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Spartan

Which city in SC is the best planned?

Planning in South Carolina   32 members have voted

  1. 1. Which city in SC is historically the best planned

    • Charleston
      17
    • North Charleston
      1
    • Mount Pleasant
      0
    • Columbia
      14
    • Greenville
      0
    • Spartanburg
      0
    • Anderson
      0
    • Myrtle Beach
      0
    • North Myrtle Beach
      0
    • Rock Hill
      0
    • Other
      0
  2. 2. Which city in SC is currently the best planned?

    • Charleston
      7
    • North Charleston
      0
    • Mount Pleasant
      0
    • Columbia
      15
    • Greenville
      8
    • Spartanburg
      0
    • Anderson
      0
    • Myrtle Beach
      0
    • North Myrtle Beach
      0
    • Rock Hill
      1
    • Other
      1

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17 posts in this topic

I saw this topic in the NC forum, and it seemed like an interesting discussion. I'd like to take a look at this from a historic perspective (past planning efforts - how did things turn out) and then a current persepctive (current planning efforts how are things going now?).

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Everyone is just going to vote for where they live :(. Even though I live in Columbia, I'm voting for it because it was one of the few planned cities in the US and I think it is still good today. The way the blocks are. I don't go to any other cities much but I think Charleston was, I guess, but I didn't vote for it best planned because of them one ways and stuff

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Columbia was extremely well planned. So much so that it doesn't need a lot of planning now.

Greenville is, I think, doing the best job currently with planning.

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Maybe, but maybe not.

If it helps anyone, I won't be picking Spartanburg for either! Spartanburg is the only major city except Charleston that developed at first with NO plan at all except for the Square, which didn't even follow the plan it was supposed to! Just look at a map to see what I mean. Spartanburg gets no props from me with regards to planning historically. At least Charleston had geographical constraints.

I think that there are some obvious answers historically. Columbia was the first planned capital city in America. It gets my vote. It has the largest historic street grid, which is generally still in tact.

Current planning within the cities are very different because of the different situations that present themselves (Upstate cities being small and all urban, vs Lowcountry cities which have annexed a lot of suburban territory. The Upstate cities have good plans (not counties). Greenville and Spartanburg (cities) have made strides in repairing their respective urban fabrics. Greenville has a solid core downtown, and Spartanburg has made some great progress in keeping the old commercial districts alive and well. Both have made improvements to historic residential areas.

I think Charleston is the best choise currently. They've had success with downtown and they have a solid plan in place for the suburban areas including West Ashley and Daniel Island. Because they have the historic core that they do, they have a more understanding planning department and more importantly Councils and other politicians understand what good urbanism is. So, the suburban standards are higher in Charleston when compared to the rest of the State.

Perhaps the one weakness here is that if you dont know anything beyond what your own city does, then you will assume it is the best. I just hope people will consider what the other cities in this state are doing for themselves, and at least state why they vote as they did.

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Historically, I chose Charleston. Even though Columbia was planned from the outset, Charleston's urban form matured much earlier and in a time period when true urbanism was still the norm.

Currently, I actually think I'm going to go with Hardeeville on this one. The town has some pretty impressive plans in place for guiding future growth and they don't have the (relative) rampant sprawl that plagues our larger cities, thus affording it the chance to be a much more urban place than our other cities proportionately speaking.

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I chose Columbia on both polls. IMO, the street grid trumps all. While several cities have a nice grid network (Sumter and Florence come to mind), Columbia really has the most extensive gridded layout. My impression (and this isn't at all a bad impression) is that Charleston and Greenville have more of an organic layout than a planned layout. Charleston seems to pre-date "planned" cities, and the result is an intimate city with varied cityscapes, ROW widths, block sizes, etc. The fact that it's on a peninsula only adds to the organic nature of the town. For a seriously planned historic city, look no further than a few hours south to Savannah. It's the differences in planning, IMO, that really make these two cities unique from each other. Greenville seems to follow the same organic lines as Atlanta, making concessions to previous road networks as well as the varied terrain.

The implications of the grid for current/future life are fairly large. A large grid network makes transit additions easier and more efficient. It calms traffic, especially with increasing density, and provides multiple ways to get to your destination. Redevelopment and development on underutilized property can be done with minimal upgrades to the traffic network (take Innovista for a perfect example). Simply put, even without significant upgrades, Columbia has the framework already in place for significant intensification, while the other cities have to take a lot more current planning considerations into mind when building new stuff.

As an aside, if the state lines were a mile south, I'd pick Savannah as the clear winner for best planned. That city is a planning masterpiece.

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I chose Columbia on both polls. IMO, the street grid trumps all. While several cities have a nice grid network (Sumter and Florence come to mind), Columbia really has the most extensive gridded layout. My impression (and this isn't at all a bad impression) is that Charleston and Greenville have more of an organic layout than a planned layout. Charleston seems to pre-date "planned" cities, and the result is an intimate city with varied cityscapes, ROW widths, block sizes, etc. The fact that it's on a peninsula only adds to the organic nature of the town. For a seriously planned historic city, look no further than a few hours south to Savannah. It's the differences in planning, IMO, that really make these two cities unique from each other. Greenville seems to follow the same organic lines as Atlanta, making concessions to previous road networks as well as the varied terrain.

