by Dan Rafter
What makes a downtown special? Today, the key is walkability. People want to walk to restaurants, shops, parks, entertainment and public transportation. And they want plenty of options when they do decide to talk a downtown walk.
These are the common elements among the neighborhoods on Livability’s recently published list of the top 10 downtowns of the country. They all give residents the opportunity to park their cars and leave them parked, for the most part.
We all know that the Midwest is home to plenty of booming downtown areas. Indianapolis, Minneapolis and, of course, Chicago feature established, entertainment-filled downtown areas. Other downtown areas, such as Cleveland’s, are on the rise.
But only one Midwest downtown made Livability’s list this year, Evanston, a close-in suburb of Chicago and home to Northwestern University.
Livability points to the busy mixed-use districts in the heart of downtown Evanston that feature independent and chain bars and restaurants, including the high-end Boltwood and its James Beard Award finalist chef Brian Huston. Then there’s Space, a small music venue that attracts an eclectic mix of bands.
Livability also cites some solid numbers for downtown Evanston: a WalkScore of 74, a low downtown vacancy rate of 8.9 percent and the recent addition of 65 homes to the downtown area.
It adds up to a 10th place finish on Livability’s list.
In case you’re wondering, Alexandria, Virginia, topped the downtown list. Santa Monica, California, came in second, while Greenville, South Carolina grabbed the third spot.