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Luring us back to the center, by whatever means necessary.

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After crossing the Thames River along Interstate 95, speeding westward past the compact, archetypically New England central business district to New London, Connecticut, a visitor will encounter an exit ramp leading directly to the city’s economically recovering downtown. Generally speaking, this should be the preferred trajectory for those of us obsessed with old town centers. …Read more…

The ugly, underutilized garage: soon a mere memory?

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Has urban America learned its last lesson on downtown parking? After forty years of declining fortunes, have we deduced that giving people cheap, abundant, convenient places to park their cars failed to save our city centers? Have we finally realized that demolishing 100-year-old buildings to form new garages and lots did not stem the vacancy …Read more…

Back-of-the-envelope navigation.

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As I try to increase my volume of monthly blog posts, I owe it to both my readers and myself to bring back something I used to do regularly: a mini-post, which for me amounts to something less than 1,000 words. The fact of the matter is that I often try to write less, but …Read more…

Helping downtowns meet demand and save face.

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The façadectomy fan club hasn’t earned a lot of love over the years. Historic preservationists deride it because it cynically assumes that the only true value to a historic structure is the often three-foot-thick façade, while the remaining 99% of the building (not to mention everything that took place within it) is left to the …Read more…

Daylighting.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve had a meta-post (blogging about my own blogging), but I’m due for one this time around. Back in May, I blogged about the Brass Mill Center, a very suburban-styled mall in the heart of Waterbury, Connecticut’s inner city.  I’m generally happy with how the article turned out, but most of …Read more…

Dethroning the top brass.

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When it first opened in 1997, local and regional media acclaimed the Brass Mill Center of Waterbury, Connecticut for transforming a long-blighted, desolate, contaminated old industrial site. And, considering that the retail hub replaced an expansive collection of derelict buildings visible along Interstate 84, it probably improved Waterbury’s image not just to its natives but …Read more…

After a national chain is toast, who picks up the crumbs?

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When a recognizable meme gets untethered from its usual habitat—its preferred social and cultural context—it’s amazing how quickly people forget what it was intended to signify. That’s exactly the case with this neon sign in a downtown storefront window: Does it ring a bell? Probably not at first blush. But look at the general shape …Read more…