Great Places Finds Fargo (and more)

Fargo Broadway looking North

The American Planning Association has announced their 2009 installment of the Great Places list, “places of exemplary character, quality, and planning”.

I have visited a few of these places.  In past years APA has honored Urbana, Illinois; Downtown Sheridan, Wyoming; and Greater Park Hill in Denver.  This year they found Fargo.

  • I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota.  At the time, downtown Fargo was anything but a great place, so this listing is testimony to many years of hard work revitalizing Broadway (including ripping out most of the dreadful pedestrian mall) and the historic heart of the community.
  • Pasadena, California is certainly “bungalow heaven”.  “Coined by a city planner, the [neighborhood] name reflects the abundance of one- and two-story Craftsman homes in the compact, six-block-by-six-block neighborhood. The first house dates to 1888, but most of the bungalows were built between 1905 and 1920.”
  • Haymarket Square in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a saving grace for a place encumbered by the University of Nebraska (not that I, a University of Colorado graduate, have anything against the Cornhuskers).
  • Somebody must have gone for a walk during the APA National Conference this year—I need to make a point to check out the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis some time soon.  Actually, I could plan a good many vacations around this list…

These lists of places—these report cards of our built environment—are as much aspirational as performance measurements.  They capture what we hope our own places could be.

APA singled out Downtown Fargo for its historic character and successful revitalization during the past decade including smart growth measures that increase housing choices in the neighborhood. More than $100 million in public and private investments have been made since 1999, which have turned blighted buildings into apartments, condominiums, and retail establishments. The new downtown has helped Fargo transform its rough, northern frontier image into one that is far more metropolitan and urbane.  “This is a very exciting time for the City of Fargo,” said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker.
(City PR)

How do you measure, as APA sets out, “a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow” in a cost benefit ratio?  How do you translate “Great Places” in dollars and cents? Do high rents, for example, reflect either a) value of growing market demand, or b) artificial costs of regulation and artificial subsidization?  Is there too much traffic or not enough street?  Which comes first, the chicken or the road?  Your pick.

2009 Great Places in America

Great Neighborhoods

Pasadena, California
Bungalow Heaven

New Orleans, Louisiana
Faubourg Marigny

Lincoln, Nebraska
The Haymarket

Kenmore, New York
Village of Kenmore

Fargo, North Dakota
Downtown Fargo

Portland, Oregon
Ladd’s Addition

Franklin, Tennessee
Downtown Franklin Historic District

Houston, Texas

Newport News, Virginia
Historic Hilton Village

Spokane, Washington
Browne’s Addition

Great Streets

Skagway, Alaska
Broadway Street

Little Rock, Arkansas
President Clinton Avenue

Bath, Maine
Front Street

Ann Arbor, Michigan
South Main Street

Traverse City, Michigan
Front Street

Collingswood, New Jersey
Haddon Avenue

Greenville, South Carolina
Main Street

Williamsburg, Virginia
Duke of Gloucester Street

Wheeling, West Virginia
North Main Street

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
East Newberry Boulevard

Great Public Spaces

New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven Green

Dover, Delaware
The Green

Savannah, Georgia
The Squares of Savannah

Chicago, Illinois
Lincoln Park

Charlevoix, Michigan
East Park

Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Grand Rounds

Keene, New Hampshire
Central Square

Flushing, New York
Queens Botanical Garden

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Central Market

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach Boardwalk


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