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Skyliner

Strengths & Weaknesses of SC Cities

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This topic is dedicated to discussion of the strengths of the major cities in South Carolina, and also their weaknesses.

How should we eliminate or overcome our weaknesses and preserve our strengths?

You can lump the cities together, or name them individually.

Let's have fun! :)

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One of the biggest weaknesses, of course, is the crazy annexation laws. How can we overcome this? My guess is to get some progressive, forward-thinking movers and shakers in the proper positions.

One of the biggest strengths is that our major cities aren't too isolated from one another (culturally, politically, etc.); there seems to be some form of interaction among them, which is good. Another is that there is great variety in our major cities. Charleston, the largest urbanized area in the state, is historical and coastal. Columbia, the state's largest city, is geographically central and, of course, the state capital. Greenville, which will probably be the central city in the state's largest MSA in the next census, is in the foothills and is part of a developing regional metropolitan area. Each area has its own flavor which it contributes to the state, something that every state cannot boast about.

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Good thread Skyliner.

I'll start at the coast and work my way Northwest.

State as a whole:

Strengths: A good climate, many friendly people, a good interstate highway system, beautiful beaches, lakes and mountains

Weaknesses: Excessively conservative, fundamentalist religious groups have too much power, too much reliance on tourism as a major industry, the wealth is not evenly distributed among all state public schools, not enough funding for public universities, inadequate public/mass transportation, suburban sprawl, limited affordable air travel, horrible annexation laws

Charleston:

Strengths: Its history has been well preserved, close to the beaches, a growing port, the Spoleto Festival, museums, aquarium, shopping, excellent health care

Weaknesses: Too much reliance on tourism. Tourism does not generally create high paying jobs and many resort owners do not live in SC. High poverty rate, lack of affordable in-town low income housing, inadequate highways

Columbia:

Strengths: A stable economy, many institutions of higher education, generally good public schools, IMO the most progressive and diverse city in the state, good city parks system, close access to Lake Murray/Congaree National Park/Saluda River Rapids, home to 3 interstate highways, home of Riverbanks Zoo, excellent sports and entertainment venues, current construction boom, affordable housing, good health care, quick access to both the mountains and the beach, Tree City USA, State Museum, Museum of Art, highly rated public library

Weaknesses: Too much reliance on government employment, too many different local governments, riverfront development not occuring fast enough

Greenville:

Strengths: Close to the mountains, more snow than the rest of the state :), the Peace Center, developing downtown housing, industrial base.

Weaknesses: The least progressive region of SC, excessive religious fundamentalism, the worst suburban sprawl in SC, mediocre transportation, least diverse population in the state

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One of the stringths of our State is that we are diversified economicly. Greenville-Spartanburg is the Industrial powerhuose. Columbia has government bureaucracy at its base. Charleston has ports/tourism/beaches as its base.

At the city level-

Greenville has a fantasic rate of growth. Its downtown is booming. Once the stadium gets build it will boom even more. The downside is that most of its growth is sprawl. Greenville has the lowers unemployment rate in the state (4% I think). That says alot when the rest of the state is struggling. Its transit system leaves much to be desired.

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Spartanburg is a fine city. It has alot going for it in terms of its downtown renaissance, and general development. SPARTA recently opened its first trolley line in downtown, which I trust is not in vain. There is a demand for downtown living and activites. The key downside is that the projects aren't coming fast enough, despite the amzing success of the onces that have been completed and handled well. Another worthy effort is the Hampton Heights historic district revitalization. It is slow in coming, but a worth while cause indeed.

One commonly overlooked asset in Spartanburg is our access to 5 institutions of higher learning: the growing USC Upstate, Wofford, Converse, Spartanburg Methodist College, and Spartanburg Technical College. There is also the Sherman Chiropractic College, which is the only one in the state. We are also home to the SC School for the Deaf & Blind, and 7 school districts, most of which rank high in the state.

