Isenburg goes over the changes of the downtown main streets and the theme of Urban decline (2). Isenburg goes over the city changes and how certain places that were once popular can changes over the years. This was reflected by the closing down of the store Woolworths which was a community staple. Isenburg pointed this out because he wanted to show how people are connected to buildings and what they offer to the community. With a city changing over time to become more modern the old aspects of the city can still live on. Isenburg reflects this by using the concept of historic preservation (10). Isenberg uses this concept also by mentioning how historic preservation of buildings reflects the market places that people visit (10). – Jasmine Williams
The downtown areas of most cities declined from vibrant active places of business during the twentieth-century to places of abandon and disrepair. Urban sprawl during this time drew people from city centers to suburbs. Downtown areas have been reinvigorated to become cultural and civic places people want to patronized and spend their money in. Deborah Hunnel
In Downtown America, Isenberg goes through the cycle of the downtown of a city. She describes it's beginning and thriving periods, and also discusses the decline and virtual end of the downtown era. Isenberg describes the reasoning for locations, and determining what the downtown area would consist of. She states that downtown America is a “powerful symbol”, and a influential part of American culture. -Mariah Morton
The Gendered Origins of a Civic Ideal
Isenburg reflects on women club’s campaigns to help beautify the neighborhood. He went over how the women had ads to encourage other women to join in and help clean up neighborhoods (23). The women clubs were also known for encouraging laws to help neighborhoods clean. One of the laws the women’s clubs wanted to put in place was the restriction of billboards and business signs because they were viewed as “flabby morals” (24). – Jasmine Williams
The desire to make a city beautiful, and to focus on the aesthetic that a city provided was a generally female notion. Women wanted to make the city a place that was more inviting.There was also a desire to make sure that certain types of people, or vices were not brought into the city. Women took it on as their job to make sure the city was kept up, and morally uplifting. -Mariah Morton
Women: “Natural Leaders” for the City Beautiful
Women gained national recognition for their ambitions in beautifying the Main Streets of the cities all across America. They expressed a desire for communal responsibility and democratic citizenship. Mary Beard wrote, “women are the natural leaders for the realization of the City Beautiful.” They wanted to not only upgrade the appearance of the city streets, make them safer and more prosperous, but they wanted to also set higher standards of citizen participation. The women of the Women’s Clubs were typically middle-class, white, native-born women; African American women eventually joined as well, but their focus was on poverty and racial discrimination. The women faced contempt and resentment from the “city fathers” and other men. The job of beautifying the city streets of America was not seen as being a “women’s job.” The “women’s jobs” that were being seen at home, domestically, were turning into paid work for women. This was a significant change in gender roles and dynamics in the cities. While women were being supported by some, they were being criticized by many others. Isenberg uses the example of a woman who was chief of sanitary police being depicted by a cartoonist in a negative light. Men were later included in the initiatives to beautify the city because both men and women were invested in the City Beautiful as a public and private space. This section focused on women seizing moral authority over downtown, and how they used beauty as female jurisdiction to their advantage. - Devin Wright
“Mothering a Municipality”
For “Mothering a Municipality”, women’s clubs had cleaning days or weeks to start civic improvement. They focused on business districts, which had a large amount of trash and grime. Sometimes, they would ask in vain for help from the city council or step in to do the job when city officials fail. These women started and endorsed many beautification projects, from repairing streets to the removal of street poles and wires and setting up ornamental streetlights (23). This cleaning was to make the sites functional, not trash-filled. One example is an Ohio rear yard, which was once filled with trash but became a garden. They also advocated and demanded for properly paved or oiled streets, even doing it themselves. In addition, these women more directly regulated commerce, such as restrictions in advertisement, seen on billboards and business signs, as they saw it as hurting the beauty of the city and endorsing poor morals. They also inspected food for public health and policed commercial recreations as “moral guardians” (24). -Francesca Maisano
Downtown Housekeepers and the Legitimation of City Planning Housekeepers would speak at public lectures and civic revivals to pursue an idea of civic responsibility for restoring business districts. This would lead a grassroots effort to legitimize the idea of city planning. This community revival would be aided by Charles Zueblin, who would lead a series of speeches and would be elected president of the American League for Civic Improvement in 1901. J.Binns
Citizenship and the Civic Value of Commercial Space
Women were leading behind the scenes, promoting civic beauty with moral character. These ideas opposed the ideas of the working class businessman, whose selfish and property driven life contrasted with the ideas of the women’s groups. Women believed that civic work contributed to the city as a whole, rich, poor, fortunate and unfortunate. J.Binns
