Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
East Side Urbanite

Is Nashville a "second-tier" or "third-tier" U.S. city?

44 posts in this topic

As our city continues to elevate its status among U.S. cities, the time could be right for this question:

 

Is Nashville a "second-tier" or "third-tier" U.S. city? I ask because it is important to know the city's realistic potential and to understand those cities with which we are in a competition of sorts. It is also helpful to see on a list those cities that might be slightly ahead of us so that we can better understand what we need to do to get to that point. My apologies if I have excluded any obvious choices.

 

This is a very subjective exercise, but I rank the nation's largest cities in three categories:

 

 

1-A. First Tier. This trio simply is on a different level in every respect.

 

New York, Chicago, L.A. 

 

 

1-B First Tier. These eight would all be respected on an international level.

 

San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Boston, Philly, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston

 

 

2. Second Tier. These 11 cities have many of the characteristics of the aforementioned 1-B First Tier cities have but on a smaller scale.

 

Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Portland, Phoenix, St. Louis, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Cincinnati

 

 

3. Third Tier. These cities have some characteristics of the cities in Tier 2 but, in comparison, are not as large and/or lack mass transit and/or lack building/people density and/or lack major cultural elements. There are upwards of 35 cities that could be placed into this tier but here are the ones that stand out. 

 

Austin, Charlotte, Indy, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa/St. Pete, Kansas City, New Orleans (though I am tempted to put in Tier 2), Raleigh-Durham, Buffalo, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Columbus, Providence

 

 

Some folks might be tempted to place Nashville in Tier 2, but I simply don't see us on the same level as a, say, Seattle or Denver.

 

 

Thoughts?

 

WW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I'll play. So, if those are the tiers, then yes Nashville fits solidly in 3. That is, not on a par in terms of population, density, global recognition, mass transit etc with most in your tier 2. "Third tier city" doesn't have a nice ring to it, though, so maybe we should call it 2B.

I might quibble with a few of the other cities. e.g., I'd have Minn/St Paul in your 1B and would put Portland and Cincinnati in the 3 group. But that leaves a pretty small tier 2.

Cleveland probably still merits 2nd based on its history, but population has slipped.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought splitting cities into 'tiers' is a bit complicated. There are so many factors to consider.

 

I do agree that the top 3 are undisputed...however, I would actually bump Washington D.C. to join them, purely because of the political and economic clout it demands on a global scale. 

 

From here, you decide if the next group is also tier 1, or tier 1b, or even tier 2 (rather than having sub tiers, you could simply say that there are many tiers of US cities -- and put Nashville in tier 4 or 5 with most of the cities you listed in its company). In essence, would you consider the difference between tier 1a and tier 1b to be the same as the distance between tier 1b and tier 2?

 

As for your breakdown, I think you did a great job. I only have a few minor disagreements. Based on your system:

 

Tier 1a

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. (as mentioned before, because of political power)

 

Tier 1b

Bay Area, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Miami

 

Tier 2a

Seattle, Detroit, Phoenix, Denver, Twin Cities

 

Tier 2b (added, because I think there is a modest difference between the cities above -- primarily that the cities above have a stronger regional influence, IMO)

San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore

 

Tier 3a 

Portland, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Orlando (bump for tourism impact), Las Vegas (same as Orlando), Charlotte (barely above the next group because of growth, and superior economic impact...GDP), Sacramento

 

Tier 3b (same as tier 2 split)

Austin, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Columbus, Raleigh-Durham, Milwaukee, New Orleans

 

Tier 3c (IMO, there is a noticeable split between the cities above and this group)

Providence, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Buffalo, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Richmond

 

Tier 4 would include cities like Tulsa, Syracuse, Rochester, Boise, Omaha, Charleston, Columbia (SC), Hartford, Bridgeport, Madison, Tucson, Fresno, Winston-Salem/Greensboro, Knoxville, etc.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll add to UT's reasoning... There are cities that are clearly on the way "up" (Austin Las Vegas) despite bumps in their way and others on the way "down" (Detroit)... and still others that are just holding (Pittsburgh and Kansas City).  Those are just seat of my pants examples, but nevertheless, the point is made.

