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East Side Urbanite

What cities are "peers" of Nashville?

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On the "peer city" theme, most of us would agree Nashville is competing in the "New South" with Austin, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa-St. Pete. But I would contend that within this general geographic area Oklahoma City is emerging as a peer (to an extent) of Nashville. Both OKC and Nashville are state capitals, both are perceived as the "main cities" in their respective states despite having strong "in-state rivals" (Memphis for Nashville and Tulsa for OKC), both are influenced by, but not dominated by, major universities (OKC by the University of Oklahoma in nearby Norman and Nashville by Vanderbilt University), both have city limits that cover large geographic areas (about 500 square miles for Nashville and 600 square miles for OKC), both have secured pro sports franchises relatively recently, both are located in fast-growing areas of the country and both have MSAs that are showing similar annual growth (about 2% for OKC and 1.7% for Nashville).

WW

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Much of what I've read lists Indy, Austin, Denver, Charlotte, and Portland as our peer cities. Obviously all of those have differences with our fair city, but most are real magnets for young people and have a great "brand."

I think OKC and Oklahoma generally kinda suck but I see the similarity with state/universities.

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I think Charlotte and Austin are the two we mainly look at, as those two have been among the tops in growth and development. We have fallen slightly behind in those terms (especially Austin all around)...but we are still close. I think our leaders would rather have us be competing with those cities that are ahead of us, or those leading the nation in growth, rather than those that we are passing (set the bar high, right?). That's why you don't hear as much about Memphis being our peer city as you did in, say the 90s (although they still really are one).

This would be my list as far as cities that compare with us in terms of size, importance, and culture

Larger peer cities: Austin, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Columbus, Raleigh-Durham (together)

Smaller peer cities: Jacksonville, Louisville, Memphis, Oklahoma City...perhaps New Orleans

I left off Las Vegas because it is not close to our region and we really don't have much in common, or much competition with them.

I also left off Milwaukee, Providence, and Hartford because we don't really *look* to them for anything (very different style cities), though they do have some things we can appreciate (Providence's food scene is awesome for its size -- Milwaukee is our sister city in terms of sports teams because of the Brewers/Sounds and Predators/Admirals partnerships). Culturally, we are quite different from those places IMO.

I also left off a couple of Virginia metros (Norfolk/Tidewater and Richmond) because I don't think we really look at them in terms of competition (in my mind, that's really what peer cities are about -- which cities are we most similar to -- in one way or another). In another state, I didn't pick Birmingham because I feel like that city seems to be standing still (growing a bit slower than Memphis).

I did include a couple of Midwestern cities (Columbus and Indianapolis) because they are bucking the rust belt trends, and are of similar size to us.

Kansas City and Orlando would be bubble peer cities in my book. Tampa-St. Pete is quite a bit larger as an area.

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Much of what I've read lists Indy, Austin, Denver, Charlotte, and Portland as our peer cities. Obviously all of those have differences with our fair city, but most are real magnets for young people and have a great "brand."

I think OKC and Oklahoma generally kinda suck but I see the similarity with state/universities.

What's wrong with Oklahoma ?

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Much of what I've read lists Indy, Austin, Denver, Charlotte, and Portland as our peer cities. Obviously all of those have differences with our fair city, but most are real magnets for young people and have a great "brand."

I think OKC and Oklahoma generally kinda suck but I see the similarity with state/universities.

I mean, nevermind OKC's booming economy and their light rail project that is really gaining momentum. I've been to OKC many, many times and it is basically a flatter Nashville without the huge live music scene.

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I mean, nevermind OKC's booming economy and their light rail project that is really gaining momentum. I've been to OKC many, many times and it is basically a flatter Nashville without the huge live music scene.

And 115 degree temps with bad food.

To the point of the topic though, I agree... In Charlotte we "like" to think we are in the same conversation with the Atlantas and Dallas' of the country, but I would definitely consider us to be more of a peer to Nashville, Austin and Indianapolis.

Edited by wend28

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So far so good with the discussion. Keep it coming. Glad we got a Charlotte resident to post. I've visited the Queen City three times (my sister lived in the Triangle for many years) and like it. NoDa and Dilworth areas are cool. Uptown has far more building density than our CBD.