Women believed that downtown was the place to teach moral lessons and lessons on citizenship. The believed, and wanted to make sure that all citizens knew, that they all had a duty to take care of their city. It was the women's hope in this movement to instill pride and appreciation of citizens in the area that they lived in. -Mariah Morton
“Pink Ribbons on Lampposts”: Feminine Frills and the Commercial Landscape
City planners tired to distance themselves more from the women housekeeps who had originally pushed the need for city planning. As the connection between city planners and business and permanent sponsors grew, both of which were male-dominated, city planners wanted to separate themselves from the feminine association of city planning. When John Nolen became the Bridgeport, Connecticut city planner in 1914, a newspaper headline stated “Nolen’s Assistants Not Going to ‘Tie Pink Baby Ribbon’ on Every Telegraph Pole” to help the separation occur. Many male professionals were scared that a city planner would attempt to feminize the business district of downtowns. This was such as serious concern that critics of some city planners could defeat reforms by questioning the masculinity of a city planner and of their goals for downtown improvement. Critics also attacked “Beautiful” in the “City Beautiful” movement as the word itself and its feminine connotation made the male-dominated business concerned. The movement was started by women’s clubs and this is why many feared the cosmetic and superficial changes to cities across America would also make more feminine changes to them. This was a struggle for city planners to separate themselves from this stigma. A meeting at the National Conference on City Planning created an opportunity for some city planners to rebuttal the arguments against them and display how city beautification really meant efficiency, utility, and higher property values for cities.~Morgan Gilbert
Postcards and the Business of Planning Main Street
Early twentieth-century postcards were a reflection of the ideals of the City Beautiful movement. Artistic license was used to present a softer, cleaner, idealized version of downtown instead of faithfully representing what was there the way photographic postcards did in later decades. Postcards were important in providing a potential example of the effects of downtown improvements, as there was frequently resistance to the goals of beautification programs. The point of presenting downtowns in this way was to establish the relationship between commerce and the city as something that was beneficial to both.
Local Businessmen and Outside “Experts” Remake Main Street
A Clean and Pleasing Urban Character–Moorhead, Minnesota The postcard commissioned by Moorhead in 1928 wanted the snow and powerline poles removed. But the retouching or the picture also removes the ruts in the streets and the gloomy appearance of the city street actually in the original photograph. They were a beautiful cityscape to attract more visitors and patrons to the downtown area of Moorhead. D Hunnel.
A Unified Streetscape of Entrepreneurs–Muskegon, Michigan
A Dignified Commercial Corridor–Montgomery, Alabama
Main Streets, Past and Future The gendering of Main Streets are under discussion, from the female driven “beautification campaigns” of downtown to help provide morality and cleanliness to the community, to the acceptance and transformation of beautification as a useful business tool on the Main Streets. In short, bringing the morality and cleanliness of women to the male oriented business world by means of beautifying Main Streets and businesses on them. -C Cary
Economic Woman and the Laws of Retail
Women during this time period were beginning to be marked as bigger spenders than their male counterparts. The female financial head f the New York City Public Schools reportedly spent almost twelve million dollars, which made her role something more like a magnified housewife instead of an important public official. By the 1920s, the Department of Commerce had created statistics that showed that women spent 85% of America’s income and helped men spend 10% extra from their incomes. Female shoppers were considered to be very extravagant and wild, sometimes police were needed to break up large amounts of female shoppers at stores according to some stories. More middle and upper-class women were also heavy spenders, however, they were considered to be slightly more refined. The kind of women that downtown investors were most concerned about were middle-class housewives that were shopping for the whole family. While they might not shop as often as single women, they were spending more money when they were shopping. Racial categorization also occurred as African American women were directed to shops located in da different area of town, despite often being the same shop. ~Morgan Gilbert
Retail Geography Transformed
During this time, the retail geography of the city was transformed through many changes, such as speculators purchasing and developing land, the rise of suburbs with automobiles, the migration of African Americans and African American districts, segregation, and retail and industry also setting up in the periphery. These all leads to new options for both retailers and shoppers (80, 81). In the 1920’s, commercial real estate investors made up with new tools to handle the consumer, helping them to keep their property values. The 100% district, Reilly’s law, market surveys, zoning, and segregation were all used to understand shopper activity (82). It was pedestrian traffic, especially the suburban housewife’s, rather than a central location that determined value (83-84). -Francesca Maisano
The focus on the change of downtown throughout the century is shown here. Electrical wires, for telegraphs and telephones go from above ground to underground. The heavy placement of retail stores within the downtown area encourage shoppers to flock to shop. The idea of having the downtown area as a place of exclusive independent businesses rather than large corporate stores began to be implemented.
