A Coast-To-Coast Renaissance

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The Independent Online
IT IS not just Denver's LoDo which is experiencing a renaissance: other cities across America are rediscovering downtown, including some which have historically not really had a central district, writes Andrew Marshall.

By the early 1980s, Cleveland's centre was rundown and dangerous, with prostitution, drugs and crime rampant. But the city's MidTown initiative has redeveloped a one-square-mile area, helping to bring in 600 businesses. A survey by the Brookings Centre on Urban and Metropolitan Policy estimated that by 2010, the inner city's population will increase from 6,400 to 21,000. Philadelphia, another old city with big problems, has seen a 20 per cent increase in the downtown population since 1960, and expects to see a further 13 per cent growth by 2010. Chicago is forecast to add 37,000 residents, or 32 per cent, in the coming decade.

Houston - a city which has no traditional centre - expects its downtown population to quadruple by 2010. Most residents are single, and upper income, people who value living in a 24-hour city with services, entertainment and restaurants close at hand.

One city yet to benefit from a return to downtown in any significant way is Washington DC, the nation's capital. In the past 20 years, the District of Columbia has lost 115,000 residents, or 18 per cent of its population, leaving it today with 523,124 residents, its lowest number since 1933. Most of those who left were black families, fleeing high crime areas to the safer suburbs.