There is some effort towards mixed use outside of downtown, though I don't know how far this will go. Downside here is that there is still alot of sprawl. The city is expanding west towards Duncan at an incredible rate. Roebuck is essentially engulfed now. Boiling Springs is a nightmare for traffic. It is a the truest suburb of Spartanburg in that it relies on the city for employment, but not shopping. No other suburban area has its own Walmart, Lowes, restaurants, etc. No effort is being made to counter the sprawl that I am aware of.

The city is seeing alot of redevelopment of commercial boxes that have been victims of leapfrogging and were eyesores. Infact, most of them have been filled. The downside there is that two big ones are going to open up soon. But at a net gain of 0.

The downsides are the poor transportation system and the general complexity of downtown to visitors. We have a strange grid, but the locals are used to it. Outsiders apparantly find it confusing. There is an effort to create good signage around town though. The major employers in the area are not located downtown. Most are along 85, which is understandable considering the industrial base of the Upstate- but it makes for a town that is not centered around its core economically.

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Columbia is one of my favorite cities. It has so much going for it that I don't know where to start. The downtown urban living trend is booming. There aren't enough dense housing projects going on downtown. In order to create an effective downtown urban area there needs to be enoug people to sustain it. Most of the strengths and weaknesses have been well described so far, so I am not sure what to add :) The only real downside I see about Columbia is the sprawl. Lexington County and NE Richland are particularly bad in terms of this. I can't imagine what these areas will look like 10 years from now.

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Charleston is a cool place. I always enjoy my visits there. That new bridge is great. It is definately one of SCDOT's more worthwhile endeavors. The city its its own best asset. The core area hsa history that can't be matched by most places in the US. However, like has been said, it is too reliant on tourism. There aren't enough other industries to back it up in the event of a recession. The neck area is blighted in a bad way. I know efforts are being made to remedy this, but until sich a time occurs, it will just be a bad first impression. The plans for an LRT make Charleston the most forward thinking city in SC IMO. Greenville has its eyes open for one, but it doesn't seem like there is as much of a push for one as in Charleston.

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Pardon some repeats of points from previous posts ...

COLUMBIA STRENGTHS:

University of South Carolina

State Government

Fort Jackson

I-26 & I-20 & I-77

Riverfront location

USC research university plans

COLUMBIA WEAKNESSES:

Heavily dependent on government (state, university, military)

Not immediately near beach or mountains

CHARLESTON STRENGTHS:

History and historic resources

Coastal location

Port

Well known

Status as a destination

Extremely proactive mayor in Joe Riley

Decent job annexing in a tough annexation state - e.g., Daniel Island

Spoleto

Medical facilities

University of Charleston is downtown

CHARLESTON WEAKNESSES:

Too dependent on tourism

Somewhat more isolated than the other two

More expensive housing costs than the other two

Hurricanes

Probably worst traffic due to the waterways and bridges

GREENVILLE STRENGTHS:

Location near mountains

Ability to attract high end manufacturing

European influences with manufacturing operations

Great main street

ICAR

GREENVILLE WEAKNESSES:

Most sprawling and multi-nodal of the three

Most restricted municipal boundary of the three

Most deficient transit system of the three

Least diverse (it's pretty lily white compared to the other two)

Most socially conservative (maybe not as bad as some say, but still more so than Columbia as the more liberal college town and Charleston as the live and let live old port city)

No significant college in the central city (Furman is rather small as well as suburban and Clemson is too far away)

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^^ Great post UrbanSoutherner. Every word is true, and it is a good synopsis for the unfamiliar.

Kudos also to Skyliner for the thread. I always like questions like this. Later today I hope to add my two cents.

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I think Rock Hill has two big strengths - first, you can never deny the importance of rocks. Rock Hill has a wide variety of rocks, in terms of quantity & quality. The second major strength is it's hills, that is obvious.

