Thanks for replying. I see what you are trying to do and its very similar to mine. Although, my first thoughts are to go n scale to save space and not use minis. Thus I only need a space about the size of the game board locations size to stack monsters and heroes on at each location.
I agree with you on the whole making it look like a town also, but I think I have come up with a few tricks to help with that.
The layout can be manipulated so the streets make more sense as a town. Right away I wanted to avoid linking a straight street into another straight street like I have seen some others do. For one, it makes little sense in a town layout, and for two, I just hate the look, makes the entire town kind of a square box with the streets running around it. It also makes it hard to denote where one street ends and another starts. By playing with the layout, I found you can get all the same connections and make each neighborhood equal one street. So for instance, merchant district will be one street with the 3 locations located ANYWHERE on that street. Connecting neighborhoods are all one street also that meet up at an intersection of some type (T, X, or angles, whatever). So moving would be like so:
Investigator moves from Merchant street to University street to the science building (possibly to trade?), back to the university street, to French hill street, to Silver Twilight lodge…etc..
Streets can continue off the board to give the sense that the town continues beyond what is shown as long as they never cross another street they should not be connected too. All locations are located somewhere on the street or on a driveway or small dirt road connected to the street so moving is intuitive. (using this idea for various things like to place the asylum off in the corner of the board but still connecting to downtown street via a dirt entry drive lined by trees up a hill. Asylum will be based off Danvers Asylum like its supposed to be, but compressed down to managable size)
With this I have even started to think about how not all locations need to have entire buildings made. For instance the Asylum noted above could potentially be huge (Danvers was a sprawling building with many out buildings) Since I'm thinking that it's on a hill in the corner of the board with the drive up to the entrance, I only have to indicate the asylum is there by doing some of the front of it and cutting it off at the board edges, giving the impression it continues off the board. Maybe like if I placed the building diagonal in that corner.
The point is that there is alot of arranging you can do to make it look more like a town. If I get a chance, I will try to upload some sketches I have done of various road layouts that show quite a bit of variation. Things like the general store located next to Independence square and the church next to the graveyard and such.