“Feet! Women's Feet!”: The Allure of Pedestrianism and the 100% Location
Isenburg begins this section with a definition of pedestrianism, “identifying the lucrative areas of dense female shopping”(84). This makes sense because according to the author, women make up most of the pedestrian traffic. Isenburg provides the example and evidence from Wenzlick Real Estate Company based in St. Louis that “81 percent” (84) of traffic downtown was in fact female.This leads to the discussion of 100% locations. 100% locations or districts were areas that developed where rent was the highest, profit was maximized, property value were climbing, and where there was the most pedestrian traffic. Obviously, women being 81% of pedestrian traffic, these businesses catered to them. -C Cary
Reilly's Law and the Rational Economic Woman William Rielly, in 1929, offered executives a scientific law to explain a disturbing trend: women increasingly shopped out of town which was threatening the survival of small-town Main Streets. He believed that only the poorest residents were purchasing everything locally. He surmised that more specialized items were purchased further away from the small towns. D Hunnel
Market Surveys Meet the Consumer Mind
Zoning Against the “Promiscuous Scattering” of Stores
Land use zoning demands the separation of commercial, residential, and industrial activities in hopes of improving downtown areas. This enforced the concentration of stores and helped to control the growth and shape of new retail development in downtown areas. The 1920s was a time of great growth for zoning ordinances. Specialists tried to correct urban disorder, which was a problem in older cities that had become overgrown, like New York City. Within the commercial district of Manhattan, almost half a million workers laboring in factories where space could be used for higher quality of stores. Land use zoning was legally justified on the basis of state power to protect public health and safety, which was only partially many people's motivation for the new regulation. Land that was not being used to its best potential could then be rezoned following this practice, which could make real estate investors a lot more money when used correctly. ~Morgan Gilbert
Segregation and the Racial Boundaries of Urban Commerce
Negotiating Racial Values Between the Lines
Location, Location, Location?
The twenties were a time of “expansive commercial growth upward and outward,” (122) and people were heavily migrating due to that, according to Isenburg. With advances in transportation for the middle class, it was much easier for people to travel into the city. Also, the hustle and bustle of the city drew small town people into it and African Americans “sought better opportunities” (122) in these urban centers as well. Women were being recognized as “economic actors” (122) led investors to cater to them, all the while trying to keep the area of shopping constricted–“confining commerce” (122) as Isenburg wrote. Investors were also concerned with zoning, it was meant to predict and “establish” (122) the “exact locations and shapes of future commercial districts (122).” However, it was easier to predict zoning trends than consumer trends. Things that affected the decisions of the consumers in relation to shopping were: “racial solidarity” (123) and “the unpredictable nature of women decision making” (123). Controlling the consumer was not as easy as it was thought to be. -C Cary
Isenberg begins her chapter by explaining the fluctuating market values and informality of land appraisals. The Great Depression led many to question the validity of appraisers as projects were being planned but never fulfilled, rent profit dried up, and improvements to property to increase value virtually disappeared. She also speaks about the pent-up consumerism phenomenon following the end of World War II in the 1940s: with industrialization focusing on military products, the increase in savings during the war, and the end of the Great Depression, many consumers wanted to purchase items but there was no supply. Finally, Isenberg explains the idea of the “interior frontier” of the downtown districts. Instead of building out or up, like traditionally done when cities needed to be expanded, the emphasis was put on reusing buildings and land already in the city's perimeters. With the harsh crash of 1929 came a hard criticism of how land appraisals were done, leading to a professionalization of sorts. -K.Eastridge
World War II impeded the growth of urban downtown spaces due to a diminished economy in which builders had no funds to build and the government dictated when, where, and who could build and continue to grow the downtown space. This was due to shortages caused by the war in which materials went to the war effort rather than to continue to grow the economy and urban spaces of the homefront. All builders could do was keep their eyes on what they believed to be promising real estate and wait until the war ended to do anything about it. This damaged the economy and growth of downtown urban spaces which would hopefully lead to a boom of activity after the war ended despite fears of a post-war depression like after World War I. -e.m.