So to summarize:

1) rocks

2) hills

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One of the state's advantages in general terms is access to relatively cheap electricity. Duke Energy and Santee Cooper are well regarded as providing relatively low cost power on a very decent power grid. (no north east style backouts here)

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I think Rock Hill has two big strengths - first, you can never deny the importance of rocks.  Rock Hill has a wide variety of rocks, in terms of quantity & quality.  The second major strength is it's hills, that is obvious.

So to summarize:

1) rocks

2) hills

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Truer words have never been spoken :rofl:

One of the state's advantages in general terms is access to relatively cheap electricity.  Duke Energy and Santee Cooper are well regarded as providing relatively low cost power on a very decent power grid.  (no north east style backouts here)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Perhaps. But nothing beats losing power for no apparant reason on a bright and sunny day :)

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Several Greenville strengths seemed to be overlooked by other South Carolinians in this thread. As an outsider that moved to GV, here are a few more observations to consider.

Greenville Strengths:

Manufacturing capital of SC

In top US bracket for European investment

In top 5 US metros for engineers per capita

Busiest commercial airport in SC in terms of passenger count

Less reliant on the state of SC (as Columbia is) and more reliant on US/International business

Low unemployment

Active downtown

Location, location, location (the Boom Belt....Atlanta, Anderson-Greenville- Spartanburg, Charlotte-Gastonia, Winston Salem-Greensboro- High Point, Burlington, Durham-Raleigh)

Very pro-active mayor (Knox White) that has made downtown GV a high quality, high profile, livable, walkable environment

And on diversity, much more diverse than seems to be given credit. While Columbia and Charleston are more diverse when looked at from the point of black and white (GV is fairly white, I must admit), throw in ALL races groups and GV is pretty diverse....largest Indian population in state, Germans (with BMW), French (with Michelin), Asian from all countries, Hispanic, a large Greek population, large Jewish population, multi European due to business environment, most out of state residents (read Northerners, due to business environment), a large professional and partnered gay representation, etc, etc. Charleston may be more diverse....Columbia is not. Columbia is pretty black or white.....thats not diversity.

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Interesting where did you get your data from, I'd like to see it? I had no idea that the Greenville area, & Charleston were more diverse than Columbia? I'm not saying that Columbia is a metropalitian mecca but but just like every other place in the state it is certainly more than just black & white there.

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Okay, let's see if I can do a good job with this. I'll start with my hometown and show my legendary bias again, but I will be objective and do the other major cities with equal scrutiny later. I had this feeling if I did them all at once, the post would be way too long. Some of these maybe already listed...sorry!

Charleston Strengths

4th busiest container port in the nation, 2nd busiest on the East Coast

Cruise destination

Best urban access to beaches

Best access to other bodies of water (lakes and rivers)

Major military base (SPAWAR and Air Force)

Major medical industry

Most scenic areas

Historic architecture

Tourism

Better road infrastructure

Diverse college education facilities

Busiest commercial airport (GSP is not, based on SCIWay Info)

Most active downtown

Emphasizes art and music

Low unemployment

Good annexation policies

Urban renewal projects

Largest municipal police force among the 3 major cities

Charleston Weaknesses

Heavy, obsessive preservation of downtown buildings

Too many competing municipalities and bureaucracies

Tourism (heavily dependent)

Painfully slow urban planning

Excessive real estate costs and property taxes

Lack of definitive urban skyline

Inadequate parking in downtown

Isolation from rest of the state

VERY insufficient city lighting on streets and sidewalks

Limited growth for colleges and universities

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For what its worth this is how the diversity shakes down in the states largest metros, per census.

