Seeing a lively and attractive downtown in person can typically raise questions within. Was it always like this? How did it come about? Many claim that nice and lively downtowns do not in fact pop up out of nowhere and are attractive by chance. Conjuring a booming downtown area is a long and grueling process that can take several years or even decades to accomplish.   James Fallows, a writer says, “in every city we’ve visited with a good downtown, we’ve heard accounts of the long, deliberate process that led to today’s result” (Fallows).


Tampa Downtown

There are several stages to the process of creating a great downtown and if you have not witnessed a successful downtown go through these stages, it can be easy to assume that it was just a random occurrence. There are several phases of downtown creation and revitalization that lead to a successful one. There can be a decline phase that comprises of closing businesses and the opening of shoddy stores such as check cash shops, liquor stores, and pawn shops. Then there is a phase of sporadic improvement here and there where new spaces are improved and new retail shops are opened. Finally, if previous improvements proved successful, a full-scale revitalization may occur through new forms of retail as well as other elements of commercial attraction that can bring a myriad of people visiting throughout the day (Fallows).


Fresno Downtown

But even after those processes occur, it may not signify that the downtown will be a success. Around the 1970s, Seattle’s downtown was completely deserted during the late hours. The suburbs were much more attractive to the residents and they had everything the downtown had, with the convenience of more accessible parking. At this point it is a new process that occurs where the downtown must add more attractions that will intrigue the residents enough to visit. It was a slow crawl for Seattle’s downtown to rise in popularity, but after few decades of careful planning, it has become one of the most popular downtown areas in the country. Downtowns like Fresno, California and Tampa, Florida are currently experiencing a dead downtown that Seattle once did decades ago (Fallows). Some say simply following the formula of Seattle hasn’t worked, but only time can tell in that respect.

Downtown Seattle

Seattle Downtown (2010)

One of the most important things that help to awaken and recover a downtown is by establishing residential structures and encouraging people to live there. City migration has become very popular in recent times. Young adults are more likely now to leave their suburban lifestyle and move into the city (Smart).

So designing and planning a successful downtown isn’t simply at random or by chance. It requires careful planning that takes in account of what surrounding residential areas have to offer (suburbs) for the population. It also requires various forms of retail and commercial attraction that will bring a large amount of people to visit. Most importantly, residency close to the downtown must be offered and inspired in order to initiate a desire to live and interact in that area.


Fallows, James. “Nice Downtowns: How Did They Get That Way?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 18 Apr. 2015.

Fallows, James. “More on Nice Downtowns: Do They Just Happen? Or Are They Made?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 20 Apr. 2015.

Smart, Gil. “Nice Downtowns (like Lancaster’s) Are No Accident.” Smart Remarks. N.p., 20 Apr. 2015