very urban again. I mean, imagine the city with Austin-level growth!
the urban core itself is spread out with a lot of secondary urban activity/employment/highrise nodes for the size of the region, almost like a proto-los angeles. i wish i could smoosh it into about half the size at twice the density. the city sprawled up-elevation in the 19th century to outrun its own pollution in the valley, and had a secondary CBD by the 1960s. i remember reading a 1920s planning document that concerned the spreading of "low density" apartment buildings and housing too far west too quickly.
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  #96  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:43 PM
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I don't know why, but my impression of St. Louis has always been that its urban areas are quite sleepy and spread out. However, I do think the city has probably some of the greatest potential of any American city to become very urban again. I mean, imagine the city with Austin-level growth!
Yeah, that is my impression too, I guess. A colleague actually used that description... "wow, this is a really sleepy town". I don't think I'd go that far in the description (maybe downtown and its environs area only), but I think that its dense commercial/entertainment zones being spread out over a pretty large area likely has something to do with it, like you suggest.
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  #97  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:45 PM
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the urban core itself is spread out with a lot of secondary urban activity/employment/highrise nodes for the size of the region, almost like a proto-los angeles. i wish i could smoosh it into about half the size at twice the density. the city sprawled up-elevation in the 19th century to outrun its own pollution in the valley, and had a secondary CBD by the 1960s. i remember reading a 1920s planning document that concerned the spreading of "low density" apartment buildings and housing too far west too quickly.
That makes sense. Like I said, it's likely my Pittsburgh perspective... having a lot of separate neighborhood commercial districts in the core, but they're still all pretty close together, because Pittsburgh is so smooshed together by the hills... probably gives me the impression that things are even more lively than they are in comparison to other cities' districts.
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  #98  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:58 PM
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Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
I've been to Saint Louis three times in the past few years now, and I'm impressed each time with its expanse of urbanity. Given the sheer size and density of pre-war urban development, what has surprised me most each time is the lack of corresponding neighborhood vibrancy that I would expect comes with the impressive built environment. Downtown/Lacledes Landing, Soulard, Central West End, Loop, Little Italy area... I wandered around and ate and drank all over and was constantly wondering why more people aren't out and about. I found the area to be really nice, and just wonder why more people don't go out in St. Louis.

Though I wonder if it's just my Pittsburgh perspective, where commercial districts are just more lively, concentrated areas of activity due to the topography separating them from each other...
The reason for your observation is very simple--the car.

Everybody is in their cars. And the culture of that is quite strong in the midwest.

People are dumb and threw away their cities so that they could sit in a gasoline powered machine all day long
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  #99  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 5:12 PM
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st. louis has some decent scale and a massive mostly intact area...i think the perception of intact st. louis gets totally out of whack due to the legit scale of abandonment.
St. Louis unquestionably has more. But I stand by what I said that there aren't intact bands of neighborhoods similar to Pittsburgh. St. Louis has a core which is despite the less rugged topography (or maybe because of it) a lot more apt to be broken up by highways or patches of blight than Pittsburgh.

While Walkscore isn't the best method for determining urbanity, I think it shows the differences between the cities

90%: Pittsburgh - 5 (25,895), St. Louis - 0 (0)
80%-89%: Pittsburgh - 10 (47,000), St. Louis - 7 (34,801)
70%-79%: Pittsburgh - 8 (35,515), St. Louis - 16 (78,675)

Pittsburgh has more people living in highly walkable neighborhoods, but if you expand it to semi-walkable (which is what 70%-79% mostly is) St. Louis pulls ahead. This is also reflective of the differences in the "heat maps" of the city, where Pittsburgh has a well-defined walkable core (absent some areas of rugged topography and blight, like the Hill District) while St. Louis has these little nodes scattered all over the place.
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  #100  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 5:19 PM
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Just got caught up on some of the discussion here for the last few days and wanted to comment on some Chicago observations and Dearborn Park specifically. . .

By the mid-1960s Chicago was on it's way down. . . everything surrounding downtown, including parts of downtown, were basically heavy industry or rail yards - no residential to speak of. . . there was a serious concern that Chicago's population would empty out like similar cities in the midwest. . . in the spirit of urban salvation there were projects such as Marina City, Sandburg Village, Outer Drive East, Presidential Towers and yes. . . Dearborn Park. . . by the late 1970s Chicago was a rough town and not just out in the 'hood parts either, it was rough all over. . . Dearborn Park was - in part - a reaction to that, a development that would keep families in the city center (on a former rail terminus I might add). . . and for the most part it worked. . . all through the 1980s and 1990s there was very little activity in the South Loop and DP served as an anchor for future development. . .

That it turns inward on itself is a product of the times and would not have been developed any other way. . . it's essentially a low rise version of London's Barbican. . .

Back to the regular discussion. . .

. . .
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