A Philadelphia residential street

Why Urban Spaces Make You “Happy”

Despite losing an Academy Award to the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen, the undisputed song of Spring 2014 has been “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The song not only topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for ten straight weeks, but also was Number 1 on five other US and 33 foreign charts. The song […]

Sherlock Holmes Statue in Edinburgh, Scotland (Kim Traynor, Wikimedia Commons)

Finding Your Inner Sherlock Holmes

“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” – Sherlock Holmes, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities has been hailed for many insights, but, in my mind, the most important one was that planners and policy makers need to observe and respond to […]

Jackalope Statue in Jackson, Wyoming

Herding Jackalopes: Dealing with Diverse Physical Environments

One of the quirkier pieces of American Western folklore is the “jackalope”. This mythical creature – a jackrabbit with the horns of antelope, deer, or goat – is based on a real virus that causes rabbits to grow horn-like growths. A small industry has grown from this legendary creature, including postcards, hunting licenses, mounted heads, […]

Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, California

The Original Googleplex: The Economic Benefits of Downtowns

For centuries, downtowns in communities large and small have developed because face-to-face interaction is essential for economic and social development. When I heard about proposed Apple and Google campuses in California’s Silicon Valley, I was struck by how the supposedly innovative designs of these campuses and their focus on encouraging face-to-face interaction borrows heavily from […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

The role and character of downtowns has changed dramatically since the first half of the 20th century (Downtown Anaheim 1923)

What is a Downtown? Changing Definitions for Changing Times

Discussions about downtowns rarely ask the question: What is a downtown? The concept of a downtown is so ingrained in American culture that we can identify one much better than we can define it, bringing to mind Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote about obscenity: “…I know it when I see it.” The process of defining […]

Downtown Pleasanton (CA)

Welcome to Downtowns Plus

Welcome to Downtowns Plus, a blog on downtown planning and placemaking that discusses places throughout the United States, Canada, and the world, but is primarily focused on the Western United States. The blog will examine issues that concern downtowns of different sizes and in different settings (rural, suburban, urban), such as planning processes, zoning, urban […]