Isenberg wrote about the changes in the pace of the economy. Going from an economic depression, and the uptick to stability during the wartime allowed cities to breathe again. The war years were a time to flourish for many cities, a time when consumerism grew, and production grew as well. The issues would come at the end of the war, with trying to figure out the best way to keep the city continuing when the economy would change again. It was a question of what to do with the spaces that are currently empty, what types of industry should be included in the downtown area, and how to do so. -Mariah Morton
Appraisal Undermined: “Must Revalue Practically the Entire World”
Again, with the destructiveness of the Great Depression came an intense analysis of how land appraisals worked and why. Land appraising, as is in its very nature, will always be speculative and a bit of a risk, but following the end of the Great Depression came an extremely negative viewpoint of appraising. This backlash led to an entire revamp of the career of land appraising including the establishment of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers which was a group of appraising professionals that created an accreditation process in order to ensure a more professionalized workforce. This led appraisers into more of an interdisciplinary field that consisted of sociology, history, civics, urban planning, and architecture, for example. -K.Eastridge
Putting up Parking Lots: The Paradox of Unbuilding Main Street
Just before the depression era, the trend of urban areas was to build up, however during the depression era the opposite happened. According to Isenburg, demolition for parking lots peaked in the 1930s (referring specifically to Detroit). With this increase in the demolition of buildings for parking areas, it would lead to a changed cityscape. In addition to the changed landscape of the city, the building of parking lots was a chance to gain profit. Parking lots and store modernization was a way to “attack the problem of preserving and restoring real estate values.” Isenburg explores how a decrease in rental income and occupancy in highrise buildings (along with higher property taxes) made them “economically useless.” Isenberg then contrasts that against the lowrise buildings and parking lots put in their place, stating that they are less costly to the landowners and less risky than highrise buildings, due to the distrust of property values by depression era views–“depression circumstances meant that owners have no idea as to the future of property values.” - C. Cary
Modernizing Main Street
Isenberg begins this section by saying that, “only four new buildings between 1924 and 1938, while virtually all of the shops in the same period claimed to have modernized.” What caused this, and why was there such a distinction? While few people or retailers had the money to create new locations or move to a better location, they still had to compete in a time where everyone’s wallet was tight. Thus, appealing to the new psychology of buyers (specifically of women), they updated their fronts to look more appealing. Through various styles (having a glass front or marble fronts are two examples given,) these shopkeepers did whatever they could to modernize within their budgetary constraints. (Daniel Noel)
Isenberg writes about the need for downtown, “main street” companies to modernize. With the introduction of structural glass and a deco façade style, main street stores looked to eliminate previous ornate storefronts. An attempt to streamline and smooth out the fronts of these buildings would begin to emerge to hopefully provide a small advantage over other businesses. The depression had cause main street communities to stop the previous communal thought and focus more on individual success. -J.Binns
The depression era had placed an urgency on the modernization of storefronts, according to Isenburg. In order to attract new storefront renters and customers, owners of these often one story buildings used modernization to keep their assets afloat. Isenburg explained that much like at the turn of the century, modernization focused on the female consumer, specifically white middle-class female consumers. Modernization played off their desires and psychology, Isenburg stated. If there was a time to modernize a storefront, the depression era was the time to do so if one had the money for it, due to cheap material cost and equally cheap labor costs. These storefront modernizations were relatively steady during the depression era compared to that of building entirely new buildings. Also, the streamlined designs and use of plate glass were factors that attracted new tenants/renters and customers. Isenburg mentions that outdated styles, like those buildings that hadn't been changed since the turn of the century, had weak market appeal and low property value compared to the new fresh modernized storefronts in the depression era. Not only that, the modernization of main street storefronts happened because of individual aspirations rather than the collective community. There was more focus on individual profit than the greater good of the community during this period of modernization. -C. Cary
After the war years, there was the issue of how to keep downtown up to date, and attractive for consumers. One way to try to attract businesses to rent buildings, was by updating and modernizing the exterior. Not only would the change in the style attract renters for the property, but hopefully consumers to keep the businesses going. The only issue is finding the most economical solution to the problem. There was this need to create a place that would attract revenue, but also not spending too much money so that the developers would be in an extreme amount of debt. -Mariah Morton
