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Greenville vs. Columbia vs. Charleston

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Before anyone thinks this topic belongs in the general South Carolina forum, let me say that I am writing this topic from the perspective of a Greenvillian who wants to improve his city. I think it is relevant since these forums seem to have a lot of intra-state feuds between residents of the three cities. :silly:

So I went to Charleston this weekend to look for a place to rent since I am starting medical school soon. I saw a lot of Charleston, and on the way back I went through some of Columbia as well (including downtown). I want to see how others think Greenville stacks up against the others, because I was certainly thinking in these terms this weekend.

All three cities are similar in size, with very different vibes. I have always heard about how amazing Charleston is, and Columbia is our state capital. As someone who has never really cared for either city, I am curious to hear how everyone else here honestly views these cities. In addition, in which ways are Columbia and Charleston superior to Greenville? What do they have that we don't? Do we want any of those things in Greenville? What do we have that they don't?

Discuss. B)

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My first visit to Columbia was a tangential drive through downtown during a trip between Orlando and Charlotte back in 1996. I've been there a number of times since. I finally spent three days in Charleston back in June. In my opinion, I'll take Greenville over the other two any day.

I was left with the following impression of Charleston: It's a very, very, very old city with narrow streets and very little in the way of trees. It has the ocean nearby, which may or may not be to its advantage, depending on your personal preference and point of view. Additionally, it has quite a bit of history. It's obviously of strategic importance, being a busy major sea port and a prominent East Coast military center for the United States. It has MUSC. It has a fairly nice, yet simple aquarium. It has lots of tourists and some crazy drivers. It supposedly has lots of ghosts :rolleyes:

Columbia, to me, has always seemed extremely boring. It's busy when the state legislature and school at USC are in session. It's slow the rest of the time. It has a nice network of highways encircling the city. It has a pretty cool zoo and some nice museums. It has some of the craziest drivers in the state of South Carolina.

In Greenville, we have an abundance of foliage and parks. We have drivers that actually wave (more than one finger) to you as you pass by...the people here are extremely friendly, and I have adopted this myself and wave to then in return. There is almost always something going on on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights during the Summer Time in Downtown Greenville. There are numerous festivals throughout the rest of the year. That's not to say that the other two cities don't have festivals or night life, but it's just a different vibe, as you said.

If I had to name one thing in each city that I wished Greenville could have, it's would be that I hope to see the Greenville Zoo become as popular and large as the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. I'd like to see the freeway system between Greenville and Columbia garner the same kind of attention that the freeways around both Columbia and Charleston get. And, I'd like to see a little more tourism in Greenville...but definitely not to the extent that Charleston has.

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Beyond the tourist areas, the city of Charleston is now a dead city. It has been so over gentrified that nothing is left but expensive boutiques and chain store shopping and faux old south tourist restaurants. All of the eclectic stores, restaurants coffee houses, etc are long gone. And the real estate has become so outrageously expensive that investors own most of the housing there now and don't live in the city. The sense of community is gone becausemost of the houses stay empty most of the year.

To make matters worse, the old city is surrounded by suburban sprawl of the worst sort. Life is a big traffic jam in Charleston now.

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I lived in Columbia for several years, and I loved every minute of it. Columbia has everything to offer its citizens that many metros of twice its size would kill for, and mostly becuase of USC. USC plays a huge part in the young and vibrant atmostphere that Columbia has. School is only out for 4 months, and htey are the ones where you probably don't want to be outside in Cola anyway (its friggin hot) ;) And there are 8 other months left.

There is always something going on in the Vista, Five Points or Finaly Park, always at least once a week, if not more. Oh, and I can't forget teh Colonial Center, the Carolina Coliseum, the State Fairgrounds, Koger Center, Township Auditorum, Longstreet, etc... Festavals, music, activities... its great! The Three Rivers Music Festival is a huge event that always attracts alot of attention.

Columbia just has a vibe and quality of life that you can't beat. You have all of that, plus the lake nearby, state parks, rivers, and being geographically centered in the state gives you access to any part of it within mere hours.

I would love to live in Columbia again!

Greenville has alot going to it too. Being so far from the college scene doesn't hurt it that much. It is still the preferred destination for most of Clemson, Furman, USCS, and any other college, and not to mention the main entertainment area for the Upstate. Thats a huge market.

Like what has been said before- Greenville is different. Downtown is more linear, but that doesn't detract from it. The atmostphere there is nothing like Columbia.

