"Avoiding Downtown easier these days"
May 25, 2001 9:04 PM   Subscribe

"Avoiding Downtown easier these days" I wonder what rock these folks have been living under. Would you believe that "thousands of people are able to live, work and have every service available to them without ever going Downtown"? This was a front-page story here, no less.
posted by binkin (26 comments total)
Well, I try to avoid "downtowns" as a rule, cause they're usually dirty, etc. Whether this should be a front page story...
posted by owillis at 10:53 PM on May 25, 2001

Yeah, I hate those downtowns. God forbid I'd be confronted with people that look different than me.

Ok, that wasn't fair, not to mention I'm not familiar with downtown Columbus. It's just that I live near a downtown and love it, and am sick of my suburbanite coworkers acting shocked that I'd ever even consider living in such a frightening place as south Minneapolis. I know this is the year 2001 and all, but I sometimes wonder how many people are living in the 'burbs just so they don't have to deal with different races and cultures.

(For the record, it was the urination comment that set me off.)
posted by mrbula at 11:14 PM on May 25, 2001

This attitude is pervasive throughout the Midwest. Ever been to the downtown areas of Omaha or Des Moines or Kansas City or even St. Louis on weekdays around 6 p.m. after the offices close? They're almost ghost towns. This is a result of trends that have been in effect now for 25 years or more.

Minneapolis has always tried to keep businesses and events in the downtown area to keep it interesting to Minneapolitans, but the powers that be have had to offer a lot of financial incentives and tax breaks to do it.

What you're ending up with in the Midwest and the West are cities made up of a series of suburban areas oftentimes centered around a shopping center or mall and connected only through highway systems.

I don't have a huge problem with this, but I hate that it happens at the expense of the traditional downtown -- I think it's a good thing to have one major shared space in a city that all citizens feel comfortable visiting, if not living in.
posted by bilco at 11:21 PM on May 25, 2001

Um, you know, there are plenty of "different races and cultures" out here in the 'burbs too.
posted by kindall at 11:21 PM on May 25, 2001

True kindall....but it seems as if people really DO have this attitude that...."oh...you live in the city?...but it's so dirty here, and what about that guy I saw on the elevator with orange hair?" I grew up in the sticks...and because of it really did live a sheltered existance...I mean there were like 3 blacks...to the 250 other "white" kids in my graduating class.

Living in a Big Ten college town now...for five years...it still amazes me how folks from back home react to those "other" people... I used to live beside some Muslim folks...bowing to mecca every evening...while I eventually thought nothing of it...some of my visitors were shocked.

Never the less...this is the kind of story that dominates the fodder that is local news today...quite pitiful really...
posted by canoeguide at 12:04 AM on May 26, 2001

Remind me to add Ohio to the list of places never to drive through let alone visit. What provincialist crap! This really, actually, bonafidely made it on the front page of the "esteemed" Columbus Dispatch?????????

Ohio is already a state (driven through it many a time) of nothing but town after town after rows of country bumpkin country home lined roads after tavern after small field with small buildings scattered about the occasional patch of trees and then, just when you think you're gonna find somewhere that few people are, there's a goddamn WalMart with an impromptu muscle car show underway in its parking lot. Then it happens all over again.

Was Ohio a red state?
posted by crasspastor at 12:11 AM on May 26, 2001

mrbula: I don't like downtowns not because of the people, but the place. It's usually damn dirty. I don't want to walk through filth or have to smell stink. Call it "homogenized" all you want, but at least the 'burbs are clean.

And I've lived in "blue" states (including Florida).
posted by owillis at 12:35 AM on May 26, 2001

I live in downtown Seattle. The only scent wafting its way through this window where I sit is the sweet fragrance of plant life.

But then again, I also saw today a very tortured schizophrenic man rummaging through a Broadway trashcan and sucking the last remnants of Frappachino from every Frappachino cup he found. Talking to "himself" all the while. The 'burbs suck and only serve to intensify one's unhealthy reality barometer to read "I am alone on a planet of seven billion" or at least I associate with thirty or forty of them max.

