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87 articles

Georgetown Circle: cutting the corners out from the old courthouse square.

Where I grew up in the Midwest, most county seats enjoy an almost overbearingly consistent urban form at their historic core.  With few exceptions, they feature the archetypal courthouse square.  The four blocks fronting this courthouse—the four sides of the square—serve as the commercial core, with a variety of different sizes of 19th century buildings:

Classical music and crime prevention: 7-Eleven is just the start.

Several weeks ago I noted what I believe is a misbegotten campaign loosely branded “hostile design”, which seeks to galvanize criticism toward the now-ubiquitous effort of preventing people from getting too comfortable in shared public spaces—so comfortable it constitutes (in some people’s option) outright abuse of that shared civic trust.  We’ve all seen examples: carefully

The Starbucks logo gets entrepreneurial elevation near the lowest point in the world.

It should come as no surprise that a successful brand, once vindicated through repeated growth and revenue amidst expansion, should explore its opportunities in other countries.  This tendency is such common knowledge that it influences global consumer culture almost unconsciously.  Long gone are the days where we might have pondered, “[McDonald’s] is everywhere I go

Hoboken NJ: gentrification in a time-lapse overdrive, but without all the improvements.

Hoboken, New Jersey isn’t a particularly obscure suburb.  Peering right across the Hudson River toward Greenwich Village, it’s a fortuitously located municipality that basically everyone in metro New York knows.  Odds are good that most adults living in the tri-state area have passed through it at one point in time.   Tiny though it may

Footbridge folly: a century-old pedestrian amenity faces a decade of reckoning.

The US earns its reputation for encouraging urban auto dependency, largely by eschewing any good provisions for pedestrians and reducing far too many of its streetscapes to vehicular sewers.  Nonetheless, now and then we can come across some remarkable little pedestrian provision that surprises us.  And it doesn’t have to be in a historically pedestrian

Cycle tracks in small towns: North Beach, Maryland has one, but does it really work?

Do you remember the good old days of bicycle advocacy, back when the prevailing ambition was the introduction of bike lanes, buy applying solid stripes on the pavement?  If you’re older than twenty, you probably should remember those days; they weren’t that long ago.  As recently as the mid-2000s, the standard for bike-friendliness was bike

Crested Butte main street: a shopper’s oasis amidst the lingering retail drought.

More times than I can count, I’ve explored the country’s mismatch between the supply of retail-oriented real estate and the broader public’s demand.  We just have too many shopping centers.  And it’s always been that way.  Even in the best of times—the peak of the suburban mall during the 1970s and 80s—our historic downtown storefronts

The skeletons of West Virginia’s film industry finally come out of the storefront.

The streetscape of downtown Martinsburg, the largest municipality (population 17,500) in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, doesn’t exactly boast an occupancy level one would rate as thriving.  But it’s hardly plagued by persistent plywood in the windows of the commercial buildings, and the majority of them look like they benefit from regular maintenance and upkeep. I

Bars on the windows in comfy little Malvern, you say? Have we come this far?

In these economically fraught times, it’s not always easy to find an urbanized restaurant/retail district where one can comfortably kick back a burger and a brew and feel safe, either from crime, civil unrest, or inconsistent enforcement of COVID precautions (depending on what you perceive is the greatest threat).  In 2021, the suburbs of large