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bobliocatt

North vs. South, Rustbelt vs. Sunbelt

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I asked this in SSP, but its an interesting topic to me, so I'll ask you all too.

Can you really compare cities by region? All of this country's regions include historical manufacturing towns, old cities, new cities, cosmopolitan cities, conservative cities, metros with dense cores and metros taken over by sprawl. If this is so, for example, then why do we keep calling Midwestern cities, in general, stagnant, when there are growing metros like Minneapolis, Columbus and Indy or the sunbelt, new and sprawling, when it has dense metros like Miami or New Orleans and old cities like Charleston and Richmond? Just wondering what every thinks about this.

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I may stand alone on this but I'm a big fan of the rustbelt. I don't know why but I love it maybe it's the water or something but the rustbelt has something the sunbelt doesn't. So I would says i like the rustbelt the best.

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Now, I seriously don't think the Rust-Belt cities are any major different from the Sun-Belt cities, other than location. There's parts of Jacksonville that look identical to areas in Detroit. Birmingham and Pittsburgh are two similar cities located in different regions. Indianapolis and Nashville are two more similar places in different regions. Miami is putting up several skyscrapers and local newspapers claim that its downtown will rival the Loop in Chicago within 10 years. Overall I'm a fan of all cities, but I don't think we can stereotype the regions the way we do, occassionally.

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I'm not a big fan of stereotyping cities either. There are some characteristics that often can be found of cities within a certain region. Sometimes they pretain to development styles, but often they seem to relate more to architecture. But even those characteristics, as well are culturally characteristics are fading a little. We're a very mobile society.

I have found it easier to look at era when a city grew, and it's development style throughout history, and it's primary industries. These things seem to illustrate themselves better to the style of development and the cities current state, more than the location.

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I think you can compare cities more accurately by the health of their economies more than by region. It just so happens that more midwestern or certain northeastern cities have a more troubled economy than most southern cities. I guess that's because most southern cities became large in the era of a service economy as opposed to the midwestern cities which grew during the manufacturing era which has gone kaput.

As far as the south/sunbelt goes, outside the major cities most of the area is very stagnant and poor. But that's probably true of most rural areas nationally.

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Isn't the rust belt great lake cities?

A lot of the perception has to do with the media. We all know Miami will not look like Chicago's loop in 10 years if ever. If Miami were to build that density of buildings I would be surprised. If it copied the old archticture, materials, and grandure it would knock my socks off.

It is true that many sunbelt cities are growing rapidly resulting in sprawl, highway development, and new highrises. There is a lot of boosterism about this growth. We never see stories saying that parts of metro boston in NH and the Cape are growing at 20%+ per decade, with new highways, walmarts everywhere, and entire new cities springing up where it used to be farmland.

IMO the old part of many northern cities is gentrifying and getting better, and there is nothing like this in some, but not all of the sunbelt cities. The new parts of northern metros are much larger than the media gives credit for, and they look very much like their southern counterparts.

The old parts of not so economically fortunate northern cities don't look so great, but most have a lot of new development in their metros, just not as much as the faster growing southern cities.

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None taken, monsoon. Its very interesting that all of the replies in this thread were well thought and written, with none really getting ruffled with what was being said. Over on SSP, this thread is on its sixth page already with a lot of uninformed comments coming from people who have obviously not seen or visited many places outside of their own region. Its nice to have a relaxing discussion every once in a while, with out the piss fights and mud slinging.

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Isn't the rust belt great lake cities?

A lot of the perception has to do with the media.  We all know Miami will not look like Chicago's loop in 10 years if ever.  If Miami were to build that density of buildings I would be surprised.  If it copied the old archticture, materials, and grandure it would knock my socks off.

It is true that many sunbelt cities are growing rapidly resulting in sprawl, highway development, and new highrises.  There is a lot of boosterism about this growth.  We never see stories saying that parts of metro boston in NH and the Cape are growing at 20%+ per decade, with new highways, walmarts everywhere, and entire new cities springing up where it used to be farmland.

IMO the old part of many northern cities is gentrifying and getting better, and there is nothing like this in some, but not all of the sunbelt cities.  The new parts of northern metros are much larger than the media gives credit for, and they look very much like their southern counterparts.

