Most of the cities tell a redemption story about themselves. They had a booming industry; it collapsed; now they are rebuilding with new industries and new wealth.
Many of the cities began their recovery with infrastructure projects that revived the downtown core. In Greenville, S.C., an ugly highway bridge was removed and replaced with a gorgeous walk along the Reedy River, which is now home to parks and cafes. In Fresno, Calif., the misbegotten pedestrian mall that crushed downtown development was bulldozed, and now there are human-size streets that encourage visits and activity.
A second common thread for these cities was that they were often led by business leaders who were both entrepreneurial and civically minded. In these places if you become successful, it is expected that you will become active in town life.