Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Downtown, Uptown: What do YOU call the Center of Town?

"D" is for Downtown in the A to Z Challenge.

Most towns around America seem to call the center of town "downtown". The term Downtown originated in Manhattan, where south is "down" and north is "up". Downtown referred originally to the southern end of Manhattan. Uptown was what was north of downtown.

As Downtown brought to mind busy shopping districts, towns across America referred to their busy centers as "downtown", although there was no real "up", "down", or sideways logic to it.

Of course the song Downtown by Petula Clark raised "downtown" in the consciousness of Americans.
The Season Three season opening of LOST used the song to great effect (second only to the season 2 opening featuring Mamma Cass's Make your own Kind of Music, which is in my mind the most brilliant opening sequence to any TV show ever.)

Of course, 1983 was the year of the Uptown Girl

"Uptown" became widely acquainted with affluence, high class, etc...

A quick google search of uptown yields many businesses that have adopted the name, not the least of which is my own favorite Uptown, The Uptown Keyport Bar and Grill.

I was living in Charlotte, NC in 1987, having moved there when I was 12 in 1975. The Charlotte Powers That Be (TPTB) decided that "uptown" had a more positive feel to it than "downtown", and so they adopted it to describe the heart of the city. The first printed usage (according to Wikipedia) of "uptown" in Charlotte was in a 1987 article in the Charlotte Observer. Supposedly, Mayor John Belk used the term in a 1974 proclamation.) I always found the term kind of pretentious, and never have used it myself. At some point, Charlotte started calling the area "Center City." I still call it "downtown".
(I mean, it isn't like there is another area of Charlotte that is designated "downtown", so you aren't really going to confuse anyone by using any of the three terms, I think.)

As a small town, when you are developing your marketing plan for your re-vitilization campaign, it would be a good thing to seriously consider how you are going to refer to the center of town. If you are trying to keep an older, historic feel, "downtown" might be a good choice. If you are trying to appeal to a baby boom generation that might recall the 80's fondly, perhaps "uptown" would be a good choice. If you are afraid of appearing either too old fashioned, or too pretentious, then something like the "heart of town" might work.

There are a lot of choices, but these days none of them are easy ones. Every term carries a certain amount of baggage.

"D" is for Downtown, and April is Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. I've often pondered the whole "Uptown vs Downtown" thing. I grew up hearing and useing "Downtown". My aunt, who lived on a farm used Uptown. Not sure why.

  2. Well, as small towns across America disapper into strip mall suburbia,a lot of small,up,down....towns are only memories. The ones that do survice, should be cherished! Even Nick cartoons are using the term no-where-ville.

    When I run into such a town in my travels....I tend to stay awhile....and soak it in!

    Dave Powers