“What Should I Do with Property Now Considered Worthless?”: Canny Consultants Give Investment Advice
During the Depression, the United States’ first two confidential real estate investment newsletters emerged, with commercial property owners hesitating on whether to destroy or modernize, showing that the national market was unified by the Depression, there was a demand for expert advice, and that those in the real estate business wanted a “more responsible identity. Though the two magazines, The Real Estate Analyst and Chicago Market Letter, differed specificity and depth, both were local magazines that went from local to national, were in the “distinctive confidential newsletter format”, and showed the demand for information on national real estate investment. Unlike other journals, these two newsletters, focused on confidentiality, synthesized information from professional journals and raw government data, formed a new audience-the real estate investor, focused on investment decision making, and were up-to-date. Instead of presenting many sides and featuring long analysis, they had concise summaries in an assertive tone that stated why this research was relevant to investment. Both newsletters forecasted the future and shaped what the public would do (152-160). -Francesca Maisano
“Things Are Topsy-Turvy”: Wartime Recentralization
To the weary eyes of the economists who predicted that World War II would even further repress spending, especially in the city, they were sorely mistaken. With many materials and goods rationed, city dwellers had to find alternatives close-by. Much further compounding this, oil, rubber, and cars themselves became a very rare commodity, so shopping and purchasing had to be done much closer to where they lived-using other transportation. All this together created an economic boom for downtown, where before it was harsh competition, now hordes of shoppers flooded the streets. (Daniel Noel)
“An Age That Melts with Unperceived Decay”
The apparent vitality of downtown was being questioned and was being considered superficial economic health to cover up the decay and long-term deterioration of the city. Many of the businesses in downtown had fallen under hard times after the Depression, so the idea of recycling and reusing urban property was still prevalent throughout the 1940s. Investors were more focused on the aesthetic pleasure of the buildings rather than the physical integrity of them. They felt that it was better to rejuvenate and give a facelift to the existing stores and buildings, rather than starting over and tear everything down and rebuild from the ground up. However, some did implement the idea of tearing down and starting over, but most of the focus was on remodeling and fixing what was already there. - Devin Wright
“‘Downtown’ is Worried”
Following World War II, the downtown crisis formed from many different preexisting issues, like race and poverty, and some experts even think that in these years there was no true crisis yet. In the 1930s and 40s, fears of the downtown crisis were circulation within city planners and administrators, however by the 50s, the downtown crisis truly began to take shape in the public population. Even Eisenhower's Housing and Home Finance Agency chief feared widespread public concern because of all o the publicity that the “impending doom of downtown” was receiving. Many organizations and committees were formed n the 1950s that were centered around helping downtowns survived their impending fall, like the International Downtown Executives Association in 1954. New publications were even created to give downtown industries advice on survival, the most popular of which was called the Downtown Idea Exchange. Reporters commenting on downtown declined often used a variety of measurements to display the decline, including retail sales, store vacancies, lower “quality clients, loss of manufacturing, and overall congestion, despite the last factor being positive. This caused a lot of disagreement in terms of the severity of the impending doom of downtown. ~Morgan Gilbert
“The Vanishing Homemaker: “My Wife, Your Wife, and Your Neighbor’s Wife”
The downtown crisis in the 50s and 60s had an element of the domestic crisis. As women increasingly entered the workforce and chafed at traditional gender roles, there was a fear among urban planners that women would not want to shop in the same volume as before. Retail executives conjured up a “lost golden age” (184) when women’s main leisure activity was shopping all day long. The way to bring this golden age back was to make shopping appeal to women as an adventure or quest or to use skillful advertising to equate shopping with satisfaction. -Jason Elms
Downtown became a place that women could go to and spend time in that was considered socially acceptable. The shops in downtown really thrived off of the business that these housewives and other women provided. The problems would arise when more women were beginning to get jobs, and leave the home, creating less time for them to shop. There was this need to keep shopping appealing to women, the main consumer base, which would keep the businesses going. -Mariah Morton
During the 1950s, retail executives bothered themselves with the way housewives spent their entire days – not just during shopping hours. They also got into the habit of talking about their own wives and oriented their goals in order to make it “desirable for my wife, your wife and your neighbor’s wife to go downtown and shop”. The question became whether middle-class white women would go shopping during the daytime at all. Executives had to consider the possibility that shopping all day was losing its appeal to homemakers. -K.D.