WW

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I lived in Jacksonville (Jax) from 06-10 and can tell you in most ways it is not a peer city. I've never lived or been to a city where it has so much potential but is severely lacking, to say the least, outside of a few neighborhoods. Downtown Jax spans the mighty St. Johns and has an amunt of riverfront any other city would die for but it is severly underutilized. Jax has a few very good neighborhoods, San Marco, Riverside, and Avondale and are in close prximity to downtown, with San Marco abuting downtown's Southbank section. Downtown Jax onyl recently has started to awaken but the amount of vacant lots and surface lots is astounding, think back to images of Charlotte, NC in the 70s, it isn't much better than that. However, things the past 2 years, with a new administration, have focused heavily on downtown revitilization. Nashville is 15-25 years ahead of downtown Jacksonville and it'll take quite some time for things to turn around down there, and it's quite sad really. The sectors is has a leg up on us are the number of airports (Jax Int'l, Cecil Field, Craig Executive, and Herlong Airport), a solid employment base anchored by military and/or defense related and logistics, and of course JaxPort's 2 terminals, Blount Island/Dames Point and vicinity in the far northeast of the city and Talleyrand just east of downtown near EverBank Field.

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EDIT: Double Post

Edited by NashRugger

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The aforementiond Austin, Indianapolis, and Charlotte, definitely. To a slightly lesser extent Portland and Denver.

Here's another one, though: How about Pittsburgh? Similar in size, lots of high-tech and healthcare centric industry.

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Interesting topic. Nashville is so unique, that finding a peer city would be difficult in my opinion.

Nashville is or is close to being 'America's Third Coast'. That is, it is the alternative to New York and LA's music and entertainment influence. Because of that, Nashville is probably the only city on that list in the first post (other than New Orleans) that would rank in the top 15 on an international list of America's best known cities. It seems only Austin, of that list, provides an influence on American cultural that is close to being in league with Nashville.

However, Nashville's cultural reach is world-wide and is the best known brand , by far, of any of those other Cities. And it gets better; East Nashville is developing its own national reputation for it's own unique cultural vibe in music, literature and cuisine. It has been called the new Greenwich Village in the New York Times. And none of the other Cities noted (again with the exception on New Orleans) have an entertainment district on par with the lower Broadway/Second Avenue area.

When it comes to bricks and mortar, I've always felt that Nashville was sometimes more mid-western than southern. It has a grittiness to it's urban core and surrounding area that many booming, sun belt cities don't seem to have. It has a much larger stock of buildings in the ten to fifteen story range (nearly 100 per Emporis) that provide an urban density that these southern peer cities seem to lack. But Nashville is experiencing a boom typical of these southern peer cities, athough Columbus and Indianapolis, while not booming, are not in decline like much of the mid-west and north. Nashville lagged slightly behind Austin, Charlotte and the Florida cities growth-wise in the recent past, however there are signs the our City may be starting to get red hot as a destination for domestic migration of people and jobs.

All in all, perhaps Austin is the closest to being a peer city in my opinion. We are compared to Charlotte a lot, but I find the two cities different in too many ways. Charlotte has the banking HQ's, a moderately large downtown core, a northeastern migration base, and is a minor tourist destination. Nashville has the entertainment, auto and health care industries, a nice size downtown core with the expansion into SoBro, but it has an alternate urban core along West End with significant mid-rise density and is one of the nation's major tourist and convention centers.

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Hey Guys, This is my first post here. I'm on a few of the other similar sites and recently found this one. After lurking for a couple of months I just signed up.

Anyway, I usually think of Austin and Charlotte as the main competition for Nashville because they are the other two up and coming "mid-major" Southern cities. Both of those are slightly larger and have boomed a bit more in the last couple of decades. Austin and Nashville obviously have the connection as music hubs and as capital cities.

I think OKC and Indianapolis are also pretty good comparisons. OKC seems to have come out of nowhere the last several years and has some really nice development happening.

The Florida cities are interesting to think of. IMO Tampa is too big to really be a peer, and the history/culture of that city is just so different. Orlando is bigger and to me never seems like a "real" city (stereotyping, I know). And Jacksonville is just so under the radar, it doesn't really seem like a peer either.

Raleigh is the other city I tend to think of when I think of the "new south" cities, but it is a lot different b/c Raleigh on its own is a lot smaller, and the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel-Hill area is a tri-city whereas Nashville is the undisputed king of its metro area.

