10 Great Streets in America, 2011

October 21, 2011 27 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The American Planning Association celebrates excellence in planning with a list of 10 Great Streets in America for 2011.

Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, California

Image courtesy of http://www.panoramio.com/photo/52838078

There was a time, not too long ago, where "you took your life in your hands just to cross Santa Monica Boulevard," said Jeff Prang, a member of the West Hollywood City Council. Today, despite 46,000 daily vehicle trips, this reconstructed main street embraces pedestrians, linking them to neighborhoods, landmarks, and traditions. A stroll along this iconic street, part of the legendary Route 66, yields distinct experiences. The west end is the center of the city's renowned lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community and nightlife. The eastern portion, a celebrated gathering place, runs through a culturally rich neighborhood of Russian-speaking immigrants.

U Street N.W.
Washington, District of Columbia

In 2009 when president-elect Barack Obama ordered a chili half-smoke at the famous Ben's Chili Bowl along U Street N.W., crowds flocked to the legendary eatery and the street it has anchored since 1958. U Street has gone through difficult times, particularly the lingering aftermath of devastating riots following the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today the street is pulsing again with the music, businesses and life that, in the early 1900s, distinguished it as the main street of Washington's "city within a city."

Front Street
Lahaina, Hawaii

Image courtesy of Aloha-hawaii.com at http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/maui/lahaina/

Front Street packs in everything that makes Lahaina, Lahaina: wooden storefronts, second-story balconies, public parks, art galleries, eateries, residential quarters, whale-watching tourists, children scurrying to and from school, elderly couples taking early-morning walks, bicycles and vehicles sharing the road, divine views of the majestic West Maui Mountains, Lahaina Harbor and island of Lanai, and an archeological site dating to the year 700. Major transformations have taken place since the mid-19th Century when Lahaina was a major port of call for whaling ships that resupplied here — and Front Street was lined with raucous taverns filled with sailors on shore leave.

Main Street
Galena, Illinois

Image courtesy of David Wickstrom at http://www.city-data.com/picfilesc/picc27654.php

Its alignment shaped by steep hills rising up from the banks of the Galena River, Main Street presents a nearly unbroken line of 140 buildings from the 19th century that help Galena live up to its reputation as "the town time forgot." Long a haven for Chicago residents and a destination for more than a million visitors each year, only cosmetic changes have affected the architecturally consistent and unified three- to four-story buildings that were reconstructed along Main Street following fires in the 1850s. Occupying these buildings today are a wide variety of businesses including antique stores, art galleries, restaurants, wineries, and a microbrewery.

Main Street
Nantucket, Massachusetts

Image courtesy of Bobak Ha'Eri at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sum04-118.jpg

Nantucket's Main Street is one of those American streets that defines the place it is located. Round, uneven cobblestones pavers bring an immediate sense of history and intimacy to Main Street whether a visitor is traveling by foot, bicycle, or car. Church spires, tree-shaded Greek Revival mansions, and the town's waterfront frame the views up and down the street. More than two dozen sidewalk benches, located next to the "Hub" and the local drug store, invite residents and visitors alike to sit and visit, watch the comings and goings of downtown Nantucket — or kids going sledding after a winter snowstorm.

Washington Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri

Once mostly vacant and deteriorating, Washington Avenue today has reversed decades of urban decline to become one of St. Louis's most popular districts. This downtown corridor — replete with residential and office lofts, boutiques, restaurants, and nightclubs — pulses with activity not seen since its garment district days, a time when sidewalks were filled with window-shoppers and buyers. A virtual museum of late 19th and early 20th century warehouse architecture clad in brick, stone, and terra cotta, this monumental corridor imparts one of St. Louis's most cohesive vistas.

Market Street and Market Square
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Image courtesy of Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival at http://newenglandfolknetwork.org/pmff/pix07.html

A public lottery held in 1762 paid for paving the Market Square in Portsmouth. In the 250 years since, the square and three streets originating from it — Market Street, Pleasant Street, and Congress Street — have remained the hub of downtown commerce and community life year-round. Portsmouth today is a vibrant regional destination for the arts, dining, and heritage tourism, but the city's economy hasn't always been so robust. Faced with declining industry during the 1950s and '60s, the city cleared portions of the downtown through urban renewal. Beginning in the 1970s, creative developers began rehabilitating historic industrial buildings on Market Street for conversion to residential and retail uses.

Davis Street
Culpeper, Virginia

Image courtesy of Culpeper Department of Tourism at http://www.visitculpeperva.com/photos.cfm

When a bypass for U.S. Route 29 took travelers out of downtown Culpeper in the 1960s, businesses in the 200-year-old town closed, trees grew through roofs, and crime plagued streets originally surveyed by a young George Washington. When Norfolk Southern prepared to demolish part of the historic train depot at the eastern end of Davis Street in 1985, residents and downtown business owners joined together to save the building. The effort led to a much larger revitalization effort that saw quick results: in 1993 Culpeper was named one of "America's Top 10 Small Towns."

King Street
Alexandria, Virginia

Historic, vibrant, and eclectic, King Street has been enhanced by active planning and implementation through its evolution from an 18th century colonial seaport and 19th century center of trade to a center of 21st century commerce and tourism. Planning and preservation have ensured that King Street, part of the "Old and Historic District" in Alexandria's "Old Town" neighborhood, balances the past with the present. The city's Archeological Protection Code, adopted in 1989, requires impact assessments on cultural resources for new development and a Board of Architectural Review ensures that designs for new construction and exterior alterations blend with the street's historic buildings.

Downtown Woodstock Streetscape
Woodstock, Vermont

Image courtesy of Woodstock Vermont Area Chamber of Commerce at http://www.woodstockvt.com/press_images.php

Downtown Woodstock's four principal streets — Central, Elm, North Park, and South Park — bring together scenic mountain skylines, early 19th century New England architecture, the center of community life, and 250 years of history. Elm Street has some of the oldest properties and most stately homes in Woodstock including the Dana House, F.H. Gillingham & Sons general store, and First Congregational Church, all of which were built during the early 19th century. Lying between North and South Park streets is The Green, Woodstock's community front yard, the location of a weekly farmers market during summer and fall, and the site of several more of the town's most impressive houses.

Full article: http://www.planning.org/greatplaces/streets/2011/

So what are Jacksonville's 10 greatest streets?