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UrbanSoutherner

SC's Small Urban Centers

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This topic is intended to spark discussion about the small urban centers in South Carolina.

It was inspired by in part by a Columbia topic post about whether the state was going to become nothing but commuter communities for Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville-Spartanburg, or would the smaller urban centers grow and maintain some importance.

Below are the 16 urban areas (using the US Census Bureau's Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters) with over 25,000 people in SC according to the 2000 numbers.

423,410 Charleston

420,537 Columbia

302,194 Greenville

145,058 Spartanburg

122,984 Myrtle Beach

85,581 North Augusta/Aiken

77,831 Mauldin/Simpsonville

70,436 Anderson

70,007 Rock Hill

67,314 Florence

64,320 Sumter

46,227 Beaufort

42,064 Clemson

37,924 Greenwood

34,400 Hilton Head Island

30,418 Orangeburg

For the purposes of this topic, I want to talk about the smaller, older, "traditional city" urban places in SC. So, we start with the 16 above areas. If we remove the five with over 100,000 (Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and Myrtle Beach), we are left with 11. If we remove the suburban ones (Mauldin/Simpsonville is clearly suburban Greenville and North Augusta/Aiken is actually part of the August UA), we are left with 9. If we further remove the resort boom towns in Beaufort County (Beaufort and Hilton Head Island), we are left with 7. I will also remove Clemson since it is really the stringing together of a number of towns (Seneca, Clemson, Pendleton, etc.). That leaves 6. I know that Rock Hill and Anderson are trending suburban, but I will leave them in for the purposes of this topic since they are still decent sized towns in their own right and were historically so during the twentieth century.

Interestingly, the six remaining urban areas left (Anderson, Rock Hill, Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, and Orangeburg), rounded out the top ten municipalities in the state for most federal censuses between 1900 and 1960 along with Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Spartanburg. Those were the days when municipal populations actually reflected the true size of a place. So these six cities really were the smaller historic urban centers after the four main ones. They have decent sized historic intown areas with a real downtown, old mill districts, 1920s bungalow neighborhoods, etc. They have some urban density. They also serve as financial, shopping, employment, and medical centers for the surrounding region (usually several counties). They are urban with a small "u".

Now to the point of my topic. What do you think the future is for these six cities collectively and individually? What are their strenghts and weaknesses? Are they destined for stagnation or will they share the state's growth with the larger urban centers? Can they grab a part of the "new information age economy"? Will young college grads want to live in these communities? Can Richard Florida's creative class develop in these cities? Can you be small and hip or high tech or booming without being a resort area or major university town? What can they do to be competitive? Again, the cities are Anderson, Rock Hill, Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, and Orangeburg.

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Of those it would seem that Rock Hill would have the best chance. Again this is because its so close to the Charlotte boom. But it will probablly end up just being known as the bedroom community of CLT. The other cities I would say maybe Orangebur since SC State is there, but the city would have to really make an effort to keep young talent there, most State grads go to Columbia, Charleston, Charlotte, or ATL. I think in order to thrive in the "new" economy cities are really going to have to make an all out effort to market a high quality of life.

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Within 20 years - the following urban areas will no longer exist - combined into larger ones:

North Augusta/Aiken

Mauldin/Simpsonville

Anderson

Rock Hill

Clemson

Also, Greenville & Spartanburg will finally merge into a more cohesive urban mass, most likely not pretty - so we can also scratch out:

Spartanburg

Lastly, coastal SC is starting to develop like FL - there will be growing towns with increasingly large populations but with minimal economic impact, but for this criteria I will exclude Myrtle Beach:

Beaufort

Hilton Head Island

So I like to think as these being the primary urban centers of SC - they serve a greater region economically.

Charleston

Columbia

Greenville

Myrtle Beach

Florence

Sumter

Greenwood

Orangeburg

We know the big 3 cities, and we know Myrtle Beach continues to grow. The question marks are what the futures of Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, & Orangeburg. As the big 3 grow in size, I see them develop as other sunbelt cities have - as they grow closer to 1 million (Greenville already hitting that mark), their influence over rural areas & neighboring satellite cities increases. Though not suburban, Sumter & Orangeburg may transition into Columbia's CSA as independant micro / metro areas, additionally Greenwood may enter Greenville's - though not as likely. Still, Greenwood will have decreasing primacy but will grow steadily.

