The Curious Comeback of U.S. Downtowns

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A view of New York City from the 75th floor of 432 Park Avenue
A view of New York City from the 75th floor of 432 Park Avenue /© Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
A view of New York City from the 75th floor of 432 Park Avenue
A view of New York City from the 75th floor of 432 Park Avenue /© Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the notion of urban revival in America than the comeback of many downtown districts. Yet if these areas have recovered some of their vigor, they are doing so in a manner that hardly suggests a return to their glory days in the first half of the 20th Century.

Instead what’s emerging is a very different conceptualization of downtown, as a residential alternative that appeals to the young and childless couples, and that is not so much a dominant economic hub, but one of numerous poles in the metropolitan archipelago, usually with an outsized presence of financial institutions, government offices and business service firms.

The good news: after an era of population declines, these areas are growing again: From 2000 to 2010, the downtown cores of the nation’s 51 metropolitan areas with populations over a million gained slightly over 200,000 residents, or 1.3% of all the growth in the nation’s major metropolitan areas. ….

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