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About UrbanSoutherner

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  1. Thanks for the recommendation gsupstate!
  2. What is the best restaurant in the downtown Greenville area for a nice romantic dinner? I have been looking at the websites for Restaurant O, Devereaux's, Latitude, Larkin's on the River, and others. What do the Greenville residents who are familiar with these restaurants think? Thanks.
  3. The lack of historic fabric downtown is one of my biggest complaints about Charlotte. I like a lot about the city and have family roots there, but the city really bulldozed too much. My city of Altanta is not exactly a poster child for historic preservation, but it has still managed to save more of its downtown historic fabric than Charlotte (and without sacrificing progress might I add). That said, I do like a lot of the new architecture in downtown Charlotte. I certainly agree that many and perhaps most people like the new, but most people are suburban anyway. I believe that most people who live in or make visits to central cities like the mix of the old and the new. The historic structures give a city a certain sense of place and a feeling of authenticity that most suburbs lack.
  4. I think NASCAR is currently visiting Atlanta this week, so I doubt they are making a decision yet.
  5. I do wonder if the city really wanted to annex North Charleston in the late 1960s/very early 1970s when it may have had a chance prior to the area's separate incorporation. I would guess that North Charleston was a "navy town" at the time with a lot of what some might have called "seediness" so to speak. I mean all the naval property would have been tax-exempt and would have added nothing to the tax base. There were not a lot of upper income residential areas I do not think at the time in the area. I do wonder what kind of tax base it would have provided for the City of Charleston prior to later developments. It does seem like Charleston has annexed a lot of pretty high end property (now or eventually when developed). Cities do pay attention to more than just population, like whether an area will bring in enough revenue to pay for the services the city will have to provide to the area. And North Charleston seems to be becoming the lower income area of metro Charleston with serious crime problems, especially as peninsular Charleston continues to gentrify. In many ways, Mayor Riley's annexation efforts have turned Charleston into a increasingly affluent, white, and Republican city, while North Charleston has trended increasingly poorer, African-American, and Democratic. It is not what one would expect for the usual city vs. suburb equation, and it is ironic given that Riley is a Democrat. The changes can be seen in recent years in city council redistricting that reduced the number of African-American majority districts (due to the demographic changes) and in Riley's efforts to make city elections nonpartisan, which one must assume was triggered at least in part because Riley understood that many of the newly annexed residents in far flung "suburban" type areas lean Republican. Of course, another big change is that the majority of the city's residents no longer live on the peninsula. Furthermore, it really seems like Charleston will be in a much better tax base position than North Charleston going forward, especially if North Charleston continues to get boxed in by other cities. I think that this is a pattern we are seeing across urban America. The central cities are being gentrified, displacing poorer residents to older suburbs (e.g., North Charleston). Over the long run, that should make the inner ring suburbs rather than the central city home to many of the "urban problems" like poverty, blight, weak tax base, and crime that previously plagued the central cities. Indeed, it may be the older suburbs like North Charleston that end up with the double whammy of weakened tax base and high demand for services. So back to my original point, did Charleston ever really want to annex the area? Just a thought...
  6. And even after spending significant amounts of tax payer dollars on urban infrastructure and projects and picking fights over annexation, Mayor Riley winds up being very popular and easily re-elected. I think most Charlestonians realize that their city has been made much stronger and healthier thanks in no small part to Riley's leadership. The city has a urban redevelopment agenda most cities could only dream of and as you pointed out, a current city boundary that guarantees continued growth in tax base and population for the foreseeable future.
  7. I think it is due to one primary reason - Mayor Joseph P. Riley. Riley provides leadership for the City of Charleston that Columbia and Greenville both sorely lack. I think Charleston has a strong mayor form of government where the mayor really is the city's exective, whereas Columbia has a weak mayor form of government where a city manager runs things more so than the mayor. At any rate, Riley has been a great leader for Charleston, and I think he is largely why the city has been so aggressive annexing.
  8. I think the downtown layout and feel between Orangeburg and Spartanburg are similar, though obviously Spartanburg is larger and more prosperous with larger and newer buildings. But they both have a main street cutting across a square with a metal statue on a pedestal. The main street then angles somewhat before it continues if I am not mistaken. It is a similar layout and somewhat unique. Otherise, Orangeburg and Spartanburg are similar in that they both have confined city limits and have fallen precipitously in the state city rankings since 1960. Both end in "burg" and have a department of public safety (merged police and fire departments). That is about all I know about the similarities.