Leaving:

Charleston

Columbia

Greenville

Myrtle Beach

Florence

I would even suggest Myrtle Beach & Florence will operate in tandem - leaving 4 primary focal points.

Ta-da.

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Interesting choises there. I would argue that Rock Hill is more suburban Charlotte than it is its own place because it is within Charlotte's MSA.

Either way, Anderson has my vote. Anderson has the best position overall- its near Lake Hartwell, Clemson (sports etc) and other regional colleges, I-85, Greenville, but it has enough of its own stuff to make it its own MSA. It is only connected with Greenville on the CSA level (as is Spartanburg). Knowing what I do about Spartanburg, and assuming things are similar in Anderson, I must conclude that it is well poised to maintain its identity for years to come and still be a viable urban area. With the growing trend of urban revitalization I am suprized that we aren't hearing more about projects in Downtown Anderson.

Of these places I think Orangeburg might have the worst position. It seems to have less going for it than any other city. It could feed off of Columbia's growth if Columbia started growing more south than north. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Myrtle Beach and Florence would need to do alot of growing, but they could become a significant metro if they were to join even at the CSA level.

I believe that Spartanburg will retain its own MSA in the text census. If you look at the commuting patterns, the percentage of people driving to Greenville has dropped considerably. The CSA will remain though.

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Interesting choises there. I would argue that Rock Hill is more suburban Charlotte than it is its own place because it is within Charlotte's MSA.

Either way, Anderson has my vote. Anderson has the best position overall- its near Lake Hartwell, Clemson (sports etc) and other regional colleges, I-85, Greenville, but it has enough of its own stuff to make it its own MSA. It is only connected with Greenville on the CSA level (as is Spartanburg). Knowing what I do about Spartanburg, and assuming things are similar in Anderson, I must conclude that it is well poised to maintain its identity for years to come and still be a viable urban area. With the growing trend of urban revitalization I am suprized that we aren't hearing more about projects in Downtown Anderson.

Of these places I think Orangeburg might have the worst position. It seems to have less going for it than any other city. It could feed off of Columbia's growth if Columbia started growing more south than north. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Myrtle Beach and Florence would need to do alot of growing, but they could become a significant metro if they were to join even at the CSA level.

I believe that Spartanburg will retain its own MSA in the text census. If you look at the commuting patterns, the percentage of people driving to Greenville has dropped considerably. The CSA will remain though.

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Good points Spartan. I do not see Orangeburg or even Sumter being overtaken by Columbia given current growth in Columbia (which of course is more to the northwest, north, and northeast towards places like Camden and Newberry. I also agree that Spartanburg and probably Anderson will remain separate MSA's from Greenville for the foreseeable future. Spartanburg and Anderson are still very much viable cities in their own right without Greenville, although proximity to Greenville is a definite plus. And I agree that these smaller cities like Anderson have not seen significant downtown projects other than the standard small town main street revitalization stuff. That is one reason why I put Spartanburg in the larger category. It has downtown projects and plans more along the level of Greenville, although on a smaller scale of course. There are downtown residential and mixed use developments in the larger cities. I still do not see that in the smaller cities.

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Good topic. Firsthand, I can really only speak of Rock Hill, since it is where I currently reside, and Orangeburg, since I am a native of Orangeburg County.

We already see Fort Mill becoming a bedroom community of Charlotte, and it is really only a matter of time before the trend reaches Rock Hill to the extent that Fort Mill is being affected, although I don't think it's there yet. But for the time being, the city has realized that it hasn't capitilized on its college-town advantage. Also, Rock Hill has an abandoned textile corridor that is quite an eyesore; my alma mater, Winthrop, partially borders this area. There are plans to redevelop this part of town known as "Old Town", as well as other areas in and around downtown. I believe that these will be key to helping to attract a creative class to the city. Also, Rock Hill has been developing a tourism industry which has a significant basis in sports. The city has a pretty good parks system, and attracts at least two national sporting events annually: a disc golf championship, and a fast-pitch softball championship. Not to mention that the Winthrop men's basketball team has been having phenomenal seasons for the past few years. Lake Wylie, in York County, also brings a few events to the county. So the area has a lot to offer, but being in such close proximity to Charlotte does work against the area. If I didn't have plans to go back to Winthrop for my master's, I'd probably be living in Charlotte myself.