The Mantras of Urban Renewal
The tearing down of large swathes of downtown was not an easy sell to many Americans. The proponents of urban renewal, like Albert Cole, utilized the language of obsolescence to persuade the public of the necessity of their vision. According to Cole the public often looked at downtown through the misty eyes of the past, but that they must look at urban spaces with the more mature eyes of the present to see their decay. He then challenged people to look with a third pair of eyes: those of the future, with a mind towards ambitious planning and revival. When the public saw the dilapidation of downtown with pragmatic eyes, the proponents of urban renewal thought there would be no other option to consider but the demolition of much-decayed space. -Jason Elms
“Downtown May Well Be Abandoned, or Else Be A Negro Shopping District”
Despite women being the lifeline of retail in the 1950s, women were often not included in the historical accounts of the downtown crisis and urban renewal. Shopping and the retail industries featured an extremely human dimension fo the economic crisis of downtowns. Downtown executives and city officials often tried to address the issue of who should and should not be in the downtown in order to limit the downtown crisis their area. They thought by improving the “quality” of the shoppers downtown, in reference to African Americans, it would make downtown more attractive and safer to their target customers of white, middle class, suburban women. Redevelopers had specific ideas in mind when revitalizing downtown in order to make it appealing to their “correct” target customers. During this time, retailers and their businesses were what was holding downtown together. Tax revenues and pedestrian traffic created by retail supported other businesses downtown, which made them incredibly valuable in terms of saving downtown. The suburbanization of retail drew more attention form renewal supporters than residential and industrial decentralization because of shaped regional economies more in their eyes. However, industrial decentralization was a major factor in the retail weakness of downtown as people without jobs can’t spend money downtown. ~Morgan Gilbert
Racial and ethnic problems continued to be an issue for urban developers. They saw catering to the poor and ethnic people as throwing away their precious downtown and creating an urban slum and ghetto simply by allowing ‘these people’ to use and own spaces in downtown, especially in mid-sized cities throughout the U.S. The grades of goods sold in the downtown would decrease to cater to a poorer client-base and the standards of the whole area would continue to decrease until it became a ghetto. -e.m.
The lumping of Black Americans with the long grocery list of pesky urban problems underscores the struggle minorities faced and foreshadowed the reliance on racial factors to explain all urban problems that followed riots in the mid-60s. “The Negro Problem” was what city planners were actually alluding to when they were discussing “The City Problem” – an idea that the black in-migrant was the source of all changes in urban life. -K.D.
“The Wrecking Ball of Obsolescence”
Albert Cole, the head of the Housing and Home Finance Agency in 1954 and 1955, was a very popular speaker around America. After the passage of the Housing Act of 1954, Cole was a major supporter and helped push forward urban renewal across America. Cole was trying to get American to support governmental destruction of buildings that they loved across America, which was a rough idea for the American people to support at first. Americans were still slowly removing themselves from the Main Street ideal during this postwar era. Cole and other urban renewal supporters called the previous downtown ideals as “old” and “obsolete.” Obsolescence was a powerful tool during this time period and its rendered certain districts powerless against urban renewal. “Obsolete” became a much more common word and it was featured in articles, newsletters, and even government reports in regards to some downtown areas. Cole said that urban renewal was the “elimination and demotion of our outworn past,” however he tried to remain sensitive about the attachments the American had with some features of downtowns. ~Morgan Gilbert
Suburban Shopping centers (malls) had both transformed and feminized the obsolescence standards of commercial aesthetics. In order for downtown stores to compete, radical ideas were exchanged proposing the challenge for a new facelift. According to Cole, the worn-out buildings of the past had to be eliminated completely, not just remodeled. -K.D.
Rebuilding the Downtown for Whom?
The rebuilding of downtowns after WWII moved away from any appeal it had to customers who were not middle-class white housewives in favor of the suburban strategy of boosting appeal to customers who were. In the case of bargain basements, department stores downtown began to build a strong base in low-income and non-white shoppers. Though redevelopers strongly believed that any integration was highly detrimental to business, this was not really the case in practice, and the bargain basements were very successful. (Megan Milonovich)
The participation of women in the redevelopment of downtowns was largly as consumers. Whereas women had previously been central to starting and pushing through city beautification measures, the largely male investors and developers viewed them as those who would only judge and consume the aesthetics of a space instead of actively participating in its formation at the same level as themselves. Developers built retail spaces to cater to middle-class white women, ignoring other demographics. Subsequently, the development of malls, in everything from the color schemes to the landscaping to the layout of the parking lot, was designed to be most efficient and pleasing to this specific group. (Megan Milonovich)
At the end of the 1960s, American business executives in cities, large and small, from all over the county were worried about racial violence threatening the strength of the economy, with the civil right protests from the mid-1960s heading into cities such as New York City and Los Angeles. The omnipresence and of fear of violence caused new standards to be constructed, with cities that lacked racial tension and violence elevated in terms of reputation and business prospects, while those with it had to confront, interpret, and rethink. There were many forms of violence that “threatened” urban economies, with urban renewal and highways destroying neighborhoods and community, protestors and demonstrations, such as against the Vietnam war, civil, riots, and an increase in crime, with the main one being civil rights protests. In the 1960s, racial conflict was brought to the forefront of commercial life in America, with sit-ins and massive demonstrations from 1960 to 1964, then a shift of attention to “ghettos” and retail practice, and after that looting and arson in the 1970s. The riots and boycotts were blamed for white-flight and the decline of downtown, but also made investors and shoppers think and led to new practices and values, drawing attention to the large impact of nonwhite consumers and forcing investors and retailers to respond. (203-206) -Francesca Maisano
Black Buyers: Downtown’s Overlooked Salvation?
