Blake Roberts

Reno's "The Biggest Little City in the World" Sign

Learning from Las Vegas and Reno: Characteristics of Good Gateway Signs

In my earlier discussion of urban landmarks, I mentioned two gateway signs that are nationally and internationally famous – the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign and Reno’s “The Biggest Little City in the World” sign. They not only inform visitors that they have arrived but help define Las Vegas and Reno for the […]

Banner in Downtown Angels Camp (CA)

Downtown Revitalization for Almost Free

The last five to six years have been peculiar for American downtowns. Continued evidence shows that developers, local governments, businesses, and the public have rediscovered downtowns as places to shop, work, experience culture, and live. At the same time, public revitalization efforts are becoming more difficult due to the slow pace of the economic recovery […]

Entrance to Downtown Plaza at K and 7th Streets

A Wish List for the New Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Complex

After decades of incremental change, Downtown Sacramento is on the verge of a dramatic transformation. State worker furloughs have ended, new restaurants and bars have opened, and the Convention Center is preparing expansion plans. The two most significant projects are the 240-acre Railyards, one of the country’s largest urban infill projects, and the Entertainment and […]

Mission Inn, Riverside, California

The “Science” of Downtown Planning and Placemaking

After several months off, I am pleased to re-launch the Downtowns Plus blog in a new format and start writing again about topics that are close to my heart: downtown planning and placemaking. My previous blog entries have examined these topics through the lens of both a practitioner and academic. I want to develop a […]

Placemaking on a Regional Scale: Does Sacramento Need Another Icon? Part 2

Placemaking on a Regional Scale: Does Sacramento Need Another Icon? Part 2

In my previous entry, I wrote about the importance of icons in conveying a positive image for regions and the need for new icons to promote the Sacramento region to potential new residents, visitors, and businesses. Sacramento is a blank slate for many people outside of California and northern Nevada, with the potential exception of […]

Chicago's Cloud Gate Sculpture

Placemaking on a Regional Scale: Does Sacramento Need Another Icon? Part 1

If you asked someone from another part of the country to describe one place in the Sacramento region, what do you think they would say? They would most likely be stumped to come up with an answer. If you asked someone from Minneapolis, Baltimore, or Dallas who had never visited San Francisco to describe a […]

The Effect of Commercial Street Pattern on Downtown Planning

The Effect of Commercial Street Pattern on Downtown Planning

The phrase “Main Street” has become synonymous with downtowns in small- and medium-sized American cities, from its use in popular culture, including movies, novels, and Disney theme parks, to politics to the Main Street approach for downtown revitalization. A linear “Main Street” exemplifies the commercial street pattern – the arrangement of commercial uses, particularly retail […]

Serial Vision: The Dynamic Downtown

Serial Vision: The Dynamic Downtown

Recently, I was walking through Downtown Jackson, a California Gold Rush town east of Stockton, when I was reminded of an urban design concept called serial vision. English architect and urban designer Gordon Cullen developed the term serial vision to describe what a pedestrian experiences when moving through a built environment. The pedestrian’s view continually […]

What Do We Mean By Placemaking?

What Do We Mean By Placemaking?

I grew up in two distinctly different agricultural landscapes, the flat corn and soybean fields of central Iowa and the rolling hills of wheat and lentils in southeast Washington state, and developed a strong attachment to both. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family road trips across the United States and a trip […]

Downtown Davis (CA), a city downtown, serves the City of Davis and surrounding area and contains a mix of local financial, civic, cultural, retail, and residential uses

Types of Downtowns

In my last entry (What is a Downtown?: Changing Definitions for Changing Times), I included my definition of downtowns, which attempted to draw out the similarities between traditional and non-traditional downtowns of different shapes and sizes. While developing a single definition of a downtown provides a way to distinguish downtowns from other commercial areas, identifying […]