Orangeburg has a few advantages, the biggest being the colleges and universities in the city (SC State, Claflin, O-C Tech, Southern Methodist) and also a bit of tourism in the city and county (Edisto Gardens, Festival of Roses, Edisto River/Santee Cooper area). However, the county has been losing population and really finds it hard to retain industries, but isn't that almost every area's story now? My mom was laid off from two plants, Raytheon (formerly known as Hughes Aircraft) and Federal Mogul. Both plants moved to other cities; I know Federal Mogul moved to Alabama, and I forget where Raytheon moved (although I also want to say that it moved to Mexico?). At any rate, I really don't see anything in the immediate future that would help attract members of the creative class, although geographically it has an advantage, not being as close to either Columbia or Charleston as Rock Hill is to Charlotte.

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However, the county has been losing population and really finds it hard to retain industries, but isn't that almost every area's story now? My mom was laid off from two plants, Raytheon (formerly known as Hughes Aircraft) and Federal Mogul. Both plants moved to other cities; I know Federal Mogul moved to Alabama, and I forget where Raytheon moved (although I also want to say that it moved to Mexico?). At any rate, I really don't see anything in the immediate future that would help attract members of the creative class, although geographically it has an advantage, not being as close to either Columbia or Charleston as Rock Hill is to Charlotte.

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Krazeeboi, I think you hit the key point here. I know both Orangeburg and Sumter have a significant part of their work force in manufacturing. They have other things (the universities in Orangeburg and Shaw AFB in Sumter), but they are heavily dependent on manufacturing. And it seems that the future there is not bright. I know Sumter has suffered numerous layoffs and plant closings in the past several years. And then what if BRAC targets Shaw AFB for closure. My point is that manufacturing was there in the 1950s and 1960s as agriculture in these areas was mechanized and it provided jobs for those displaced farmers and agricultural workers. And the salaries were relatively good for the local economies at least. But now fast forward to today. What is the new thing that will take over in the communities if manufacturing jobs continue fleeing? Will it be low end service sector jobs at Walmart? Those are not going to build the local economy the way that manufacturing did in my opinion. The jobs of the future just do not seem to be rushing to these smaller urban centers. Yes, Rock Hill and Anderson will do fine due to their proximity to larger cities. But what about Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenwood, and Florence. If Richard Florida is right with his creative class theory, the jobs of the future can locate anywhere. They will therefore locate where the labor pool of creative workers is located. And by and large, that is not in these type of communities. Most of these folks seem to prefer larger places with greater amentities. Just because you build it does not mean that they will come. Greenwood has a wonderful biotech park and incubator that has been largely a flop. I am pessimistic about the long term future of these communities if they are not near a larger place or on the beach.

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Just to cover my butt - keep in mind that CSA's do not equate the range of development. I don't think Columbia will grow to Sumter or Orangeburg - but that those large towns will grow towards Columbia, commuting patterns will evolve over time leading to them joining Columbia's CSA as Newberry & Camden have. Also - we're talking about 20 years or so, SC's cities have changed a lot in the past 20 years themselves. Also - I didn't say Florence & Myrtle Beach will merge into a CSA - but will act as dualing MSA's, metro areas that serve the same region.

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.... Also - I didn't say Florence & Myrtle Beach will merge into a CSA - but will act as dualing MSA's, metro areas that serve the same region.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree that I don't think Florence and Myrtle Beach will merge into a CSA. Florence simply isn't growing that much, and the vast majority, in fact almost all of Myrtle Beach's growth is in the extreme eastern end of the very large Horry county. West of Conway, Horry is pretty unpopulated and Marion and Williamsburg counties are practically empty. Florence only just meets the definition of a MSA of 50K people. Florence is a non-issue to Myrtle Beach.

If the Myrtle Beach/Georgetown CSA would combine with anything, it will most likely be with Wilmington, NC long before it ever got close to Florence. But I don't think that will happen for a long time. Myrtle Beach is just too remote from almost anything else.

This isolation is one of the reasons that Horry is known as the "Republic of Horry".

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Within 20 years - the following urban areas will no longer exist - combined into larger ones:

North Augusta/Aiken

Mauldin/Simpsonville

Anderson

Rock Hill

Clemson

N. Augusta/Aiken already is a part of the Augusta UA. Great topic btw, UrbanSoutherner. I'm interested in seeing where you got the data on Aiken/N. Augusta, since it's part of a larger UA. I'm not doubting the information, I've just never seen UA's split up before. The number looks about right for the number of people living in that urban corridor.

