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krazeeboi

Taking our major cities to the next level

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What will it require for our major cities to evolve into higher-tier cities? While economic development is highly significant, is that all? When we look at the cities that have evolved from smaller mid-sized cities into large/larger mid-sized cities within the past 50 years or so, specifically in the South (e.g., Nashville, Memphis, Richmond, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and even Atlanta), is there something that our cities can pattern themselves after which happened in the development of those cities? Or will they simply have to blaze their own trails in this high-tech, post-industrial age?

Your thoughts?

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What will it require for our major cities to evolve into higher-tier cities? While economic development is highly significant, is that all? When we look at the cities that have evolved from smaller mid-sized cities into large/larger mid-sized cities within the past 50 years or so, specifically in the South (e.g., Nashville, Memphis, Richmond, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and even Atlanta), is there something that our cities can pattern themselves after which happened in the development of those cities? Or will they simply have to blaze their own trails in this high-tech, post-industrial age?

Your thoughts?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

An interesting topic, I wish more forumers would chime in.

I don't know much about Richmond, but I was surprised to see it listed with those other cities.

Of those cities, I think Atlanta and Charlotte stand out as having "moved up" the tier of US cities the most. Nashville isn't far behind though.

I think what all of those cities have in common is that they are always consciously trying to "move up" in the tier of cities. Both the local government and business sectors are striving to reach the next level, complete bold new accomplishments.

All of those cities have sought and obtained national sports teams (except Richmond). Most have consolidated government or some semblance of it (Charlotte). All have at least sought to host major national events (Charlotte - sought political conventions; Jax - hosted Super Bowl; Atlanta has hosted both plus the Olympics). Atlanta and Charlotte have used major airport expansion as a vehicle for expansion.

One thing that is common among cities that are passing their peer cities, is that they worry more about how they compete with other regional cities and don't much care what any intra-state cities are doing. They also prefer to brag about how fast they are growing (in population or income, et al) than about how low their taxes are.

Just as with people, the cities that move up the ladder are the ones that work at it, are confident in their abilities to accomplish great things, are proactive, and don't rest on their laurels.

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I'm chiming in now. One of the most important things to do for our cities to move into higher tiers is consolidation of governments. I don't know if you can do that easily in this state, but Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville would all benefit significantly if city and county governments consolidated. If you look at Atlanta, Charlotte, and Jax, all of them instituted some sort of merger in bureaucracies.

Our state's cities need to really push their areas with visitors and tourists. Yes, Charleston and Myrtle Beach are the main tourist cities, but they need to push their attractions more, and cities like Columbia and Greenville need to emphasize their respective visitor areas. For example, Columbia or Lexington need to really push for more public access to Lake Murray and the area rivers. Hotels and shops should be built along parts of the lake and rivers to draw locals and tourists alike. The point behind enhancing tourism is that it makes prospective employers want to locate in these cities for the numerous amenities for them and their families to enjoy. Atlanta and Charlotte have big shopping districts and amusement parks.

Those are just 2 ideas that I can come up with for now. I'll think of some later.

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I'm chiming in now. One of the most important things to do for our cities to move into higher tiers is consolidation of governments. I don't know if you can do that easily in this state, but Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville would all benefit significantly if city and county governments consolidated. If you look at Atlanta, Charlotte, and Jax, all of them instituted some sort of merger in bureaucracies.

Our state's cities need to really push their areas with visitors and tourists. Yes, Charleston and Myrtle Beach are the main tourist cities, but they need to push their attractions more, and cities like Columbia and Greenville need to emphasize their respective visitor areas. For example, Columbia or Lexington need to really push for more public access to Lake Murray and the area rivers. Hotels and shops should be built along parts of the lake and rivers to draw locals and tourists alike. The point behind enhancing tourism is that it makes prospective employers want to locate in these cities for the numerous amenities for them and their families to enjoy. Atlanta and Charlotte have big shopping districts and amusement parks.

Those are just 2 ideas that I can come up with for now. I'll think of some later.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think you have some great ideas. Although, I don't think that the city of Greenville and Greenville County could ever reach an agreement to combine. They can't complete small tasks working together... Also I think it might hurt Greenville's push for quality.