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I would expand beyond just Austin and Charlotte. I would definitely include Louisville and Indianapolis. Both are similarly sized (Louisville a little smaller, Indy a little bigger), and both are merged county-city governments. Their growth rates are slower than Nashville, but still healthy. I also get a similar "feel" when driving through or visiting these cities that I get in Nashville.

I think Birmingham and Memphis could both previously be considered peer cities, but I think Nashville has essentially passed them in the last decade and "moved on" to the next league in terms of competitors. I've lived in Memphis and strongly considered moving to Birmingham this instead of Nashville. Both seem to be stuck in terms of economic growth and population growth, and both have very large poverty stricken areas that cause their economic impacts to be much smaller than their population would indicate.

Oklahoma City is an interesting discussion.....it previously was too small to be a peer city, but it is rapidly becoming a peer.

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I would expand beyond just Austin and Charlotte. I would definitely include Louisville and Indianapolis. Both are similarly sized (Louisville a little smaller, Indy a little bigger), and both are merged county-city governments. Their growth rates are slower than Nashville, but still healthy. I also get a similar "feel" when driving through or visiting these cities that I get in Nashville.

I think Birmingham and Memphis could both previously be considered peer cities, but I think Nashville has essentially passed them in the last decade and "moved on" to the next league in terms of competitors. I've lived in Memphis and strongly considered moving to Birmingham this instead of Nashville. Both seem to be stuck in terms of economic growth and population growth, and both have very large poverty stricken areas that cause their economic impacts to be much smaller than their population would indicate.

Oklahoma City is an interesting discussion.....it previously was too small to be a peer city, but it is rapidly becoming a peer.

Yeah, I'd definitely not include Memphis. It may be competing with Nashville, but I just don't get the vibe that Nashville really even notices it (except for maybe issues raised by Memphis in state government), let alone thinks of them it a competitor.

Louisville is a good one that's been left off though. Spent a day there last summer and what little of the city I saw definitely reminded me of a smaller, ever-so-slightly less vibrant, Nashville.

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I wouldn't consider OKC a peer of Nashville. It's a nice enough city, and it is definitely doing some nice things. But just because they steal (yes, steal) a pro sports franchise and build a new skyscraper doesn't suddenly put them into a new level of metropolis in my opinion. Nothing against them, and I'm not saying Nashville is light years ahead by any means, but if OKC wasn't a peer city five years ago, it's not a peer now either just because of a new skyscraper and Kevin Durant.

I guess this is pretty subjective, but at least in my mind I organize some of the cities mentioned like this:

Charlotte

Pittsburgh

Cincinnati

Orlando

Milwaukee

Nashville

Austin

Norfolk/VA Beach

Indy

Columbus

Memphis

Raleigh/Durham

Louisville

OKC

Birmingham

Richmond

Winston Salem/Greensboro

Knoxville

Omaha

Edited by BnaBreaker

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I didn't mention OKC because of said Thunder and Devon Energy Center, and anyone who uses that as a basis is a moron really. OKC is a peer city now because they've vaulted onto the scene like McKayla Maroney did in the women's team finals. The amount of urban development going on, while mostly low to mid-rise is astounding and really meshing neighborhoods back together. Downtown is undergoing a massive streets revamping, light rail is on the way, and companies are flocking to the city left, right, and sideways. OKC is becoming an energy, biotech, medical, and aviation center as it has a low cost of living, very good commute times to any parts of town, and a very friendly environment.

What OKC truly lacks that we've got is a large tourism economy, and that's truly about it. OKC years ago was all about energy and it almost completely collapsed in the 80s/early 90s, as it did in Texas as well. OKC has done an amazing job revamping and diversifying its economy and the accolades have been non-stop for over 5 years. Devon Energy Center is just a huge monument to what has come with all this new investment, people want to live there. Just like us, don't the size of the city fool you, it's actualy fairly compact overall when compared to the 600+ square miles within the municipal boundaries it has in Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, & Pottwatomie Counties.

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I didn't mention OKC because of said Thunder and Devon Energy Center, and anyone who uses that as a basis is a moron really. OKC is a peer city now because they've vaulted onto the scene like McKayla Maroney did in the women's team finals. The amount of urban development going on, while mostly low to mid-rise is astounding and really meshing neighborhoods back together. Downtown is undergoing a massive streets revamping, light rail is on the way, and companies are flocking to the city left, right, and sideways. OKC is becoming an energy, biotech, medical, and aviation center as it has a low cost of living, very good commute times to any parts of town, and a very friendly environment.