Greenville feels smaller than it is with respect to its core, but I think that all of the new construction and towers going up will change that.

Not actually being from Greenville, it is hard for me to make a very strong comparison.

Charleston is nothing like Greenville or Columbia. It is in a league of its own, IMO. Yeah it can be a bit touristy in places, but its not everywhere. The main downside to it is that you ahve downtown, which is an idea urban set up, and then everywhere else, which is straight suburbia. The atmostphere in Charleston must be great. I know many people who have gone there for college, and now have no plans on returning home.

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Wow, I'm surprised I'm just seeing this thread.

I drove through downtown Greenville the other day while I was on I-85; I must say, the Lofts at Mill's Mill look AWESOME.

As it was stated, Greenville's downtown is quite linear, and there's nothing wrong with that, especially given all of the activity in the area. In some ways, it gives me a Columbia feel. Of course, the biggest contrast would be Main Street. When and if Columbia gets Main Street jump started, I think Greenville might want to look out. ;)

Charleston is culturally rich, but like others have said, there's not too much outside of DT proper. But what the city DOES have is awesome. I don't think it's too far-fetched to say that it is one of the cultural capitals of the South.

As far as entertainment options, cultural venues, etc., I believe all three cities are pretty much evenly matched. All have excellent facilities to host events on a pretty big scale. I think Columbia may have a leg up in this regard though, especially with the completion of the convention center. In all, the city has about 5 venues for events: the convention center, the Colonial Center, the Carolina Coliseum, the Koger Center, and the Township Auditorium. What sucks about Charleston is that the coliseum is actually located in NORTH Charleston. The Bi-Lo Center gets GREAT events; however, it's time that the website was updated, since it is no longer the largest arena in the state. ;)

With the economic/urban momentum going on between Greenville and Columbia these days, I think it is possibly anybody's game. But when all of those towers get built in Greenville, it will be quite awesome. If the Reedy were as large as the Congaree, THAT would really be to Greenville's advantage. But from what I've seen of the park, it's an awesome little place. It seems that it gives you a "different" feel from Columbia's Finlay Park.

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I'll ellaborate in more detail later, but very quickly; We're all similar in size. We're all similar in ammenities and recreational options. Columbia is located in a low plain along the rivers, making it feel very hot and dirty, though it looks better once you're in downtown. I've spent plenty of time there, but not been very impressed. Charleston has the Atlantic Ocean and numerous islands, parks, and historic plantations all around for people to enjoy. Greenville is located in the Upstate and has the mountains and many lakes very closeby. It has a far more vibrant and enchanting downtown atmosphere than either of the other two. The number one thing Greenville has above the other two is very high quality living everywhere. Something else to remember is the enthusiasm you feel about the explosion of proper urban growth taking place within the urban core. :D

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So I have been living in Charleston for several weeks now. It is too early for me to cast a verdict on the city, especially since I have been studying most of the time. However, I can tell you right now that I will never be one of those people who thinks that Charleston is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It has the history, it has the coast, it has the nice stretch along King Street, and it has some great restaurants. It knows tourism, since that is the city's bread and butter. That is about all I can say that is nice.

It does not have good roads, or a solid economic foundation. It does not have much beauty, aside from the occasionally nice house that has been preserved. It has a lot of old and run-down areas. It has horrible sprawl in North Charleston and into the West Ashley area. It has what I consider to be an overpriced real estate market for what you get.

So I might be a little biased being from Greenville, but I have moved to Charleston with as open a mind as possible and I simply don't understand why so many people love it here. Perhaps my tastes are just that unique. ;)

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I think Charleston fits well into the old adage "its a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there". I love the historical aspect of Charleston. It reminds me of Boston in that respect. The beaches there are really not that great. I'm not into hard-packed dark sand.

I would have to agree about the cost of real-estate there. Reminds me of the northeast.

This spring, my wife & I spent 3 days in Wild Dunes and 3 days Downtown. I'd say that 3 days is my limit for downtown, but I could have spent more time on IOP.

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So I have been living in Charleston for several weeks now.  It is too early for me to cast a verdict on the city, especially since I have been studying most of the time.  However, I can tell you right now that I will never be one of those people who thinks that Charleston is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It has the history, it has the coast, it has the nice stretch along King Street, and it has some great restaurants.  It knows tourism, since that is the city's bread and butter.  That is about all I can say that is nice.