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N. Augusta/Aiken already is a part of the Augusta UA.  Great topic btw, UrbanSoutherner.  I'm interested in seeing where you got the data on Aiken/N. Augusta, since it's part of a larger UA.  I'm not doubting the information, I've just never seen UA's split up before.  The number looks about right for the number of people living in that urban corridor.

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If you navigate to the right place on the Census Bureau website, you can find the Urbanized Area and Urban Cluster information. You can pull it up alphabetically or by state. If you pull it up by state, it will give just the portion of the UA or UC that is in the particular state. So you can see how many people live in the SC part of Augusta's UA or Charlotte's UA. You can find the links for these options at the following URL:

http://www.census.gov/geo/www/ua/uaucinfo.html#lists

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UrbanSoutherner, good points. However, I would also like to point out the fact that many in Orangeburg County, including my mother, realized that the manufacturing sector was in rapid decline in the area and decided to go back to school. My mom received her bachelors from Claflin University in 2001, and actually got laid off from the first plant (Raytheon) while she was still in school. There are others, family members, church members, etc. that have gone on to pursue graduate studies or just take classes for personal career advancement at the local technical college. They don't exactly represent the classic demographic in Florida's book (the majority of these folks are over 30 with spouses and families), but they do represent an increasingly educated work force. However, the jobs just simply aren't there. There are folks who have a masters who make in the low 30's. So while it's good that many people realize that in order to be competitive they will need SOME type of degree, the downside is that the area simply cannot provide the types of jobs which their degrees have prepared them for (and everyone can't be a nurse). So I'm really not sure how the city/county is handling this situation. But if something doesn't happen relatively quickly, the situation will not get any better.

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I'd like to resurrect this topic and take a different approach to it, namely, how are these areas urbanizing? What is the future of our smaller urban areas in terms of mass transit, density, pedestrian-friendliness, etc.?

Specifically, I'm referring to the smaller urban areas not part of a larger metropolitan area, so I'm not including Rock Hill, Anderson, and Aiken. Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, Orangeburg, etc. all are fair game here.

As far as Orangeburg is concerned (since I'm much more familiar with it than the others), I don't really think it's on the radar. I mean some nice things have been done and are planned for downtown, such as the streetscaping project, but that's pretty much it--and downtown really only consists of one street. I have yet to hear how the city plans to bring some activity to Russell Street--the city's main street--after 5pm. And I certainly haven't heard anything about a bus system being established.

Comments?

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I'd like to resurrect this topic and take a different approach to it, namely, how are these areas urbanizing? What is the future of our smaller urban areas in terms of mass transit, density, pedestrian-friendliness, etc.?

Specifically, I'm referring to the smaller urban areas not part of a larger metropolitan area, so I'm not including Rock Hill, Anderson, and Aiken. Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, Orangeburg, etc. all are fair game here.

As far as Orangeburg is concerned (since I'm much more familiar with it than the others), I don't really think it's on the radar. I mean some nice things have been done and are planned for downtown, such as the streetscaping project, but that's pretty much it--and downtown really only consists of one street. I have yet to hear how the city plans to bring some activity to Russell Street--the city's main street--after 5pm. And I certainly haven't heard anything about a bus system being established.

Comments?

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The Census Bureau artificially separated Mauldin-Simpsonville from the Greenville UA and it will likely be reabsorbed into Greenville after the 2010 census. Greenville UA will have expanded more into Pickens County, heading towards Clemson and Anderson and Clemson are getting closer and closer. Greenville UA already reaches into Spartanburg County with Greer being part of the UA, which brings Spartanburg closer to being absorbed into the UA, but it will be 2020 or later, as Spartanburgs suburban expansion is relatively slow.

Rock Hill will likely become part of a larger Charlotte UA, which also swallow Gastonia after 2010.

Even the neck of neighboring Lancaster County is urbanizing.

The whole Grand Strand is urbanizing from Georgetown to the North Carolina line. Calabash, NC is linking the northern reach of Myrtle Beach to Wilmington.

A Savannah urban area could begin forming on the South Carolina side around Hardeeville withing the next few years but could take several decades to become recognizably urban.