Never met a person who's shit doesn't smell from time to time. All that 'burbs shit has to flow through a pipe somewhere. And yeah, I agree it does stink.
posted by crasspastor at 12:50 AM on May 26, 2001

Amazingly, I don't think Columbus is that awful. I like to think we're having a revival of our downtown area, which is partly why I was so surprised to see this article on the front page. (Well, that and the fact that the reporter seemed genuinely surprised about the existance of these mysterious "suburbs"....) And our downtown isn't too dirty - we've got a mayor who is committed to cleaning it up and bringing people in. I mean, we have a mall - the most sterile of shopping environments - smack in the middle of the downtown area, and it's hardly filled with "men urinating" or whatever.

Of course, we also have plenty of people who live in the higher class suburbs who would rather not think about the existance of people with less money or who are homeless. I just keep hoping that more people will move back into town (historical neighborhoods being renovated, &c) and stop the monster sprawl.

Oh, and don't let anything in the Dispatch put you off Columbus. Everyone I know considers it the newspaper equivalent of, well, shit.
posted by binkin at 4:33 AM on May 26, 2001

I really enjoy a downtown life. Many cities in the U.S. have let their core city rot to hell.

When I moved back from Europe in 1988 after a half year stint of living in a world with real town centers and downtowns. The community life was far more vibrant and there was not the blight that had smacked the U.S. core cities. Returning to the U.S. I stayed with my parents in California where the live in suburbs that really are not a sub of anything. It was hell, I could not walk anywhere to go to the store (my driving insurance had expired while I was away) nor was there any central community life. It was off to San Francisco where there was a solid city with vibrant communities and people actually interacted, unlike most of car-centric America.
posted by vanderwal at 5:20 AM on May 26, 2001

I haven't been out of the city in months. I live and work here. I like it here.

And when the sub-urbans come in to blink uncomprehendingly at civilization? I'm the guy who urinates in front of them. Just because.
posted by pracowity at 6:00 AM on May 26, 2001

I want to say that this happens in Chicagoland too, and I think it does... but I'm wondering if its based on your generation.

Y'see, I'm thinking about my parents and their parents. People their age? They never went into the city. My mom, bless her heart, has been in Chicago only a handful of times in a large number of years. She sees it (as canoeguide points out) to be a large, dirty, smelly place with funny-looking people. I had that notion instilled in me as a kid and teen.

Of course, once I went to school downtown things changed. I became far more accepting of it initially, then grew to like it, and now I love the Loop. I really do. But what worries me is that you've got people in the northwest burbs who might come in for a museum trip but otherwise are "too good" for downtown. You've got those in the western "suburbs" like Aurora (45 miles west of the Loop) who really don't see a need to go to Chicago.

And I suppose that's fine, but the motivation is what's being questioned here. Far, far too many suburbs are now being positioned as the end-all be-all. You've got everything there; why go into dirty, stinky, big Chicago?

It'll be interesting to see what happens as the notion of car-as-viable-transportation starts to decline. Will people choose to move into the city, or will they continue with 1 to 1.5 hour one-way commutes in their SUVs?
posted by hijinx at 6:35 AM on May 26, 2001

I like the compromise of living in a metro suburb. The ring of Boston suburbs inside Rt. 128 is highly urbanized, well-connected to Boston proper and the other inner suburbs by mass transit, and frankly has as much to offer in the way of cool neighborhoods, cultural life, restaurants, etc. as the city itself. From my house I can be in Boston in as little as 10 minutes (traffic dependent, of course), but I also live in a nice neighborhood of single-family homes that's quiet at night and safe to walk around.

While I could probably find someplace acceptable inside the next Interstate ring (Rt.495), I like living close to but not right in the city.
posted by briank at 6:48 AM on May 26, 2001

If I didn't know better, I would have guessed that was a story in The Onion.
posted by crunchland at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2001

kindall, unfortunately that hasn't been the case in the suburbs I've lived in.
posted by mrbula at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2001

now crass, Ohio's a real state with real cities. We have riots and everything here in cincy.
posted by Mick at 9:06 AM on May 26, 2001

Why, Cincinnati is a world class city! We're going to have the Olympics here someday, and never you mind there's a lack of public transportation or sufficient hotels or anywhere besides Perkins to dine after midnight or a large base of wealth that refuses to set foot in the downtown area after 5 P.M.