I also think that Greenville is really capitalizing on some of its assets. We have hosted rounds of the Road to the Final Four, the SEC women's basketball tournament... And Falls Park! Hosting conventions, exposing people to our city- it's all a small step toward attracting people to our city. And it's working. There's talk of another hotel coming downtown and taking a trip down Main St just try to count the number of out-of-state tags. Or maybe count the ones from SC might be easier!

Sure there's more that needs to be done to take us to the next level, but we're definitely headed in the right direction.

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One thing that is common among cities that are passing their peer cities, is that they worry more about how they compete with other regional cities and don't much care what any intra-state cities are doing.  They also prefer to brag about how fast they are growing (in population or income, et al) than about how low their taxes are.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That is definately one point I can agree with. In order to move into the next teir SC cities must not be content on being the top dog in SC like Iv'e noticed for so many years growing up. It seems as though the mentality has always been, "nothing matters as long as you can say you have the biggest, first, or best "insert comment here" in the state. We are the proverbial tail chasers. Our southern neighbors don't have to worry about us because we will destruct ourselves. It's an equate to the Carolina/Clemson battle. Everyone in SC gets bent out of shape about it but as soon as you cross the state line nobody pays any attention. If SC cities want to dance on the mainstage then they need to think and, more importantly, act regionally and nationally. There is no reason that peer cities outside the state should have more gravity than SC cities given our amenities, and natural resources.

An good point was brought up about tourism, though I agree with this partially. I think tourism is great because it will expose an area to many different demographics but it also becomes a victim of its own success becase it creates alot of low end paying service jobs. However with that said I do think that our cities should play there strengths. Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head do this quite well already, and have seen quite a substantial amount of growth (population) within the past decade. Places like Columbia, and the Upstate should promote there geographic amenities as well. The midlands should promote more recreation on Lake Murray, it's a 50,000 acre lake for goodness sake! Yet you hear more about lake norman in CLT. Upstate should promote it's proximity to the mountains and mabye build a resort or two. These areas should be more visable and have better access, which brings up another point. All of SC big tickets are moved away from easy accessable view to outsiders. Case in point getting to MB takes you through backwoods before you get there, same goes for Hilton Head. All our cities lack an interstate that showcases DT, so many people who travel through don't even know how big SC cities are because they can't see them ie I-26/20, I-85. Those are just a few things that I can think of off the top of my dome. It seems as though the state goes out of it's way to look and act backwards?

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About the interstate comment... I personally do NOT want Greenville to have an interstate running through downtown. It would detract from all that's great. Maybe some other city would want one, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it would not be all that it's cracked up to be, atleast in Greenville.

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I agree about the interstate. They were not originally intended to divide a city's downtown area, and I'm glad we don't have this problem in SC. It might make for a pretty postcard, but that's about it.

I think Charleston native made a good point about improving the quality of life in our cities. Not only does that have the potential to attract new residents, but also new companies and businesses. I mean, for goodness sake, do you not know how many cities would kill to have ONE river, yet Columbia sits on THREE. Like, HELLL-OOOOO!!!!! And the point about Lake Murray is well taken also--it's HUGE.

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Well the whole interstate point was too bring focus and attention on the DT areas of the states major cities. I can't speak for all of Columbia but It's nice to ride down I-20 and see how the highway takes you through ATL, or even I-77 through CLT. It's an eye catcher. It lets people know your city is alive. I mean there is a reason BOA is so visable from the interstate.

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This is true but that area of highway circles the city and it does not take you by the skyline such as I-77 does in CLT. That area of highway is more compareable to to how you can see CLT skyline from I-85.

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Being that Columbia has THREE interstates, I think it was a really smart move to connect them all as a beltway of sorts around the city, instead of have them all cut directly through the city, and then eventually building a beltway. Money is automatically saved that way. I'll take that over an up close skyline view from the interstate any day.

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One thing that can really take our cities up to the next level is some form of light rail transit. Why do we continue to spend money to improve existing roadways that will see more cars, more traffic, more pollution, etc.? Light rail service would really ease some problems.

