Livability.com -- For decades in the U.S., our downtowns were places where we worked. We would drive in during the morning rush hour and drive back out during the evening rush hour. Suburban malls had drained our downtown cores and our Main Streets of retail and department stores. We had essentially sucked all the people out of downtown.
Thankfully, that's changing in cites big and small as downtowns are again being recognized as a place where people can congregate, enjoy shopping and dining, walk, bike and, most importantly, live. Check out our infographic The Demographics of Living Downtown, to get an understanding of the type of people living downtown compared to the suburbs, and how that's changed through the years.
With downtowns undergoing a resurgence, how did we choose the Top 10 Best Downtowns for 2015? As always, we start with our focus on small to mid-sized cities, and we dive into the data. Our analysis took into consideration increasing housing values and populations to find cities that are growing and thriving. We looked for areas with new construction because cranes are often a great sign of economic and cultural recovery. We found downtowns with vibrant arts scenes and walkable streets.
Finally, our well-traveled editors weighed in with their own opinions. The data drives our short list, but our journalistic judgment helps determine the final rankings.
Our list showcases a range of downtowns in terms of size, style and nature. These 10 cities are a great cross-section of America's revitalized downtown landscape.
#5: Salt Lake City, Utah
A slate of construction projects ranging from renovations of historic buildings to new apartments and office towers puts downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, in a perpetual state of change. Longtime residents of this thriving downtown area have seen many new residential units added along with restaurants, coffee shops and places to find live music. The downtown area’s stable vacancy rate shows apartments and offices are being occupied shortly after they’re built. Among the statistics that helped Salt Lake City’s downtown land a spot on our list of the Top 10 Best Downtowns are the large percentage of new homeowners the city has (26 percent) and the high number of workers considered to be part of the “creative class,” which includes engineers, artists, scientists and those in technology fields.
Salt Lake City's large assortment of amenities, excellent education system and variety of homes helped it make back-to-back appearances on our list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.
While workers and tourists help to double the downtown area’s population during the day, hot spots like Bar-X, The Garage and The Red Door lure in rowdy crowds at night. Families will find plenty of kid-friendly attractions and educational experiences in downtown, whether it’s touring the grounds of the Utah State Capitol or getting a grasp on science at the Discovery Gateway children’s museum. The retractable glass roof at City Creek Center is often opened on sunny days, creating an outdoor market feel. While Capitol Theatre hosts ballets, opera and Broadway shows, places like The Depot and Abravanel Hall feature rock bands and soul singers. Temple Square, which includes the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle, remains the city’s top attraction. A light rail system helps residents get around, while a bike share program lets people get some exercise on their way to work or while running errands.