What OKC truly lacks that we've got is a large tourism economy, and that's truly about it. OKC years ago was all about energy and it almost completely collapsed in the 80s/early 90s, as it did in Texas as well. OKC has done an amazing job revamping and diversifying its economy and the accolades have been non-stop for over 5 years. Devon Energy Center is just a huge monument to what has come with all this new investment, people want to live there. Just like us, don't the size of the city fool you, it's actualy fairly compact overall when compared to the 600+ square miles within the municipal boundaries it has in Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, & Pottwatomie Counties.

And good for them. Like I said, it's definitely a city on the rise. I am very aware of all that's going on there. I just don't see it quite as Nashville's equal just yet. But I'm just speaking for myself. Really just a matter of perception I suppose.

Edited by BnaBreaker

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I didn't mention OKC because of said Thunder and Devon Energy Center, and anyone who uses that as a basis is a moron really. OKC is a peer city now because they've vaulted onto the scene like McKayla Maroney did in the women's team finals. The amount of urban development going on, while mostly low to mid-rise is astounding and really meshing neighborhoods back together. Downtown is undergoing a massive streets revamping, light rail is on the way, and companies are flocking to the city left, right, and sideways. OKC is becoming an energy, biotech, medical, and aviation center as it has a low cost of living, very good commute times to any parts of town, and a very friendly environment.

What OKC truly lacks that we've got is a large tourism economy, and that's truly about it. OKC years ago was all about energy and it almost completely collapsed in the 80s/early 90s, as it did in Texas as well. OKC has done an amazing job revamping and diversifying its economy and the accolades have been non-stop for over 5 years. Devon Energy Center is just a huge monument to what has come with all this new investment, people want to live there. Just like us, don't the size of the city fool you, it's actualy fairly compact overall when compared to the 600+ square miles within the municipal boundaries it has in Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, & Pottwatomie Counties.

OMG!! OKC covers 600 square miles???!!!! Wow! No wonder its population is quite large... and its metro is smallish. At least Metro Nashville's population in a county of 500 square miles is concentrated along the spine of the Cumberland (There's really nothing in the northern part of the county). So there I don't see much similarities.

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OMG!! OKC covers 600 square miles???!!!! Wow! No wonder its population is quite large... and its metro is smallish. At least Metro Nashville's population in a county of 500 square miles is concentrated along the spine of the Cumberland (There's really nothing in the northern part of the county). So there I don't see much similarities.

MLBrumby,

I do see some similarities (though far more differences). As I noted in the first post of this thread, both OKC and Nashville are state capitals, both are perceived as the "main cities" in their respective states despite having strong "in-state rivals" (Memphis for Nashville and Tulsa for OKC), both are influenced by, but not dominated by, major universities (OKC by the University of Oklahoma in nearby Norman and Nashville by Vanderbilt University), both have city limits that cover large geographic areas (about 500 square miles for Nashville and 600 square miles for OKC), both have secured pro sports franchises relatively recently, both are located in fast-growing areas of the country and both have MSAs that are showing similar annual growth (about 2% for OKC and 1.7% for Nashville).

Your argument (correct me if I'm wrong) is essentially that OKC benefits from being so geographically large. One could counter by noting that there are folks in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (two cities some people compare — and wrongly so — to Nashville) say Nashville benefits from being so geographically large.

I guess it's all about perspective.

WW

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One could counter by noting that there are folks in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (two cities some people compare — and wrongly so — to Nashville) say Nashville benefits from being so geographically large.

I guess it's all about perspective.

WW

I'm curious here, why do you feel that it is wrong to compare Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to Nashville? I'm not set on either being considered a peer, just curious what your reasoning is there.

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I'm curious here, why do you feel that it is wrong to compare Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to Nashville? I'm not set on either being considered a peer, just curious what your reasoning is there.

I'm not ESU, but my perspective is that those cities are quite a bit different in their makeup compared to us. Both are Rust Belt cities that are quite a bit smaller in land area and population (a product of the era in which they grew). Both had populations that peaked in the 1950s. Both have lost a significant amount of population in the last 60 years. Pittsburgh has lost over 371,000 people since the 1950 Census (nearly 55% of its peak) and Cincinnati has lost more than 207,000 since the 1950 Census (41% of its peak population). Those are HUGE numbers.