 

And there's the old "major league" (MLB and/or NFL) designations referring to professional sports between Tier 1 and 2, but then Los Angeles would NOT make the list for "All Sports" and Green Bay is clearly not Tier 2.  What would you do with Las Vegas with no teams?  So to UT's point, it's too fluid to put into tiers.  There are some cities that won't be where they are now in 10-15 years. 

Edited by MLBrumby

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought splitting cities into 'tiers' is a bit complicated. There are so many factors to consider.

 

I do agree that the top 3 are undisputed...however, I would actually bump Washington D.C. to join them, purely because of the political and economic clout it demands on a global scale. 

 

From here, you decide if the next group is also tier 1, or tier 1b, or even tier 2 (rather than having sub tiers, you could simply say that there are many tiers of US cities -- and put Nashville in tier 4 or 5 with most of the cities you listed in its company). In essence, would you consider the difference between tier 1a and tier 1b to be the same as the distance between tier 1b and tier 2?

 

As for your breakdown, I think you did a great job. I only have a few minor disagreements. Based on your system:

 

Tier 1a

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. (as mentioned before, because of political power)

 

Tier 1b

Bay Area, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Miami

 

Tier 2a

Seattle, Detroit, Phoenix, Denver, Twin Cities

 

Tier 2b (added, because I think there is a modest difference between the cities above -- primarily that the cities above have a stronger regional influence, IMO)

San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore

 

Tier 3a 

Portland, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Orlando (bump for tourism impact), Las Vegas (same as Orlando), Charlotte (barely above the next group because of growth, and superior economic impact...GDP), Sacramento

 

Tier 3b (same as tier 2 split)

Austin, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Columbus, Raleigh-Durham, Milwaukee, New Orleans

 

Tier 3c (IMO, there is a noticeable split between the cities above and this group)

Providence, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Buffalo, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Richmond

 

Tier 4 would include cities like Tulsa, Syracuse, Rochester, Boise, Omaha, Charleston, Columbia (SC), Hartford, Bridgeport, Madison, Tucson, Fresno, Winston-Salem/Greensboro, Knoxville, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Well done, Kevin. Enjoyed reading this post.

 

WW

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll add to UT's reasoning... There are cities that are clearly on the way "up" (Austin Las Vegas) despite bumps in their way and others on the way "down" (Detroit)... and still others that are just holding (Pittsburgh and Kansas City).  Those are just seat of my pants examples, but nevertheless, the point is made.

 

And there's the old "major league" (MLB and/or NFL) designations referring to professional sports between Tier 1 and 2, but then Los Angeles would NOT make the list for "All Sports" and Green Bay is clearly not Tier 2.  What would you do with Las Vegas with no teams?  So to UT's point, it's too fluid to put into tiers.  There are some cities that won't be where they are now in 10-15 years. 

Points well made, Mr. Brumby.

 

WW

Edited by East Side Urbanite

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was in the early part of my business life, according to the industries I was in a.k.a. financial, telecommunications, Nashville was considered a Tier 2 city.

 

It's really a moot point just like who is really the best team in college football. It's an endless circular argument. It is just not an issue with me. Nashville has many intangibles that some of the Tier 1 cites don't have.

 

I would say Nashville is Tier 2, but as I state, it's not an issue to me. If I were not in Nashville, I would be living in Manhattan, NYC. That is my dream city. The second would be London, Third would be Tornoto, 4th would be Edinburgh, 5th would be Geneva.

Edited by Urban Architecture

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the GaWC's ranking of world cities, given their importance to the world economy;  http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/world2012t.html.

 

In this taxonomy, Nashville ranks as a "sufficient" world city, alongside San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Birmingham, AL.  They have enough of an economy to be self-sufficient and maintain a level of growth due to some value-added services and manufacturing they provide, but they aren't notable for being regional hubs.  I happen to love Nashvegas and have brought many friends through over the years to visit, but IMHO it's nowhere near a Tier 2 city.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As our city continues to elevate its status among U.S. cities, the time could be right for this question:

 

Is Nashville a "second-tier" or "third-tier" U.S. city? I ask because it is important to know the city's realistic potential and to understand those cities with which we are in a competition of sorts. It is also helpful to see on a list those cities that might be slightly ahead of us so that we can better understand what we need to do to get to that point. My apologies if I have excluded any obvious choices.