The Civil Rights era was marked by mass demonstrations and also featured a prolonged struggle of integration of African Americans on main streets across America. The protest was mainly about the dislike of Southern and urban Northern businesses in regards to needing African American customers to stay afloat in the economic downturn of the downtown areas. Before the 1960s, most white Americans thought that the presence of African American people on any street would bring down property values. Supporters of urban renewal in the 19050s tried to end the trend of fear of African American shoppers downtown in many ways. They believed the destruction of African American neighborhoods, highway construction, and large rebuilding efforts downtown would help end the stigma. One 1962 report said that “the Negro population in major urban centers could be the salvation of downtown stores” to try and support this trend. More and more downtown business had to begin to shift their customer base in order to survive the changing American society, which was largely resisted. ~Morgan Gilbert
Patrons Gained, Patrons Lost: Integration and Main Street Values
When boycotts and demonstrations like sit-ins began to happen in downtown across the South, many store owners feared that integration would make them lose their white customer base. This ideology was obviously encouraged by white supremacists in hopes of deterring stores from integrating. Retailers also feared hiring African American workers as well as just serving them for fear of what their customers would think or do. Some managers in the 1960s would quit their job or close their stores before following the integration trend. However, despite many of the manager's fears, integration was often harmless, and often many stores had the same or increased customer traffic. The publicity demonstrators were receiving also helped integration in that they were described in a positive middle class, more sophisticated light instead of like hecklers. They were described as “neatly-dressed, quiet-spoken, articulate, and determined,” which made them more relatable and respectable to the rest of American society. ~Morgan Gilbert
The Riots - Merchants, the Poor, and Urban Rubble
Angry crowds rioted in the streets in the 1960's and it was no wonder why they were. They responded to Martin Luther King's murder and the injury of other African Americans with terrifying destruction. Groups of protestors gathered in the streets to break in windows or loot stores even burning building to the ground. Scared and upset police officers often shot looters and protestors and accidents took the lives of many. Hundreds of hundreds of cities watched this happen in their own streets. -K.D.
The immediate but usually most indirect effects of violence in the city centers was that people stopped going to downtown to shop. Clearly, people were less willing to go on shopping trips with threats of rioting in the air. Business slowed down or stopped completely in affected cities. Curfews became a popular way of calming down violence. Still riots sped up the process of the “white flight” and as the middle class left, downtown suffered even more. - K.D.
The Promise of Resurrection
Federal officials had to distinguish between “normal decay” in slums versus that decay produced after riots in an era during this time period. The typical decay was caused by the urban renewal programs that were taking place in cities, so on top of violent riots, large portions of cities were impacted. The very idea of urban renewal, or tearing down downtown main streets in order to save them, was irrational yet easily supported by the government. The integration agenda wreaked havoc on main streets and more damage and economic stress was added as riots and refusal to integrate continued. In the 1970s, the fear of urban decline was becoming incredibly real for downtown businesses in America. This force caused the creation of new experiments in downtown features and design. Festival markets, pedestrian malls, the National Trust’s Main Street Program, and the start of historic preservation are just some of the outcomes and advancements of these experiments. ~Morgan Gilbert
Soulless Shells? The multiple meanings of vacant stores
As variety stores such as Woolworth’s closed leaving vacant lots, many retail developers and investors took that as a poor sign which resulted in lowering property values. Other developers interpreted the closings differently. Woolworth’s itself highlighted the high turn over of retail locations in the past, citing the importance of actual locations as minor, merely soulless shells to vend merchandise. Many other developers took this philosophy to heart and encouraged the repopulation and remodeling of vacant downtown stores. Despite the presence of retail turn over in the past, the form present in the later decades was different. While the prior churn had replaced prime shops with more of the same, now vacant stores began to be filled with marginal retailers such as secondhand clothing stores. -Jason Elms
Downtown investors began looking to past architecture for inspiration after years of modernization- utilizing old materials such as bricks- particularly materials from areas like Chicago being brought to the South. Old downtown areas that had been destroyed or abandoned during modernization were turned into entertainment destinations, and urban renewal's destruction led to a sense of urgency to begin preserving places and things in the 1970s through the 80s. Investors found that recycling old buildings stimulated customers' nostalgia for the old city and increased profit. The new urbanism movement involved bringing ideas of nostalgia for the walking city and old architecture into new shopping centers and entertainment venues. Postmodern architecture borrowed from and reinterpreted the past, though intellectual critics were more skeptical of nostalgia’s place in downtown development and saw it as sort of a stage set up.
