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Big Cities Luring their Kin Away from the Sprawl

Mar 27, 2008
The city market analysts refer to the trend in failing downtowns as "economic leakage" -- a funny name for a trend that basically dried up much of big city life across the U.S. People who had previously lived and worked downtown, gravitated toward the city fringes slowly but surely after the 50s. The population declined so businesses declined, hence the leak in the economy.

City planners and architects attribute this loss in downtown life due to a variety of matters; mainly it was how the automobile made commuting easier and how one-stop shopping stores and malls capitalized on the suburban motorist family.

Non profits and city planners realized the error of developers' ways and are trying to stop the inertia of those who are still being lured outside the city center. They are realizing that without a downtown, a range of economic, cultural and environmental problems weigh against the city and her people.

St. Louis for example has had some of the worst population decline from its city center between 1990 and 2000. The city population as a whole was affected possibly attributing this to its core downtown population. City planners and analysts find that without a lively downtown, the city as a whole becomes less attractive as its cultural and financial centers lose interest and, in turn, lose money.

The Turnaround

The model that each city sets up to reverse this trend has some pretty similar points to it. For one, downtown first needs to be attractive enough both to businesses and residents. The physical environment needs to be alluring, so city planners try to enhance natural surrounding beauty while erecting structures and landscapes.

For instance, Seattle's Downtown Urban Center Neighborhood Plan's agenda states its intent to "enhance the relationship of downtown to its spectacular setting of water, hills and mountains."

Preservation is another aspect. Downtown areas are basically a mirror to the past. It's the heart of the city that shows the city's history and intent of its fore founders.

St. Louis, the city that ranked one of the hardest hit with economic leakage, has made a fantastic rebound of late. Its Washington "loft" district has both preserved its older building facades while providing living spaces for more people to live downtown. St. Louis apartments and housing has made use of what was empty shells on the verge of demolition, to refurbished living areas that still have architecture that hearkens back to St. Louis' old town look.

Washington Avenue is the loft district because so many of the old factories and red brick buildings that were hovering on decay are now dramatic vaulted ceiling lofts spaces -- a small step in the big turnaround scene in St. Louis and metropolitan places throughout America.
About the Author
Barron Realty (http://www.barronrealty.com) lists St. Louis Apartments for rent in beautiful historic neighborhoods. Barron Realty renovates and restores vintage St. Louis apartment buildings for tenants, adding to the city's core revitalization trend. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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