 

This is a very subjective exercise, but I rank the nation's largest cities in three categories:

 

 

1-A. First Tier. This trio simply is on a different level in every respect.

 

New York, Chicago, L.A. 

 

 

1-B First Tier. These eight would all be respected on an international level.

 

San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Boston, Philly, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston

 

 

2. Second Tier. These 11 cities have many of the characteristics of the aforementioned 1-B First Tier cities have but on a smaller scale.

 

Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Portland, Phoenix, St. Louis, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Cincinnati

 

 

3. Third Tier. These cities have some characteristics of the cities in Tier 2 but, in comparison, are not as large and/or lack mass transit and/or lack building/people density and/or lack major cultural elements. There are upwards of 35 cities that could be placed into this tier but here are the ones that stand out. 

 

Austin, Charlotte, Indy, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa/St. Pete, Kansas City, New Orleans (though I am tempted to put in Tier 2), Raleigh-Durham, Buffalo, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Columbus, Providence

 

 

Some folks might be tempted to place Nashville in Tier 2, but I simply don't see us on the same level as a, say, Seattle or Denver.

 

 

Thoughts?

 

WW

Cincinnati above Tampa/St.Pete and Columbus? Pittsburgh above Charlotte? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


The original post seems about right to me in ranking cities by size and overall development-definitely as to NYC/LA/Chicago, which belong on a worldwide list with Hong Kong, London, etc., but I would say that New Orleans, Nashville and Las Vegas have a national and international cultural recognition beyond their size that puts them in a special category.  I would bet Nashville cuts a much larger figure worldwide than Milwaukee, for example, although they're about the same size.  IMHO Disney World/Epcott/their convention business haven't conferred quite the same status on Orlando as a city, that is, although it certainly is an international destination, people don't go there to see the city of Orlando.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes on both counts.

Cincinnati with Dayton I could understand, but alone against the Tampa area is wishful thinking. Also, Charlotte is larger, growing faster, and has a much higher GDP than Pittsburgh. There is no way Cincinnati is a tier two city if Charlotte and Tampa are not.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The original post seems about right to me in ranking cities by size and overall development-definitely as to NYC/LA/Chicago, which belong on a worldwide list with Hong Kong, London, etc., but I would say that New Orleans, Nashville and Las Vegas have a national and international cultural recognition beyond their size that puts them in a special category.  I would bet Nashville cuts a much larger figure worldwide than Milwaukee, for example, although they're about the same size.  IMHO Disney World/Epcott/their convention business haven't conferred quite the same status on Orlando as a city, that is, although it certainly is an international destination, people don't go there to see the city of Orlando.

Exactly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Austin 3rd tier? They are the 11th largest city in the US.

And Jacksonville is not far behind them, what's your point?

 

This 2nd and 3rd tier stuff is semantics really. The GAWC rankings are a better gauge, IMO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Austin 3rd tier? They are the 11th largest city in the US.

 

If all cities were exactly the same size in terms of square miles that might mean something, but in reality, I think city limits populations mean very little in the grand scheme of things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


My take;

 

My ‘tiering’ of these Cities is based on how much a city impacts American culture, economy and politics and not so much based so much on population, although larger cities will obviously have more impact on those areas.

 

My Nashville rating is based on

·        a high score for culture as we are the ‘Third Coast’ now. And Nashville’s growing academic sector is way ahead of many of our peer cities.

·        Our influence on the economy is about right for our size

·        and I think our influence in politics is above normal as our state has historically been considered a border state with a more moderate electorate and leadership than most (recent electoral trends however may threaten that status).

 

World Tier 1 -                    New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC,

USA Tier 1 -                      San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia

USA Tier 2 -                      Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, Denver, St Louis, Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis

USA Tier 3 (Traditional) -  Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Louisville

USA Tier 3 (Rising) -         Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Jose

Edited by PHofKS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And Jacksonville is not far behind them, what's your point?