The old parts of not so economically fortunate northern cities don't look so great, but most have a lot of new development in their metros, just not as much as the faster growing southern cities.

I would take issue with only one thing you said: I think most southern cities have gentrifying cores--Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Miami, Houston, Dallas, etc. I leave out New Orleans because most of its core is about the same as it was 40 yr. ago--and a pretty eclectic mixture of rich/poor/criminals/lawabiding, not many changes.

And while places like Boston I'm sure have plenty of sprawl as ugly as any sunbelt stuff, those metros just haven't seen the tremendous growth in that sort of thing as sunbelt cities have.

Boston's metro grew 6.7% from 1990-2000.

Places like Charlotte grew 29%, Nashville 25%, Houston 25%, Atlanta 38%, Dallas 29%, and most likely 95% of that growth was in sprawled areas.

The only northern metro that approaches that kind of stuff is the TwinCities which grew at 16.9%, and yes, the vast majority of that was all out in the cornfields.

You're certainly right about the boosterism down south.

Hey, monsoon, remember that old saying about North Carolina? A valley of something or other between a mountain of this and a mountain of that? Clearly boosterism is out of character with North Carolina tradition. :)

(you understand I'm just ribbing you a little, nothing serious)

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Hehe, understand Sleepy.

The saying is really a compliment of course. Humility or modesty is a virtue and I always thought it was more a putdown of Virginia and South Carolina than North Carolina.

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"I would take issue with only one thing you said: I think most southern cities have gentrifying cores--Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, Miami, Houston, Dallas, etc. I leave out New Orleans" - sleepy

No offense intended: That's why I said most but not all. The cities you mentioned all have great old builidings and neighborhoods.

I also meant that parts of the Boston metro (not the whole metro) are growing very fast like the cape and southern NH. These places are suffering many of the same fast growth problems encountered in the south, (new highways, water problems, need for schools, sprawl, etc. NH is only 40 miles from DT boston. NH has no sales tax or income tax and is considered by some as a great alternative to MA. If you take huntington ave out of DT boston it turns ino rt 9. the cities/towns of natick and framinhaham have sprwal as bad as anyplce I have ever seen only 12 to 15 miles from DT Boston with outrageous traffic, 12 lane roads, and more retail than anyone could need in 10,000 years.

I don't think either the north or south is better. In fact, I prefer warm weather. IMO the north and south have a lot of similarities. Interestingly, there is a running story in the boston papers about how places like NC should be taken very seriously as contenders for new businesses and jobs in biotech and other new industries because of a well educated work force, and a less expensive cost of living.

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I have to say that my opinion of Boston has certainly changed for the better due in part to all of the great photos that have been posted of the city since I have been a member of SSA.

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originally posted by Sleepy

According to my almanac, Charlotte only had 18,000 people in 1900, so it probably always lacked extensive older urban areas outside downtown, unlike Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, etc. In Memphis at least, you have to travel 4 miles away from downtown before you hit anything newer than the 20's or 30's. And New Orleans is even way, way more so.

That's pretty interesting. Jacksonville had a population of 91,558 in 1920 and 129,549 in 1930 living in 26.4 sq miles. However, since downtown and the St. John's river formed the southern and eastern portions of town, while the southbank was pretty much rural until the 1930's. So now you would have to travel 4 or 5 miles going West or North, but only 1 mile to the South before you hit new development.

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According to my almanac, Charlotte only had 18,000 people in 1900, so it probably always lacked extensive older urban areas outside downtown, unlike Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, etc.

Charlotte's older more urban areas (outside of the CBD) don't always fan out homogeneously from the core, but are instead organized in "clumps". The farthest one from the CBD is probably about 3 miles out.

Really, Charlotte's growth has always been a little lop-sided... a little on this side, now a little on that side, etc...

My brother lives in a district about 2 miles or so out from CBD, and his house was built in 1931 I think. There are other homes around there that are older than that. It is actually a very nice neighborhood, and there is a small business district within walking distance--almost as though it was a small town itself long ago, but Charlotte consumed it.