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It would be intersting if cola had a insterstate through downtown..but i guess its good we dont...I mean...You can only see the Columbia skyline for no more than 10 seconds......That's like a blink of an eye from i-20 and 77...i know people from SC who don't even know what Columbia looks like because they never seen the skyline while passing through town

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I don't think the existence of a freeway in the central city would have ANY influence on the city in regard to making it 'major'. But airports do, the number of flights, access for freight delivery, and direct links to NYC, Chicago, etc. would be paramount. Otherwise continued college / civic involvement in research makes some cities a preffered location for possible businesses. A company wants a highly educated employee base as well as an incubator for business development.

There are other reasons why cities develop as they have, but certainly Charlotte & Atlanta have succeeded due to excellent airport access. Also Raleigh & Atlanta have additionally been aided by business startups that are aided by the number of colleges & research facilities.

In my mind Greenville & Columbia are in a great position for those above points. As for Charleston - tourism & it's port are assetts that will keep it viable - but I'm not sure what it's future for taking it to the next level.

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Here's a pretty comprehensive report by the Palmetto Institute that I think is directly relevant here. It speaks of South Carolina's economic state, and evaluates everything from industry clusters to education to quality of life. It was prepared in 2002, but many things spoken of are still directly relevant in 2005.

The South Carolina Challenge: Regional Economic Analysis

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Well the whole interstate point was too bring focus and attention on the DT areas of the states major cities. I can't speak for all of Columbia but It's nice to ride down I-20 and see how the highway takes you through ATL, or even I-77 through CLT. It's an eye catcher. It lets people know your city is alive. I mean there is a reason BOA is so visable from the interstate.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I see your point but I don't think Columbia is hurting too much on having all the landlocked miss our downtown, they are already too focused on making it to Myrtle Beach or Charleston anyway.

I've always wondered if our cities wouldn't make it to the "next level" because of our relative proximatey to Charlotte and (although less attached) Atlanta. I believe if this research thing takes off Columbia and Greenville will get enough fuel to take-off, Myrtle Beach will continue to expand hopefully it won't be majority part-time resident and Charleston as long as they don't start razing it's historic charm for new sprawl will stay attractive.

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Well the whole interstate point was too bring focus and attention on the DT areas of the states major cities. I can't speak for all of Columbia but It's nice to ride down I-20 and see how the highway takes you through ATL, or even I-77 through CLT. It's an eye catcher. It lets people know your city is alive. I mean there is a reason BOA is so visable from the interstate.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The point of the "Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways" was so that troops could move around our country quicker. They were not originally intended to go through downtowns. I am thankful that in SC we followed the original intent. Our downtowns do not have these gigantic gaping holes in the urban fabric like these other cities do. The downtown connector in Atlanta, or 277 in Charlotte are horrible things for those cities. Being able to see the skyline is not very important to me. If someone thinks that a city is not 'alive' because they can't see a skyline, then they are ignorant people, and they should just keep on driving :)

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I see your point but I don't think Columbia is hurting too much on having all the landlocked miss our downtown, they are already too focused on making it to Myrtle Beach or Charleston anyway.

I've always wondered if our cities wouldn't make it to the "next level" because of our relative proximatey to Charlotte and (although less attached) Atlanta. I believe if this research thing takes off Columbia and Greenville will get enough fuel to take-off, Myrtle Beach will continue to expand hopefully it won't be majority part-time resident and Charleston as long as they don't start razing it's historic charm for new sprawl will stay attractive.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Charleston will never do that.

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Please do not build a freeway through the core any of SC cities. In reality, the tearing up of cities for freeways so suburbanites can get to work more easily is highly dated now. That last attempt to build a freeway in central Atlanta ended in failure a couple of decades ago because the neighborhoods fought it. Building freeways through cores of cities is as dated now as urban renewal projects from the 1960s that bulldozed urban fabric for parking lots.

One of the more interesting comparisons in my mind for southern cities is Atlanta vs. Birmingham after 1950. In 1950, the two cities were virtually identical in population, geography, and other factors. One took off in a big way and one did not. I think the airport in Atlanta helped a lot. At any rate, today metro Atlanta is four to five times the size of metro Birmingham.