 

This 2nd and 3rd tier stuff is semantics really. The GAWC rankings are a better gauge, IMO.

The point was they are the 11th largest city and is considered tier 3. Seems odd. Then please explain what the differences are now. I am sure YOU can tell us. How is tier status determined? I always thought it was population.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My take;

 

My ‘tiering’ of these Cities is based on how much a city impacts American culture, economy and politics and not so much based so much on population, although larger cities will obviously have more impact on those areas.

 

My Nashville rating is based on

·        a high score for culture as we are the ‘Third Coast’ now. And Nashville’s growing academic sector is way ahead of many of our peer cities.

·        Our influence on the economy is about right for our size

·        and I think our influence in politics is above normal as our state has historically been considered a border state with a more moderate electorate and leadership than most (recent electoral trends however may threaten that status).

 

World Tier 1 -                    New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC,

USA Tier 1 -                      San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia

USA Tier 2 -                      Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, Denver, St Louis, Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis

USA Tier 3 (Traditional) -  Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Louisville

USA Tier 3 (Rising) -         Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Jose

Seems like a good breakdown. I am curious why Louisville is above us. We have more universities, professional sports, the music industry etc.. They are known for horse racing and Papa Johns!

 

Many years ago the "tiers" were based on population and market size. Well, I am leaving this discussion before I am questioned, called an idiot, or called illogical. I have learned what topics, and what threads to post  in around here. I'll leave this one to the mighty academics on the board. Nash has already called me out once already on what my point was, so you guys have fun!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seems like a good breakdown. I am curious why Louisville is above us. We have more universities, professional sports, the music industry etc.. They are known for horse racing and Papa Johns!

 

Many years ago the "tiers" were based on population and market size. Well, I am leaving this discussion before I am questioned, called an idiot, or called illogical. I have learned what topics, and what threads to post  in around here. I'll leave this one to the mighty academics on the board. Nash has already called me out once already on what my point was, so you guys have fun!

I put Louisville in the 'Traditional' category of tier 3 while Nashville is in the 'Rising' category of Tier 3. I have them both in tier 3, I just differentiated one group from another. The are equal rankings in my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My take;

 

My ‘tiering’ of these Cities is based on how much a city impacts American culture, economy and politics and not so much based so much on population, although larger cities will obviously have more impact on those areas.

 

My Nashville rating is based on

·        a high score for culture as we are the ‘Third Coast’ now. And Nashville’s growing academic sector is way ahead of many of our peer cities.

·        Our influence on the economy is about right for our size

·        and I think our influence in politics is above normal as our state has historically been considered a border state with a more moderate electorate and leadership than most (recent electoral trends however may threaten that status).

 

World Tier 1 -                    New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC,

USA Tier 1 -                      San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia

USA Tier 2 -                      Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, Denver, St Louis, Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis

USA Tier 3 (Traditional) -  Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Louisville

USA Tier 3 (Rising) -         Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Jose

 

 

Very well done, PHofKS. I like your line of thinking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The point was they are the 11th largest city and is considered tier 3. Seems odd. Then please explain what the differences are now. I am sure YOU can tell us. How is tier status determined? I always thought it was population.

UArch,

 

It's much more than population. PHofKS has a nice explanation. (see above). 

 

As to Jacksonville being the 11th largest U.S. city (by population), that is very misleading, as the city limits of Jacksonville are a massive 747 square miles. Pittsburgh, by contrast, is only 55.5 square miles. 

 

WW

UArch,

 

My bad. Austin is the 11th largest by population. 

 

Still, Austin's city limits are about 270 square miles, much larger than the city limits of most other U.S. limits. So it's hard to compare by population only.

 

WW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cincinnati with Dayton I could understand, but alone against the Tampa area is wishful thinking. Also, Charlotte is larger, growing faster, and has a much higher GDP than Pittsburgh. There is no way Cincinnati is a tier two city if Charlotte and Tampa are not.

JHam,

 

I'm probably biased toward older cities that have strong building/people density, lots of  well-established cultural attractions (museums, zoos, universities, parks, etc.) and vibrant, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods. In those respects, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are much more impressive than Charlotte and Tampa/St. Pete. I've visited all four and find each appealing in its own way. I much prefer Cincy over Tampa (though YBor City is very cool) and Pittsburgh over Charlotte. BUT I can see how some might have all four in the same tier.

