As the economy emerges from the deepest recession in a lifetime, older downtown business districts are trying to redefine themselves in a way that will both improve surrounding housing values and support the mostly mom-and-pop businesses that dominate them.
Such districts have been written off many times since the advent of suburbia and the car culture, but the old towns persist. And some, including Overland Park and Brookside in the Kansas City area, are thriving.
There’s evidence that a desire by young professionals to be able to walk where they want to go may be a driving force in the economic health of these shopping districts. A study published last May by the Brookings Institution said housing in the farther reaches of suburbia suffered a decline in value during the recession while neighborhoods closer in held steadier or increased in value.