These are two cities that thrived during America's industrial age, and are very built up in their cores. There are not many similarities at all in the built environment.

Now I know that doesn't mean there can be no comparisons whatsoever...both are river cities, and both have similar geographic constraints (hills) as we have here. We can always learn things from these cities...but in a sense, that's not what we're aiming for. Because of the age in which we are growing, we are looking at the other growing cities as peers. I struggle to call cities like Portland or Denver peers, but I think we want to lean more towards that direction of growth than to what Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are doing.

Cincinnati, Pittsburgh...those cities are grouped with the likes of Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee...they are a bit more urban than us...but also a bit more stagnant in terms of growth.

As a side note, if Nashville and Cincinnati had a baby, it would be named Louisville.

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I'm curious here, why do you feel that it is wrong to compare Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to Nashville? I'm not set on either being considered a peer, just curious what your reasoning is there.

Cincy (my brother lived there for two years as a UofC student) and Pittsburgh are old-school river towns with a sea of vintage built fabric. The downtowns of the two cities may as well be like Manhattan (especially Pittsburgh) compared to Nashville's downtown. LOTS of density (with both older and newer buildings). Both cities are nicely side walked for many miles outside the central business districts and have many mixed-use districts that are, in scale and scope, much more impressive then, say, our 12South and Five Points districts. For example, Carson Street on Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh is particularly impressive. Block after block of shops, bars, restaurants, churches, etc. It's big time and there is nothing in Nashville (or many U.S. cities, for that matter) that is even remotely close. In short, comparing the built environments of the two to Nashville is simply folly. Population within a large land mass (which we have relatively close to that of Cincy and Pittsburgh) does not a peer make. Now, in other metrics, the Ville can hang with those two.

WW

Edited by East Side Urbanite
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I spent an afternoon and evening in Austin over Labor Day weekend and think Nashville is considerably behind the curve in terms of built environment and urban infrastructure. Granted, there are surface lots galore in Austin but the core city is more connected and walk-able than Nashville, with more transit opportunities--the bike taxis are an especially fun amenity. The relatively flat geography of the inner city may have something to do with the ease and connectivity in contrast to Nashville's more chopped up districts. However, Nashville's man-made divisions; the interstate loop, rail beds and industrial leftovers along the river in East Nashville make an outsize contribution to dividing Nashville's urban districts. It needs to do a better job bridging these gaps and diversifying modes of transportation among its districts.

Also, Austin has done a much better job creating outdoor recreation spaces most notably its river front. Nashville is making small strides in this area but has a long way to go to bring people to the Cumberland.

The similarities between the cities are many; both are state capitals, host to large universities, hotbeds of music and culture nationally. What's notable is that Austin has come to prominence without many of the amenities that many business and civic leaders would have us believe are necessities; pro sports teams, arenas and stadium, huge convention centers, etc. Instead, Austin has played up its uniqueness and inherent strengths. It's a liberal enclave in a conservative state, a high tech hub (home of Dell, Google and Facebook have offices in the city) in a state dominated by the energy and construction economies. It plays up a conservationist, green image (corporate HQ of Wholefoods) and contains a well-defined growth boundary with a green belt, while most of Texas is content to sprawl infinitely. But then again, Austin is something of a small fry and underdog in its own state, overshadowed by Houston, Dallas and to a lesser degree, San Antonio and therefore has to find ways to compete with those cities. Nashville on the other hand, is the front runner in Tennessee.

Anyway, just some random, pointless thoughts on the two cities.

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I've been doing an analysis of this topic from the Austin POV.  Started off with over a dozen cities including Jacksonville, Seattle, Denver, Virginia Beach, Albany, OK City, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Charlotte and Pheonix but whittled it down to the following short list ranked in order of closeness to the set (chosen by myself) of measures:

 

1 - Raleigh

2 - Sacramento

3 - Nashville

4 - San Antonio

5 - Portland

6 - Indianapolis

 

Interesting that we are more akin to three other cities outside of Texas over the one just 70 miles down the road........

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Interesting that you would revive this post, as I think Nashville is "peerless".  However, I'd agree that SA, Portland and Sacramento (somewhat) have a lot of character. This commonality is reflected in a certain amount of tourist trade... and that's not even counting the expected convention business that Nashville is about to see.

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