A lot of Charlotte's older areas carry this kind of theme.

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In Boton you may have to go quite a few miles out to find new single family housing on a alarge scale. There are new houses though even in Newton and cambridge. The are also very new areas in the city itself that are larger in scale but still new. the seaport district, which is separated from DT by a thin ocean channel, went from nothing new for ages in say 1995 to several 20 story buildings with more planned, apartments, lofts, office buildings and a 1.6 Msqft convention center. IMO the new stuff looks great in contrast to the older buildings near it. It seems like many older southern cities also have major new developments (maybe not single family) near or in their downtowns.

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Boston is an interesting city. Its a city I've always had stereotyped in my mind as being a cleaner-then-average American city that is filled with very very preppy, upscale, yuppie, insert-your-snob-name-here kind of town that just isn't obtainable for anyone but of wealth.

Of course I'm sure the suburban areas are more livable monetary wise, I just wished Boston didn't have such an outrageous cost of living. Its a charming urban city with clean rowhomes from the past.

Part of the problem with cities like Philly is that so much of the older rowhomes are decrepit, which Boston seems to have better architecture and cleaner housing that is kept up generally speaking.

Boston should take old decrepit and/or abandoned areas in the city, destroy them if they are not of architectural value or not able to be rennovated well, and start building condo towers like Vancouver has done. Boston just seems like a city that is in bad need of housing which could use some cost-effective condo additions. A highrise condo would be lower then old beautiful rowhomes in the Back Bay area as expensive as its gotten; that is if they planned and did it right with the right tax incentives and gov't support. Probably will never happen though. Boston is apparently NIMBY city with people who beotch about everything.

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Lets see, my home is new and 3.5 miles from downtown, but thats misleading b/c its a single infill home. The rest of my neighborhood is a hodgepodge from the late 20s to the 50's. I'd say 3-4 miles from downtown Charlotte is the limit for older hoods. You start getting into the boom of the 50's after that. There are 10's of thousands of 50's homes here. As Ive mentioned before, the census tracts the number of pre 1939 homes. Charlotte has around 9,000.

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People have to remember that the cost of living in Boston is high, but the wages are also high. Cost of living and wage wise it's up with SF and NYC. I do think it's too high, and I do think there are things the city could be doing to bring it down. In recent years there has been a strong push to get the Universities to house more of thier students on campus, and that has leveled out the cost of living rises a bit. Every September 100,000 people move into or to a different part of the city (a truly nightmarish day that I have had the pleasure of being one of the movers on several occassion). But more needs to be done to make quality mid-range housing available, and the city is pushing to increase housing downtown.

The costs of living are different in Boston too. You can throw the expense of a car right out the window (if you don't then you should plan on upping the car budget by 200% between insurance, parking, and tickets). The expense of a car is huge, and people don't relize that until they don't have one.

There really aren't very many areas of Boston that are great decaying areas that are ripe for Vancouver style urban renewal. And Boston has a terrible past of grand urban renewal schemes, it would be a very hard sell to write off an entire area and start over, and I personally would likely be one of the 'NIMBYs' in front of the bulldozer. That said, there are plenty of pockets left in the city, brown field areas, areas on top of highways and transit corridors... that are ripe for high rise residential, and we will hopefully see more of them developed in the future. There are also many areas in the inner ring of cities (Malden, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea...) that have room to grow, and the proposed subway extension to Lynn (a small city on the North Shore) will create a residential renaissance in that city. So the market for housing is tight, and that drives up costs, but the costs have reached a plateau where it now becomes affordable for developers to take a look at difficult to develop areas.

Personally, when I decided to leave NYC, Boston was the obvious place to go since I had lived there for 8 years prior and really love the city. But part of my reason for leaving NYC was to spend less money living, and Boston and NYC cost pretty much the same. That is why I moved to Providence. But I am far from a wealthy elite, and it wouldn't have been a terrible hardship for me to live there. You just have to decide what is important to you, does what Boston offers compared to less expensive areas justify the cost of living there? For nearly 600,000 people it does, and they are not all wealthy Back Bayers and Beacon Hillers.

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