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The List: Top 10 Best Downtowns

Celebrating walkability, entertainment, housing and natural resources, picks the top 10 Best Downtowns in America.
Kent McDill |


(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Bicyclists make their way through Salt Lake City traffic. Officials are pushing to promote more walking and biking as the Wasatch Front population is predicted to double in coming decades.

Cities do not have to be metropolises to have downtown areas. Towns and villages can have downtowns or uptowns, whatever they choose to call that centralized area where all the good stuff is. is a website that celebrates such living situations, especially when the downtown area is within walking distance or easy transit of the people whose homes surround it.


In order to honor the downtowns that continue to morph into areas of great appeal to nearby citizens, it has released its list of the Top 10 Best Downtowns for 2015.


“We start with our focus on small to mid-sized cities, and we dive into the data,’’ the website states. “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,’’ it said. “Our journalistic judgment helps determine the final rankings.”


For the sake of appeal, the list also ranges from west to east, north to south, and includes communities of varying sizes.


No. 10 Evanston, Ill. – The home of Northwestern University, with Lake Michigan within range, Evanston has a wide range of cultural offerings along with new and old restaurants. It is also building modern and green condo communities to go with its office buildings.


No. 9 Somerville, Mass. - The Boston Globe recently reported that Somerville residents are concerned that it might be ‘’too cool’’. The Boston suburb is one of many area communities that bring walking and biking paths into the downtown area, and with Boston on one side and Cambridge on the other, Somerville presents the small side of the Northeastern mystique.


No. 8 Lincoln, Neb. – Haymarket, the former farmer’s market converted into an entertainment center with restaurants, bars and bookstores, has turned a dead city center into a thriving place for visitors from the nearby business district as well as the University of Nebraska. Lincoln is on almost everyone’s list as one of the hottest communities in America.


No. 7 Fargo, N.D. – By taking 67 buildings in an abandoned portion of downtown and turning it into the Renaissance Zone, and aligning that with the Plains Art Museum and Fargo Theatre, downtown Fargo is the area’s cultural center. Fargo is one of the leading cities in new resident housing, and with the improving North Dakota economy, downtown Fargo is enjoying the oil boom.


No. 6 Alexandria, Va. – The brick-lined streets of Old Town Alexandria offer one of the nation’s best dining and cultural experiences within just a few blocks. With nearby transportation to Washington, D.C., Alexandria is where many young professionals have set up shop. There are also numerous historic sites that promote the city as an appealing new-old option.


No. 5 Salt Lake City – New residential construction has brought in a slew of young professionals and the city has kept up with entertainment options for both adults and children. As one of the most picturesque large cities in America, SLC has updated itself to an entertaining option for Easterners as well as those that are tired of California.


No. 4 Greenville, S.C. – Start with Falls Park, now surrounded by new luxury condos and lofts, add the trolleys that transport residents from one end of the downtown to the other, and include the picturesque Reedy River waterfalls and you have one of the most beautiful downtowns in the United States.


No. 3 Indianapolis – Radiating out from Monument Circle, with numerous sports facilities bringing in hotels that require new eateries, Indianapolis is doing well in its competition for the Midwest crowd. Indianapolis is considered one of the best walking cities in America, and by developing some of the area’s waterways, the city is more attractive now than it has ever been.


No. 2 Minneapolis – Always known as a cultural mecca, downtown Minneapolis has expanded beyond the area surrounding its basketball/hockey building to include numerous nightclubs that cater to the college crowd from the University of Minnesota. The Skywalk, which connects buildings and allow for downtown walking no matter what the weather, keeps the downtown area hopping in the winter.


No. 1 Pittsburgh, Pa. – Market Square and the Cultural District, bordered by the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, create a downtown area that is appreciated by the employees of the many business that now call Pittsburgh home. With two sports stadiums lighting up the North Shore, and numerous parks alongside the rivers, Pittsburgh has the walkability factor that downtown residents prefer.