 

WW

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

UArch,

 

It's much more than population. PHofKS has a nice explanation. (see above). 

 

As to Jacksonville being the 11th largest U.S. city (by population), that is very misleading, as the city limits of Jacksonville are a massive 747 square miles. Pittsburgh, by contrast, is only 55.5 square miles. 

 

WW

UArch,

 

My bad. Austin is the 11th largest by population. 

 

Still, Austin's city limits are about 270 square miles, much larger than the city limits of most other U.S. limits. So it's hard to compare by population only.

 

WW

 

I don't want to get started on too big of a tangent, but Jacksonville suffers from the same statistical plague as Nashville, as it is a consolidated city-county government. Much like Nashville, the vast majority of development is concentrated in a much smaller area than the 747 sq mi city limits. Pretty much any consolidated city compared to a traditional or older city is an apples to oranges comparison as far as density goes. The older cities are certainly more dense, even if you shrank the boundaries of the consolidated city to similar sized areas of development, but I do think that the density comparisons should be carried out at the Census tract level, not city boundaries. It's much the same as comparing metro areas that encompass large geographic areas (either due to having counties of physical large size, or because of commuting patterns) to areas with smaller boundaries.

 

It's nice to make all these comparisons, but it's not an exact science. My thought is the best approach, when comparing cities' populations, is to use a matrix of several different criteria (city population, metro population, combined metro population, tv market, density, weighted density, etc).

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The point was they are the 11th largest city and is considered tier 3. Seems odd. Then please explain what the differences are now. I am sure YOU can tell us. How is tier status determined? I always thought it was population.

You need to chill out, I was simply going off what you've said, population of the city, which doesn't have a significant amount of sway and wondering if that was your only basis. Jacksonville is a prime example, 12 or 13th largest in the country (whichever stats you use) yet has a pitiful economic presence overall. Military, shipping/logisitics, and some tourism is really about it. I'd put them almost in 4th tier in that sector, it leaves A LOT to be desired economically and has seemingly regressed the last 20 years. 

 

The GAWC rankings from Edinburgh are pretty spot on, at least to me, because they take into account several factors, like population, transit, economy, influence, etc. to develop the equation. PH's Tier 3 rising cities are heavily in the driver's seat for the next decade.

 

I can see Nashville moving to "High Sufficiency" for the 2014 GAWC rankings and perhaps see Austin go Gamma -.

Edited by NashRugger

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Something else to consider in determining the status of a cities influence over American and world economy, culture and politics is the concept of a City-State. Just as they did in renaissance Europe, the Cities, more-so than nations, were the seat of power and influence over large areas which included other smaller cities in the region.

 

I once saw a map and ranking of American cities 'area of economic influence'. In other words, it included areas regardless of state boundaries where the primary city was economically dominate over all the other cities in its City-State area. Nashville's AOEI included Huntsville and northern Alabama, Chattanooga and up to Bowling Green Kentucky. It was ranked 22nd largest in the country. I have since looked and looked for that web site since then, but haven't been able to find it.

 

However, that ranking helps explain to me why Nashville seems bigger than its population would indicate. As I travel around the country, I make a point of scheduling my trips so I can spend the night in a large City and do at least a 'drive around' to get a feel for the Cities size and character. So I am very familiar with most American cities and I have always been amazed at how big Nashville seems compared to its peer cities. It has a lot of old building stock, mixed with modern building stock. We don't have the tallest or biggest downtown skyline, but when it comes to 10 to 20 story buildings, Nashville compares favorably with a lot of 'larger' Cities. But most importantly, is the density and urbanization of the Midtown area. Nashville's dense urbanization (an area where people live, work and play) spreads out over a 40 block area, east to west, and is a good 10 to 15 blocks north to south. 

 

NashArial1_zps43bf015f.jpg

(Screen cap from Bravo Networks show, "Thicker Than Water".)

 

This apparent 'bigness' is obviously coming from the energy and economy of its area of influence, in my opinion.

Edited by PHofKS
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.