Back in the stone age, when I was young, we described different parts of town with specific words. In northwest Ohio there was downtown, but no uptown. There was the East Side, the West End and South Toledo. North Toledo was described by the various neighborhoods–Polish, German, Lebanese, etc.
That was simple. In August, Mom would take me downtown to buy school clothes, which, by October, by the way, I’d managed to mangle.
Over time, downtown disappeared, replaced by shopping malls—which also meant that the local stores such as Tiedtke’s and Lamson’s also disappeared.
Oh, there was still a downtown, but it was the haunt of lawyers, bankers, and others who were in a different caste from my family. There was the main branch of the public library, but libraries don’t define an area.
Where I live now, there is a city center with the various city offices and courts, but except for the main branch of the library, that’s it. Unless there is a food truck event, there isn’t a restaurant or even a drive-through, fast-food, franchise place in the “downtown” area.
There are (more or less) seven cities in this area: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach (in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone). The area has had various monikers—Hampton Roads, The Historic Triangle,* Tidewater, Virginia Beach (it’s the tourist attraction, after all), but none of them have ever been adequate. We’re still working on it. However, if there are lakes, rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean, there are more pressing issues than deciding on a metropolitan name.
We divide our area into the Peninsula, which includes Hampton and Newport News (along with Williamsburg, Croaker and Norge), the South Side, with the other cities, and various other areas like the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks just over the line in North Carolina.
*Jamestown—the first permanent English settlement, Williamsburg—an early capital of Virginia and arguably a birthplace of American Independence, and Yorktown—the last major battle of the American Revolution, after which British General Lord Cornwallis’s troops surrendered to George Washington.