Dozens of America’s smaller cities are staging a comeback, as the countrywide re-urbanization that started in the biggest metropolitan areas trickles down. Thanks to low rents, cool eateries, and boho boutiques, it’s no coincidence that many of these revitalized neighborhoods are drawing new residents and tourists alike. Here are five we have our eyes on.
Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district is one of the biggest urban revitalization stories of the past decade. The transition of the once down-and-out neighborhood began with a 2004 renovation of Findlay Market, the city’s oldest public market. Then locally owned boutiques, innovative restaurants, eclectic bars, and start-up incubators set up shop as well. Sample A Taste of Belgium for waffles and beer, Quan Hapa for Asian street food, and Senate for gourmet hot dogs; and don’t miss the maple-bacon doughnuts at Holtman’s Donut Shop. Design-centric shops like MiCA 12/v and the Rookwood Pottery Company provide retail therapy. Coming soon: a Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail and a boutique hotel housed in a former ophthalmic hospital.
Milwaukee’s Third Ward, another abandoned 19th century industrial district, started its comeback after being named to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Historic Third Ward is a hub for artistic activity. It’s home to more than 20 art spaces and to the Broadway Theatre Center complex. Beyond the arts, visitors can stroll the Third Ward Riverwalk or check out the upscale boutiques along Broadway. Dining options abound. Pick up lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market or head over to the rooftop of Cafe Benelux for European fare. The new Kimpton Journeyman Hotel also sports a rooftop bar and restaurant, which is quickly becoming a neighborhood go-to.
The North Loop of Minneapolis has, historically, been the city’s industrial wasteland. Despite its proximity to downtown, the area was in epic disrepair during the 1970s and 1980s. But in the 1990s, bohemians and artists, in search of cheap space, set up shop and began to revive the neighborhood. Today, visitors can tantalize their taste buds at The Minneapolis Farmers Market or at acclaimed restaurants like Spoon and Stable and The Bachelor Farmer. Retail outlets worth scoping out include Cave Paper for handmade decorative paper products, the Foundry Home Goods, and MartinPatrick3 for tailored menswear. More proof that the neighborhood has transitioned will come later this year, when a century-old brick and timber warehouse will reopen as the 124-room Hewing Hotel.
Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has gone about its revitalization differently. The dilapidated neighborhood started taking a turn for the better with the introduction of big box stores around the turn of this century. Small restaurants and new housing came in after that. But Ace is the place that is creating a buzz among visitors. Crafted out of a YMCA, The Ace Hotel opened at the end of 2015 and has been attracting hipsters with its ultra-cool lobby bar and coffee cafe. It sports an old YMCA gym, which is used to host everything from weddings to dodge ball games to cornball tournaments. Add in the Hotel Indigo that opened around the corner in the fall of 2015, and one suspects that the adage “if you build it, they will come” will likely apply to East Liberty’s tourism trade.
Richmond, Virginia’s downtown, like so many others during the 1970s and 1980s, was the victim of the suburbanization and “mall-ification” of America. But during the past 10 years, people are returning, as the Broad Street Corridor develops into the city’s arts and culture hub. The planned VCU Institute for Contemporary Art will link the creative campus to the retail strip of Broad Street. There are currently several art galleries along that strip, and more are to come. The Quirk Hotel, fashioned out of a former department store, was actually developed by the owner of an eponymous gallery. The area, which also encompasses the historically African-American neighborhood of Jackson Ward, is home to several entertainment venues including Richmond CenterStage, The National theater, and the Hippodrome.