And who exudes "class" from every pore of his body better than James Brown? He will surely appease those angry people who wanted to boycott this weekend's she-bang!
posted by keli at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2001

i had to go through downtown chicago to get to and from high school for years, so i'm pretty used to it. i think most downtowns i've been in are just beautiful. now, the tunnel from the blue line to the red line at jackson is pretty dirty, smelly, and filled with strange people. but that's the subway for you.
posted by moz at 9:44 AM on May 26, 2001

I'm sure there are lily-white suburbs where you can flee if you never want to see another ethnic face. There are also, in most cities, multiracial "pockets" out in various burbs, settled by people who once lived in the city and liked the mix of different people but who wanted to live somewhere cleaner and safer. Additionally, city rents have been going up in a lot of urban areas, and this is moving a lot of ethnic minorities out of the center of town and toward the burbs, and they gravitate toward areas where they'll be welcomed.

You need to look at the "apartment communities" to see where this begins. Most of the people who have moved out of the city due to the increased cost of living there were renters and still are. (There have been two "apartment communities" built next to the one I live in since I moved here nine months ago to meet this demand.) These people moved to the burbs for more affordable rent, but now they have to have a car, so it's more or less a wash. They haven't jumped into home ownership just yet, though over the next decade some of them may start doing so.
posted by kindall at 9:53 AM on May 26, 2001

Detroit has been like this for decades... Before I got a job there, I had been downtown no there no more than a handful of times, for jury duty, or the Institute of Arts. They're improving it, but if you're not into sports or gambling, there's just not much there, from a suburban point of view.
posted by fujikodunc at 1:31 PM on May 26, 2001

Atlanta is having a reverse movement. All the suburbanites are paying big bucks to move back into *downtown*. Its become the trendy thing to do since the 96 Olympics rebirthed our downtown. Come on down y'all. :)
posted by oh posey at 1:13 AM on May 27, 2001

As a native Atlantan, I only saw this kind of behaviour near Grant Park, Inman Park, East Atlanta and to a lesser degree, West End. When I left it 5 months ago, it was every bit the protectionist, xenophobic, racially divided place I'd known my entire life.

I have high hopes for my hometown. I honestly hope that with the influx of folks from other regions into the city that there will be a reversal of a 30 year trend of "white flight". At the same time, I hope things don't become so homogenized and gentrified that older African Americans are forced to leave the homes they've had their whole lives because the yupsters and ex-'burbans have driven up the property values to the point where they can't afford the taxes on their homes.
posted by likorish at 9:45 AM on May 27, 2001

how weird to see columbus described like that. upon first visit i thought it was well-kept. come to think of it, the city's downright cute. but then again, i'm used to downtown chicago. guess the interviewee hasn't been away from her suburban MiniManse for a long, long time.
posted by patricking at 5:10 PM on May 27, 2001

Fujikodunc... I really can't believe you're saying that the weekend of the Electronic Music Fest. I grew up in the 'burbs of Detroit, I know the stigma they had until I was a teenager... when I was able to go downtown on my own. But it is trying to heal and the attitude of 'I don't care about Sports or gambling so I don't like downtown Detroit' is absurd.
posted by tj at 8:17 PM on May 27, 2001

I'd lay even odds that the majority of people Downriver (where I currently am and, alas, was raised blissfully ignorant of a good many things) are pretty clueless about what electronic music even is... or will be, until/unless they've picked up one of the papers.

I wasn't saying I agreed with them. I'm saying here, that's the viewpoint I tend to run into the most.
posted by fujikodunc at 10:51 PM on May 27, 2001

Living two blocks from the official downtown Milwaukee and having lived in the suburbs, I'd have to say I prefer living downtown. Sure there are people begging for change that you never run into in the Target parking lot, but what's so bad with being confronted with reality. There's no need for a car when you live within blocks of ten bus routes and walking distance of grocery stores and a mall. Downtown offers a certain energy, after all, in Milwaukee, all the young urban professionals who live in the suburbs head to downtown for the night life, the energy just isn't in the sterile similarness of each suburb.

People seem to overlook the beauty of downtowns. Normally they're the oldest parts of the city, with ten thousand types of building design spread together to create an appealling diverse whole, something you won't find in most sterile suburbs.
posted by drezdn at 1:26 AM on May 28, 2001

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