One thing that I think really helped fuel the growth of the southern boomtowns like Atlanta and Charlotte that is still largely lacking in SC cities is a major corporate community. Government can do a lot, but at the end of the day, you still have to have major private money and leadership. Atlanta is a headquarters town. Indeed, for over a hundred years now, Atlanta has been where many companies place thier southern regional headquarters (not to mention federal agencies as well). And then there are the companies that are headquartered in Atlanta like UPS, Home Depot, Bell South, the Southern Company, Georgia Pacific, Coca Cola, and Delta. The influence of these companies in building up the city cannot be overestimated. For example, back in the 1960s and beyond, the Coca Cola magnet Robert Woodruff pumped lots and lots and lots of money and civic leadership that helped Atlanta in its rise to national prominence. Charlotte is similar on a smaller scale with the banks, Duke Power, etc. Neither of these cities would have gotten as far without that kind of major corporate community and boosterism. SC does not have that element in any big way right now. It can be developed. I think the Triangle region in NC has done a good job of growing and attracting new technology companies. But developing that element will take time.

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UrbanSoutherner, I think we're on the same page - your major notes:

downtown freeway - BAD

major airport - GOOD

corporate civic involvement - VERY GOOD

The impact the freeway had on downtown in the 1960's was positive for a short while. It provided a bandaid to downtown retail businessmen that provided an easy manner for suburbanites to get into downtown for shopping. But by the 1970's the freeway infrastructure then allowed people to drive the opposite direction - for shopping in the suburbs & eventually, working. Now - urban reinvestment (rather than renewal) is occuring, but will never be fulfilled fully - because there is a massive city blow wide concrete wall surrounding downtown to one side. The impact has had a long time environmental, social, & cultural negative repurcussion on the city. I think by the point Charlotte's downtown increases in size & prosperity, people will be complaining about their concrete wall as wall.

Additionally - the easier it is to drive into downtown, the more likely people will never use transit. Which has multiple negative influences, that means space will be needed for parking. That means people will have shorter distances to walk - meaning less services are needed. So you have fewer people who spend time in downtown & shop.

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Please do not build a freeway through the core any of SC cities. In reality, the tearing up of cities for freeways so suburbanites can get to work more easily is highly dated now. That last attempt to build a freeway in central Atlanta ended in failure a couple of decades ago because the neighborhoods fought it. Building freeways through cores of cities is as dated now as urban renewal projects from the 1960s that bulldozed urban fabric for parking lots.

One of the more interesting comparisons in my mind for southern cities is Atlanta vs. Birmingham after 1950. In 1950, the two cities were virtually identical in population, geography, and other factors. One took off in a big way and one did not. I think the airport in Atlanta helped a lot. At any rate, today metro Atlanta is four to five times the size of metro Birmingham.

One thing that I think really helped fuel the growth of the southern boomtowns like Atlanta and Charlotte that is still largely lacking in SC cities is a major corporate community. Government can do a lot, but at the end of the day, you still have to have major private money and leadership. Atlanta is a headquarters town. Indeed, for over a hundred years now, Atlanta has been where many companies place thier southern regional headquarters (not to mention federal agencies as well). And then there are the companies that are headquartered in Atlanta like UPS, Home Depot, Bell South, the Southern Company, Georgia Pacific, Coca Cola, and Delta. The influence of these companies in building up the city cannot be overestimated. For example, back in the 1960s and beyond, the Coca Cola magnet Robert Woodruff pumped lots and lots and lots of money and civic leadership that helped Atlanta in its rise to national prominence. Charlotte is similar on a smaller scale with the banks, Duke Power, etc. Neither of these cities would have gotten as far without that kind of major corporate community and boosterism. SC does not have that element in any big way right now. It can be developed. I think the Triangle region in NC has done a good job of growing and attracting new technology companies. But developing that element will take time.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Very well put, as always, UrbanSoutherner. One glaring example of what you are talking about is that Home Depot is building a massive Aquarium for Atlanta, and is paying for the whole thing itself.

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Very well put, as always, UrbanSoutherner.  One glaring example of what you are talking about is that Home Depot is building a massive Aquarium for Atlanta, and is paying for the whole thing itself.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is an example of what locating major companies in our cities can do. A SC example is Charleston's Blackbaud Stadium, which is home to the Charleston Battery pro-soccer team. The stadium was built near its HQ, and it was entirely funded through contributions from the company. I wish a company would buy the SC Aquarium, because I think it would help the city financially and it would be promoted more as a major attraction.

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