Consumers, as well as developers, debated the use of nostalgia, the longing for simpler times and more affordable shopping center in some ways showed a rejection of late-1900s consumer culture among consumers. In addition, developers were trying to appeal to the idea that consumers had “roots” in their vaguely historicized commercial location, but consumers often had more specific ideas of their historical “roots” tied to racial connotations, family stories, and personal experiences that were varied and not always in line with the nostalgic production of downtown.
Developers of downtown commercial establishments attempted to use history and nostalgia to re-invigorate the downtown area. In recreating historical sites developers could pervert history for commercial gain, which worried some. The decentralization downtown lead by the urban renewal project lead to a rise of mixed use commercial centers that attempted to market itself in a historical lens. –J.Binns
“Now the Animals Will Come”
By the 1970’s early retail thought that catered around the housewife began to fall by the wayside. Due to changes in the times more women were thinking independently, housewives of the 1950’s and 1960’s were the working women of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The contradiction of male retail planners designing spaces for women while still attempting to maintain their masculine planning would not go unnoticed and the need to reexamine female retail practices emerged. The failure of retail store to market effectively to a new generation of women had drastic effects on downtown businesses. -J. Binns
“People’s Eyes Glazed Over”: Main Street Preservation in the 1960s and 1970s
Festival marketplaces were a leading downtown revitalization strategy in American cities during the 1970s and 1980s. The guiding principles are a mix of local tenants instead of regional or national chain stores, design of shop stalls and common areas to energize the space, and uncomplicated architectural ornament in order to highlight the goods. Faneuil Hall, Ghirardelli Square, and Harborplace are examples of successful revitalization projects. ~ Deborah Hunnel
The Main Street historic preservation movement faced the same difficulties as the festival marketplaces but also didn’t have any flashy examples, with the first three cities in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main street program struggling in the 1970s and 1980s. There was no national following, but the movement would have a wide reach in smaller ways and would gain momentum. Main Street preservation had to convince individual owners of the economic benefit of history, instead of modernization, and the movement encountered more grassroots resistance. In the 1960s and 1970s, cooperative ventures such as bicentennial programs and campaigns for historic districts that introduced preservation to proprietors and investors, but most still resisted. While in the 1970s, preservationists were trying to increase the buildings’ market value, they were seen as taking them off of the real estate market. In order to be taken seriously, they also had to deal with the association with “feminine emotions” and “socialites’ causes.” In Pittsburgh’s South Side, there was a conflict between preservationists and merchants over preservation vs modernization. Chains such as Woolworth and Kress faced this conflict, with a gap between what the headquarters said the store's physical conditions were and what the truth was. Though most retailers continued to modernize, some started to encounter times and buildings where the old architecture brought people in and was something people admired, though upper management was often slow or did not want to respond.
In 1975, the National Trust for Historic Preservation started its Main Street Pilot Project, established the National Main Street Center in 1980, and sponsored “commercial preservation initiates” and gave preservation a lobbying voice at the national level. However, variety chains were not benefited by the Main Street preservation movement, unable to cater to nostalgia. (297-301) -Francesca Maisano
Ghirardelli Square, considered the first successful adaptive reuse project in the country, has a history that spans more than a century and covers three continents. This specialty retail and dining complex, housing shops and restaurants, was originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli. Between 1852 and 1895, Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory was located at four different sites before the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company took over the Pioneer Woolen Mills on North Point Street—today’s site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory & Soda Fountain and Ghirardelli Square. In the 1960s the chocolate manufacturing operation was sold. A group of San Franciscans, fearing Ghirardelli Square might be demolished, purchased the property. Unique shops and restaurants were created within the old factory, combining the latest in retailing and fine cuisine with the flavor of old San Francisco. The project officially opened on November 29, 1964. In 1982 the owners applied for and were granted National Historic Register status, a move that ensured the preservation of Ghirardelli Square for future generations. ~ Deborah Hunnel