Livability.com loves downtown Fort Worth.The website, which does various rankings of small and midsized cities, put Cowtown at the top of its new list of best downtowns.In addition to the horses, wagons and longhorn steers that parade through downtown Fort Worth, Livability.com also cited residential and commercial growth in its selection of Fort Worth for the No. 1 spot.“Few downtowns have achieved the cohesion between cowboy culture and urban sophistication that Fort Worth has,” the online resource said. “City and community leaders support a number of rehabilitation and improvement projects that help bring in more businesses, create a more walkable environment and ease traffic congestion.” Livability.com is owned by Journal Communications in Franklin, Tenn., a marketing firm co-founded in 1988 by a group including Alex Haley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots. The company creates content marketing programs in the areas of agribusiness, livablility, economic development and travel, with businesses and chambers of commerce as clients. according to its website.Matt Carmichael, editor of Livability.com, said the Top 10 downtowns list was started four years ago, although there was no list last year. In 2011, Fort Worth ranked No. 7. Other Livability.com lists include 10 Cities for Affordable Health Care, Best Places to Retire, Best College Towns and Best Small Towns.Carmichael said numerous public and private data sources are used to create the lists, including commercial real estate and U.S. Census information. But the downtowns list goes a little beyond the numbers.“You just can’t get the sense of a downtown in spreadsheet,” he said. To rank downtowns, Livability.com also looked at the ratio of people who live and work in the downtown.In a 2012 Downtown Fort Worth Inc. survey of downtown residents, 54.4 percent of the condo owners and 36.7 percent of apartment renters said lifestyle was the primary reason they were living downtown.Livability.com said good downtowns showcase the best of their communities, offer a high level of energy and give all residents a reason to come to the central city.Downtown Fort Worth has been a model for other cities since the opening of Sundance Square more than a decade ago. The November opening of Sundance Square Plaza in the heart of the city’s entertainment district was the latest addition in making downtown Fort Worth a destination. The 1-acre public gathering place, between Third and Fourth and Houston and Commerce streets, has a permanent stage, a 216-jet fountain that lights up at night and four 32-foot-tall umbrellas with twinkling LED lights.Early next month, ESPN will set up in the plaza to broadcast programming while the Final Four NCAA college basketball championships are held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.The website noted that Fort Worth had a 2.6 percent drop in retail vacancy from 2012 to 2013, 3.3 percent average income growth, and 6.6 percent unemployment.Following Fort Worth on the list are Providence, R.I.; Indianapolis; Provo, Utah; Alexandria, Va.; Frederick, Md.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Bellingham, Wash.; Eugene, Ore.; and, Birmingham Ala., in the 10th spot.Livability.com starts out with a list of 1,700 downtowns and narrows it to 30 to 50, from which the top 10 are selected, Carmichael said.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST