FAQ About 125downtowns.info

What's the point?

This site looks at some of the features that make American downtowns so interesting, allowing readers to make some comparisons among cities. I hope that it will be useful for people who study cities, and fun for people who just enjoy cities.


Why 125?

It’s an arbitrary number. I started with a list of about 240 cities (including all county seats of at least 100,000 people), reduced it to 150, and finally cut it to the more manageable number of 125.


Which 125?

1) The 50 largest cities from the 2009 estimated census. This includes two (Mesa, Arizona, and Arlington, Texas), that are suburbs of larger cities (Phoenix and Dallas, respectively) and one (Virginia Beach) that is a beach resort without a traditional downtown.

2) The 50 largest cities from the 1950 census. Why 1950? Because that’s when downtowns were at their peak of importance as centers of employment and commerce. Today, plenty of people still go downtown for culture and sports, but not so many go for work and shopping. Eastern and Midwestern cities like Akron and Newark may have dropped out of the top 50 since 1950 (while Sunbelt cities like Tucson and Albuquerque have climbed in), but they still have interesting downtowns.

3) The largest city in every state. These include some very small cities such as Burlington, Vt., and Cheyenne, Wyo., but they add to the geographic diversity of the list.

4) Additional cities, weighted toward the older cities of the East and Midwest. For example, I have included Cedar Rapids, Iowa (population 128,182), and Peoria, Illinois (population 115,520), while omitting much larger cities such as  Aurora, Colo. (population 324,655), and Santa Ana, Calif. (population 340,340).


Who are you?

My name is John Patrick Dodds. I’m a native of Iowa, and I recently moved from Fresno to Seattle. I am a former newspaper reporter and elementary school teacher. And I love to explore downtowns.


How many of these cities have you actually visited?

About 96, at last count.


So, which cities have the best downtowns?

Although that's not really the point of 125downstowns.info, here are a couple of ways to look at this question.