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There was an interesting post in the Rumor Mill which will significantly impact Anderson's growth and it's relationship to Greenville. Rumor has it that Audi is about to announce plans to build a manufacturing facility in Anderson County along I 85 between Anderson and Greenville. If this happens on the scale that the rumor talks about (700 acres!) it will likely create a Greerlike situation between Anderson and Greenville which will connect not only Anderson and Greenville but will bring Seneca, Clemson and Easley (and all the other towns in that area) together.

The problem is that none of it is very urban. Anderson does show some positive signs. The downtown is just now beginning to get business interest again. Until recently it's all been "main street boutique" style stuff. I've also noticed a large number of apartment complexes and housing developments with good density around town. That's a departure from years past. Add to that the density being proposed by a couple of mixed use projects around Exit 19 in Anderson and I'd say it has a good chance of seeing significant growth before the next census and some of that growth will be urban in nature. There was even a recent article in the local paper about how the small bus service in Anderson is thriving. They are talking about how to connect better with Clemson's CAT service (which is also thriving). Currently there is only one connection point.

On the downside - much of the development west of town toward Hartwell Lake is still really poorly done. 1 acre lots and terrible sprawl. The intersection of 187 and 24 is a good example. In the near future there will be three supermarkets at that intersection all with big parking lots in front and space for fast food drive throughs... so sad.

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I'd like to resurrect this topic and take a different approach to it, namely, how are these areas urbanizing? What is the future of our smaller urban areas in terms of mass transit, density, pedestrian-friendliness, etc.?

Specifically, I'm referring to the smaller urban areas not part of a larger metropolitan area, so I'm not including Rock Hill, Anderson, and Aiken. Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, Orangeburg, etc. all are fair game here.

As far as Orangeburg is concerned (since I'm much more familiar with it than the others), I don't really think it's on the radar. I mean some nice things have been done and are planned for downtown, such as the streetscaping project, but that's pretty much it--and downtown really only consists of one street. I have yet to hear how the city plans to bring some activity to Russell Street--the city's main street--after 5pm. And I certainly haven't heard anything about a bus system being established.

Comments?

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^ If we're talking downtowns, having not been through Greenwood in several years, I'd still doubt that it's making more progress than Aiken's downtown. It's easily in the best shape it's been in my lifetime. Aiken's DT is tiny, but nearly fully occupied, busy, and with few unsightly parking lots breaking it up... There's also some efforts to expand the scope, especially down Park Ave. Here's a rundown of a few recent projects going back about 5 yrs, but mostly recent and proposed (off the top of my head).

York St:

African-American Cultural Center

Organic Grocer

Lots of home renovations

Park Ave:

Multi-million dollar replica of Aiken train depot (to house exhibit and event space)

New 3-floor townhomes

Dense "Charleston-style" housing expanding into the "less-desirable" areas of the city

Renovated building into 2-floor upscale grocery store (with an amazing somewhat exotic meat selection)

Several smaller successful retail projects

Newberry St:

Aiken Playhouse (600+ seat theater)

Washington Group offices (part of Playhouse project)

Townhouses behind Richland Ave streetwall

First Methodist expansion

Richland Ave:

Chamber of Commerce building (probably 5-10 yrs old now)

Gas/service station being transformed into Pizza Joint (very popular dt Augusta restaurant)

Restaurants/bars at Hotel Aiken and adjacent

Laurens St:

New 3-story structure (8 $800,000 condos on upper floors and 4 retail spaces on 1st)

Renov. of 2nd largest DT structure - 5 new already-leased retail spaces on Laurens

Trinity Lutheran home

Several new restaurants in The Alley (Takosushi, Ferrandos, DaVors)

Morgan St/Toole Hill:

5 story rental building

Ashley Terrace condos

Demo of majority of sub-standard homes/replaced with new affordable housing by ANIC

Yeah, this isn't the Aiken thread. Just wanted to showcase the good things happening around downtown. That's not to say suburban growth isn't still dominant. And even in Aiken Co, I think No. Augusta is the real superstar in that they're completely redefining their city in a very positive urban way.

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^You should add that information to the Aiken thread.

I think that we should look at downtowns and real urban growth in these cities as well as suburban growth. How are these cities growing? Where? Are there any cities out there that are seeing a revitalized core, while their new growth areas are slowing down?

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Topher, you provided some details to what I was going to say, in that I think that Aiken does the best job of urbanizing in terms of our small urban centers. Even though it's in a larger metro area, it does a great job of retaining its identity as a distinct city. I also think it does better than our other small urban centers economically, largely thanks to SRS.

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