It does not have good roads, or a solid economic foundation.  It does not have much beauty, aside from the occasionally nice house that has been preserved.  It has a lot of old and run-down areas.  It has horrible sprawl in North Charleston and into the West Ashley area.  It has what I consider to be an overpriced real estate market for what you get.

So I might be a little biased being from Greenville, but I have moved to Charleston with as open a mind as possible and I simply don't understand why so many people love it here.  Perhaps my tastes are just that unique. ;)

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I have always found that MOST people in MOST cities tend to think very highly of where they grew up, and that other cities just "don't comapre". This is why I feel it is very important for everyone to spend a significant amount of time somewhere other than where they grew up.

When I moved to Greenville ('96), I remember thinking, "oh great, an even MORE conservative backwater city to live in than Columbia)". All my friends in Columbia thought I must have lost my mind to move to the home of BJU and Mike Fair. All the folks I met in Greenville thought Cola was hotter than Miami and in an economic depression compared to Greenville.

Over the years I have grown to appreciate the things that Greenville offers. The traffic is better than Cola and it is more temperate. Also, the mountains are close by and are quite beautiful. Also, in terms of urban redevelopment, Columbia has a lot to learn from both Greenville and Charleston.

I also have come to apprecaite the things Columbia offers that Greenville can't. I miss the lack of a large university nearby (sorry, Clemson is too far), and all that goes with that. Things such as a population that is more politically engaged and subscribes to many philosophies. Of course, the university also supports the 5 Points community, which is a great urban village.

As for Charleston, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I love the old architecture, and if you think there is only the "occasional" nice house that has been preserved, you have missed a lot. There are literally thousands of houses and businesses that have been restored. Charleston is one of the very few places were you can feel transported to a different era.

If you haven't seen them yet, check out Bay Street, Meeting Street, Murray Blvd, Church Street, Tradd Street, Ashley And Rutledge Avenues, The Battery, Rainbow Row, Broad Street, or really ANY street or block south of Calhoun. Don't just see the City Market and King Street, there is so much more. Of course, it helps to appreciate the charm of the old architecture.

As for the Charleston economy, there is more to that as well. The military, the Port, as well as several colleges provide a base as solid as any similiar-sized city.

Keep an open mind and expose yourself to more of the city, and you might be surprised how much it grows on you. After all, your hometown grew on me.

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Greenville is located in the Upstate and has the mountains and many lakes very closeby.  It has a far more vibrant and enchanting downtown atmosphere than either of the other two. 

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Of course, this is totally in the eye of the beholder. I think that Columbia's and Charleston's downtowns are just as vibrant and Charleston's is CERTAINLY just as enchanting. Greenville's downtown is still cool, though. It somewhat reminds me of Tryon Street in Charlotte on a smaller level.

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Thanks for your responses. First of all, I'm not trying to bash Charleston. I didn't mean for my previous post to come across that way. It's a unique city with history, and it's a fairly "fun" city. My main point is that it is okay in my opinion - not great, not horrible. I like it okay, but it isn't the best city ever in my opinion. Perhaps the reason I say "best city ever" is because I have heard a lot of people seem to have that opinion throughout my life growing up in SC. I always wondered what was "wrong" with me for not feeling that way.

I agree with you, NYTransplant: for me, Charleston is a great place to visit, but not somewhere I would choose to settle down.

I certainly need to see more of the city. As I said in my previous post, I have mostly been studying and haven't seen much of the city. I have been downtown on King Street (the upscale/established part to the south of Calhoun, as well as the newer/regentrified part north of Calhoun). I have of course been to the Battery, and that area is really nice and well-preserved. I have been to the Aquarium area, near the IMAX theater and East Bay. That development is nice and will hopefully cause further revitalization in that area. I have seen the retail in North Charleston (around Ashley Phosphate Road) as well as in West Ashley along route 17. To answer your question, I currently live a few blocks from MUSC near the intersection of Lockwood Drive and Calhoun Street. Not too far from the connector, and not too far from 17.

Finally, I agree that everyone is biased to their own city and eventually has areas grow on them. For example, growing up, I never cared for Washington, DC after visiting a time or two and seeing the monuments. I ended up going to Georgetown for graduate school, and in the process of living in The District this past year I fell in love with the city. In fact, I really missed it when I moved out early in the summer (and still do!). I lived in Boston for the summer, which I expected to really like, but basically just tolerated it in comparison to life in DC. After those places, plus Greenville (which is home), I have had a hard time understanding Charleston's appeal. However, I'm sure the city will grow on me, and I look forward to experiencing life here for four years.

As I say that, I realize that plenty of people dislike DC, so I guess it comes down to personal preference. They would wonder why I love it so. :)

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Also, in terms of urban redevelopment, Columbia has a lot to learn from both Greenville and Charleston.

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I disagree with this statement. Columbia has done wonders with its downtown area. Arsenal Hill, the Vista, Finaly Park, and things associated with USC have played a major role in bringing that area back from the essential craphole (if you will excuse the technical term) that it used to be. Perhaps Main St is lacking, but the rest of the area more than makes up for it.

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As I say that, I realize that plenty of people dislike DC, so I guess it comes down to personal preference.  They would wonder why I love it so. :)

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DC is a VERY urban city; I gained a whole new appreciation for it after visiting this past weekend. They have a pretty good train system; it seems to be able to take you just about anywhere you need to go in the city.

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DC.... makes me proud to call it our capitol. It's a very clean city and beautiful!!! I've been to Paris and they can't touch Washington with a ten foot pole.

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DC.... makes me proud to call it our capitol. It's a very clean city and beautiful!!! I've been to Paris and they can't touch Washington with a ten foot pole.

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I don't know if I'd go that far, but DC is a great city to be sure.

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DC is a VERY urban city; I gained a whole new appreciation for it after visiting this past weekend. They have a pretty good train system; it seems to be able to take you just about anywhere you need to go in the city.

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I'm glad you enjoyed it! I have told people who haven't been lately that they should visit DC again, because a lot of improvements have happened over the last 5-10 years. What did you get to see/do there?

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Well, I didn't really get a chance to do a whole lot. I went with a friend of mine, who's a flight attendant, to attend a concert; it was pretty much a 24-hour trip. But I absolutely LOVED the train experience; all types of people on them, very efficient, and the people were very helpful (especially after I left my garment bag on the blue line and had it back within half an hour :o , which I hear is pretty much a miracle, LOL). We stayed in Arlington and had a chance to ride around DC on Saturday night. I tell you, it seemed like for at least a 4, 5 mile stretch, there were people everywhere; lines to get into restaurants, bars, lounges, etc. My friend and I were dropped off in the Adams Morgan area, which was really hoppin', and from there made it to the train station back to Arlington. I also have a new appreciation for the contributions that mid-rises make to a city; they give more of a sense of density to a place. I had to inform my friend that the reason that DC doesn't have any high rises is because of height restrictions, since he's really into skylines. But overall, my experience was very pleasant, and I can't wait to return in the near future.

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That's awesome. I love the Metro. It's clean, efficient, and can get you pretty much anywhere you want to go (except for a few of the monuments).

I agree about the midrises there and their impact on the city. It feels very urban despite the lack of tall buildings. On street-level you can't really tell if a building is 6 stories or 20 unless you look up anyway. Especially downtown, where virtually every piece of real estate has already been claimed and developed. It's very dense.

Adams Morgan is a cool area. I understand that it used to be run-down with crime and drugs, and they have really made an effort to reclaim it. I have a funny story (well, funny on this side) about Adams Morgan. My very first weekend as a DC resident last August, several of us went to Adams Morgan on a Friday night. As I was walking out of a bar, it sounded like gunshots and everyone outside hit the deck. It wasn't gunshots, but turned out to be a car barreling down the road, hitting everything in its sight! A driver was behind the wheel (obviously drunk or on drugs or both) and was caught by police a few blocks later after he wrecked the car. I can't tell you how many cars were damaged. Several people were nearly hit too, and it's amazing more people weren't injured (or killed), since hundreds of people were all along the two-lane 18th Street.

It was smart to stay in Arlington. I am amazed at how much cheaper hotels are in Virginia, just across the Potomac, than in DC. If money is no concern, staying in DC is probably worth it. But with the easy Metro access into DC from Arlington, it makes a lot of sense to stay there. It's sort of like staying in Jersey City and riding a stop or two into NYC rather than paying a lot more and staying in Manhattan itself.

Anyway, krazeeboi, let me know if/when you are going back to DC again and I will be sure to tell you some places to check out.

Okay, sorry everyone for all of the off-topic DC stuff. Back to G-Vegas. :)

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I'll definitely let you know the next time I head back up there (I hope it will be soon).