  9. Rome is a great little city with a nice downtown. Another Georgia town with a great downtown is Americus (the county seat of Sumter County where Jimmy Carter's Plains is located). Small town main street programs typically do several things like streetscaping, facade improvements, upper floor residential apartments over the first floor retail, the "right" mix of nitch businesses, and marketing with special events. Do you know if Orangeburg has facade improvements grants or low interest loans for facade improvements? I think facade improvements and upper level residential are really needed. I think Orangeburg has some of the better storefronts that I have seen in SC outside of the larger cities. A number I believe were covered over during the 1950s/1960s with the modern false facades, some of which have since been uncovered. I have seen other 1920s hotels like that one turned into everything from senior citizen housing to student housing to small hotels. I think tying in with the universities will help downtown. I also think they could use some attraction. My idea is a "South Carolina Civil Rights Museum" - especially given that most of SC's civil rights movement activities in the 1950s and 1960s occurred in Orangeburg because of all the college students there (my graduate history studies at USC are coming back to me now). There was an article in I think the NY Times recently talking about how southern cities are raking in tourist dollars and development from heritage tourism geared towards African-American themes. Given that Orangeburg was historically one of the if not the largest majority African-American counties in SC, is home to the oldest historically black college in SC (Claflin) and the largest historically black college in SC (SC State), and all the civil rights movement history there (see http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/sc1.htm and http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/sc2.htm), it seems to me to be a "no-brainer" to use heritage tourism as an economic development tool that could help revive downtown. Tourism is a big industry these days and Orangeburg could use some new economic development strategies given the local poverty and unemployment rates. Anyway, I hope the town can make something fall into place. I still think the city and county have to figure out a more productive economic development strategy generally (a common issue with lots of smaller cities in rural counties elsewhere).
  10. Orangeburg has some potential. The central part of the city runs from the Edisto Memorial Gardens and other parks along the Edisto River eastward through downtown and then on to SC State and Claflin Universities. The city's downtown area has some nice historic buildings. Unfortunately, many of them are vacant or underutilized. Only in recent years has the city really become proactive with downtown revitalization (streetscaping, etc.). The county is also trying to push an economic development vision of the county as a distribution and logistics center building on the presence of I-26 and I-95 along with proximity to the port at Charleston. The local option tax is also funding a number of good projects (completed and planned for the future) like a new public safety headquarters, a couple of fire substations, additional phases of downtown streetscaping, a major new park, etc. Orangeburg is still dealing with a number of issues that I think have held the community back, including a long time neglect of downtown and the older neighborhoods, the demolition of most of the nice historic houses in the neighborhoods immediately around downtown, high county poverty and unemployment rates, increasing difficulty attracting higher paying industrial jobs (blame globalism perhaps), high crime, and problematic race relations. But I think the city and county are both making progress on these fronts from what I hear. A town the size of Orangeburg will always have more limited opportunities for new urbanist type redevelopment and such than Columbia, Charleston, or Greenville due to the lack of a lot of young professionals who support such things (there are not a lot of professional jobs in a town like Orangeburg). I agree with Krazeeboi that the city should really focus on using the two universities as economic development tools and as a way to revive downtown. The eastern end of the county (Santee-Elloree area) has the tourism and retirement activities with Lake Marion to help development there. I have included below a number of photos from a few years ago when I was in Orangeburg. This is the first time I have tried linking photographs, so I apologize in advance for any problems. Below are some historic storefronts downtown... Below are a couple of detail shots of some storefronts downtown... Below is the square in downtown during a streetscape construction project (notice monument and church)... Below is a shot from the square towards the universities. The red building on the left is an old hotel and the red building on the far right is an old apartment building. Down the street in the distance, you can see a beige building that is a 14-story dorm at SC State and the tallest building in the town. These are Orangeburg's "skyscrapers" as such... Below is the old 1920s hotel... Below are some old warehouses and a 1950s apartment building... Below is city hall with the city auditorium to the rear... Below is an 1860s county jail... Below is a bank office that was the headquarters for SC Bank and Trust before it relocated its headquarters to a new building on Gervais Street in the Congaree Vista in Columbia. The bank still maintains part of its operations in Orangeburg... Below is relatively new streetscaping at the entrance to Edisto Memorial Gardens (view looking up the street towards downtown)... Below is the rose garden at Edisto Memorial Gardens... Below is another city park along the Edisto River...
  11. It does seem like nothing more than a tool for speculation. If you are only paying interest, then you must be betting that the price will appreciate and you can make some profit that way. It seems way too hokey to last.
  12. Watching the boom in intown Atlanta, I think a lot of it is indeed the interest only mortgages. I saw a figure that around half of all new mortgages in Georgia now are interest only, and much of that is probably in metro Atlanta. You also have people moving in from other regions of the country where housing has been higher for longer. To them, these prices in many cases seem low since they are used to higher prices. Beyond those forces, I am baffled by it as well. I wonder if it sustainable.
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