The implications of the grid for current/future life are fairly large. A large grid network makes transit additions easier and more efficient. It calms traffic, especially with increasing density, and provides multiple ways to get to your destination. Redevelopment and development on underutilized property can be done with minimal upgrades to the traffic network (take Innovista for a perfect example). Simply put, even without significant upgrades, Columbia has the framework already in place for significant intensification, while the other cities have to take a lot more current planning considerations into mind when building new stuff.

As an aside, if the state lines were a mile south, I'd pick Savannah as the clear winner for best planned. That city is a planning masterpiece.

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Aiken was nicely planned for a smaller sized city. Its downtown is one of the nicest in the state and its inner city area has park-sized medians between the gridded streets. Its one of the prettiest cities as well with the landscaping and urban forest, etc. etc. No wonder its one of the hottest places for retirement in the SE.

Even the burbs arent too bad. Alot of the suburban areas remind me of suburban areas of Florida with the shopping centers and malls hidden behind lush landscaping and minimal signage.

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^ The portions of Aiken that had the original parkway plats completed are indeed quite excellent, but it's only a fraction of the original city plans, and amounts to a tiny portion of the city. But I suppose its quite common for great plans to get scrapped. Even N. Augusta had a great planned town, but that got scrapped after too much flooding (of course that just opened up the riverfront for the quality dev. happening now).

I suppose it is counterintuitive to suggest Charleston pre-dates large scale planning (especially when citing Savannah). But I do contend that it's growth was likely more organic and neighborhood oriented, more similar to the uber-funky Boston (on a much smaller scale, both in size and irregularity) than the uber-planned Savannah.

I don't contend completely that a grid is the be-all end-all, but I think it's critical to have numerous thru streets at consistent (and short) block lengths. If there's a better way than the grid, I'm unaware of it... Downtown Detroit and DC both have functional variations, with streets funneling traffic against the grid, but the grid is still there... In fact, all the US cities I consider great cities are well gridded (with Boston the Euro-style-exception)...

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This almost seems a loaded question - because I don't think 'planned' equals high quality urban livability. As example - downtown Charleston is highly regarded nationally & world-wide as being an exquisite built urban environment, in particular the street pattern that is not a strict street-grid.

But Columbia was built as a planned city & though many of the planning methods were great inventions - such as the wide street ROW that limits the spread of diseases (at least that is what they thought then), I don't think the wide street ROW assists Columbia presently. Except of course traffic management, but otherwise it makes Columbia the polar opposite in regard to quaintness that Charleston has (though that is not always a bad thing - Columbia was planned to be a large city).

What I find most interesting about urban development though, are the consequences of not planning. Greenville is a great case in point. Similar to Atlanta & Charlotte - the central business district has far expanded what was 'built' as the downtown. I don't consider this a negative - it creates a unique environment of downtown merging into neighborhoods, a downtown neighborhood if you will.

Otherwise, my view of what 'city' is best planned has much more to do with the city's metro than the city itself. Particularly due to what areas are the 'most planned' are going to be post-WWII suburban areas. Which is contrary to what people think of as being planned, but it is unfortunately a crux that the planning community has to acknowledge - they are partly to blame for much of the sprawl issues that they now are charged to reverse.

But to make a long story short - I think Columbia's metro is better planned than Charleston's & Greenville's. But only marginally.

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You make a lot of good points, and thas why I focused on cities, rather than metros in this instance. Our cities tend to be more progressive when it comes to planning, and our counties do not. So even though its counterintuitive, I thought cities might be the more fair way to compare.

In the Upstate, the metro-wide planning is not as strong as in Columbia or Charleston metros, and the planning conditions for the cities there are much different (more urban revitalization) than the other (suburban development + urban revitalization)

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You make a lot of good points, and thas why I focused on cities, rather than metros in this instance. Our cities tend to be more progressive when it comes to planning, and our counties do not. So even though its counterintuitive, I thought cities might be the more fair way to compare.

In the Upstate, the metro-wide planning is not as strong as in Columbia or Charleston metros, and the planning conditions for the cities there are much different (more urban revitalization) than the other (suburban development + urban revitalization)

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In the Upstate, the metro-wide planning is not as strong as in Columbia or Charleston metros, and the planning conditions for the cities there are much different (more urban revitalization) than the other (suburban development + urban revitalization)

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^In this case, I read Spartan as referring to the individual MSAs of Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg. But I could be mistaken.

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I think my general point though is that regarding cities - they exist in the way they are primarily due to the lack of planning (traditional zoning). New Urbanist plans are the only developments that actually attempt to plan out the vibrancy, eclecticism, & uniqueness of urban areas. Which is why they largely feel so unnatural & 'forced'.

Even though I am not at all a libertarian, allowing the market & strong civic pressure to influence growth through the mid 1900's has helped create what we all love about city cores.

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Well, I meant them idividually, but I had the old GSA metro in mind even though I didnt say it. The Upstate is a different animal no matter how its sliced up.

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