Arlington is so integrated with DC until you really cannot tell the difference between the two. If I were to live up there, I would definitely consider Arlington/Northern Virginia.

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Of the 3 cities I have to pick Columbia first, Charleston second and Greenville a distant third.

I'll start with Greenville: Greenville has a cool little downtown has the Peace Center and it's close to the mountains. Aesthetically It's a pretty city, but it is far too conservative for my tastes. It's not a college town, either, which hurts its "coolness".

Charleston: I love Charleston, it's a great place to visit, it's close to the water and it has great history. The downtown area is great, but most of the rest of metro Charleston has little to offer (other than Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island).

Columbia is my adopted home. It is a MAJOR college town, which makes the average age of its citizens pretty young and also makes it, by far, the most open minded and progressive city in the state. Columbia's best asset is its neighborhoods (see my link below). The city of Columbia has awesome neighborhoods and a very strong network of neighborhood associations. Columbia has the best skyline in the state and IMO, the best city parks as a whole. Finlay Park is outstanding, as is Riverfront Park, Earlewood Park and all of the little neighborhood parks (Emily Douglas, Elmwood, Mays, Woodlands, Hyatt, Granby and many others. It has one of the top ten zoos in the country, a National Park, a large lake, three rivers, great rapids and a large variety of landscape. The southeast side of metro Columbia is a low lying plain with swamps, alligators and farmland. The city itself is hilly with neighborhoods of varying flora: I grew up in Forest Acres, which was an old Pine Forest. I now live in the Earlewood Park area, which is very hilly and is almost entirely made up of hardwoods. Columbia also has the USC Horseshoe, which is one of the nicest campus areas around. It also has 2 major entertainment areas in Five Points and the Congaree Vista, many museums and a pretty good number of nice restaurants.

On the down side, Columbia has not developed the riverfront to a great enough extent. This is changing, but I'm ready for the development to increase. Columbia is not my place of birth, but it is my adopted home. I love to travel, but I'm always glad to get back home.

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Of the 3 cities I have to pick Columbia first, Charleston second and Greenville a distant third.

I'll start with Greenville: Greenville has a cool little downtown has the Peace Center and it's close to the mountains. Aesthetically It's a pretty city, but it is far too conservative for my tastes. It's not a college town, either, which hurts its "coolness".

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:blink: yea, nice argument . so greenville sucks it up because it doesn't have a college, and it's conservative? hmm. well, first of all, Greenville doesn't have a college in the city, but Furman isn't far and so the students go downtown, Clemson students go to Greenville to shop, to have a change in diet, and to just have a good time downtown. So, don't be fooled, Greenville has its fair share of coolness points. We also have the THIRD largest college in the state, Greenville Tech. I don't consider it an average tech school, it's got more quality, i think, and it's a good school for less money. It has a top-notch, unprecedented nursing program.

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:blink:  yea, nice argument . so greenville sucks it up because it doesn't have a college, and it's conservative? hmm. well, first of all, Greenville doesn't have a college in the city, but Furman isn't far and so the students go downtown, Clemson students go to Greenville to shop, to have a change in diet, and to just have a good time downtown. So, don't be fooled, Greenville has its fair share of coolness points. We also have the THIRD largest college in the state, Greenville Tech. I don't consider it an average tech school, it's got more quality, i think, and it's a good school for less money. It has a top-notch, unprecedented nursing program.

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Every city has "tech" schools or community colleges. They are commuter campuses and are not traditional colleges, they are job training centers. The Greenville area does have Furman, but it is a small school and located in the suburbs. Columbia has Midlands Tech, which is comparable in size to G'vl Tech and we also have USC, Columbia College, Allen University, Benedict College, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Columbia International, South University and all of the normal lesser schools like Webster, etc.

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Every city has "tech" schools or community colleges. They are commuter campuses and are not traditional colleges, they are job training centers. The Greenville area does have Furman, but it is a small school and located in the suburbs. Columbia has Midlands Tech, which is comparable in size to G'vl Tech and we also have USC, Columbia College, Allen University, Benedict College, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Columbia International, South University and all of the normal lesser schools like Webster, etc.

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Greenville Tech is a commuter campus for now. They are in the process of building on-campus housing... So I would hardly compare it to Midlands. Midlands currently has 11,000 students. Gville has 14,000. Also, Gville Tech has over 52,000 registrations annually for continuing education.

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