Counties:

Richland

white 50.3%

*black 45.2%

Am. Ind. 0.2%

*Asian 1.7%

Hawiian 0.1%

2 or more races 1.3%

Hispanic 2.7%

foreign born 3.9%

*other language spoken than english at home 7.3%

Greenville

*white 77.5%

black 18.3%

Am. Ind 0.2%

Asian 1.4%

Hawiian n/a

*2 or more races 1.4%

*Hispanic 3.8%

*foreign born 4.9%

other lang. spoken 7.1%

Charleston

white 61.9%

black 34.5%

*Am. Ind 0.3%

Asian 1.1%

Hawiian 0.1%

2 or more races 1.2%

Hispanic 2.4%

foreign born 3.6%

other lang. spoken 6.4%

Cities:

Columbia

white 49.2%

*black 46%

*Am. Ind 0.3%

*Asian 1.7%

Hawiian 0.1%

2 or more races 1.4%

Hispanic 3.0%

foreign born 4.1%

*other lang. spoken 8.2%

Greenville

white 62.1%

black 33.9%

Am. Ind 0.1%

Asian 1.3%

Hawiian 0.1%

2 or more races 1.4%

*Hispanic 3.4%

*foreign born 4.3%

other lang. spoken 6.9%

Charleston

*white 63.1%

black 34%

Am. Ind 0.2%

Asian 1.2%

Hawiian 0.1%

2 or more races 0.9%

Hispanic 1.5%

foreign born 3.5%

other lang. spoken 6.8%

* indicates leaders in that category

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Interesting where did you get your data from, I'd like to see it? I had no idea that the Greenville area, & Charleston were more diverse than Columbia? I'm not saying that Columbia is a metropalitian mecca but but just like every other place in the state it is certainly more than just black & white there.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Obiviously Columbia is more than black and white. But as for diversity, Columbia just doesn't edge out Greenville. Honestly, compared to northern states and cities, neither are very diverse.

From the official 2000 Census page, a couple of interesting statistics.

Richland Couny Hispanic: 2.7%

Greenville County Hispanic: 3.8%

Richland County foreign born: 3.9%

Greenville County foreign born: 4.9%

Between 1995 and 2000, Richland County had 77,396 people move in. Of this

44.4% were from other places in South Carolina and 55.6% were from out of state.

Between 1995 and 2000 Greenville County had 72,579 people move in. Of this 33.9% were from other places in South Carolina and 66.1 were from out of state.

Just don't understand people always bringing up Greenville's imagined lack of diversity.

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Again it appears to be splitting hairs I can argue that Richland has the largest % of black, asian, or those who speak another language, Columbia edges out Greenville in black, american indian, asian, & those who speak another language. I don't see where Greenville has a foothold on Columbia in diversity? We are arguing very miniscule differences between areas, but I guess it's for what its worth?

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I agree we are splitting hairs to some degree at this point.

One thing I noticed is that the Gville city population is significantly more minority-populated than Gville County. That is a major reason why the city is viewed (correctly, IMO) as being more diverse, tolerant and liberal than the county. The County Coucilmen can afford to alienate minorities and still get re-elected. An at-large city councilman or mayor could not do that and have much hope of being reelected. Refer to the previous battles over mass transit, the anti-gay resolution, and the MLK holiday for examples of what I am referring to.

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Again it appears to be splitting hairs I can argue that Richland has the largest % of black, asian, or those who speak another language, Columbia edges out Greenville in black, american indian, asian, & those who speak another language. I don't see where Greenville has a foothold on Columbia in diversity? We are arguing very miniscule differences between areas, but I guess it's for what its worth?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

True. It is splitting hairs. The earlier post however make Greenville out to be a place totally devoid of diversity and Columbia as a bastion of diversity. They are very much the same, as is Charleston and probably the rest of SC and the South for that matter.

I did find it interesting that Greenville county has a much higher percentage (11% more than Richland county) that moved from out of state. Other than that, you are right, splitting hairs.

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True.  It is splitting hairs.  The earlier post however make Greenville out to be a place totally devoid of diversity and Columbia as a bastion of diversity.  They are very much the same, as is Charleston and probably the rest of SC and the South for that matter.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Greenville is less diverse than Columbia or Charleston, but they are in the same "league" in that regard. However, I would say that Greenville is less tolerate overall than the other two cities.

I remember well, back in 1996 when I moved from Cola to Gville, the reaction I got when I told someone where I had moved to/moved from. Everyone in Greenville said "I guess you're glad to be out of Columbia" and everyone in Columbia said "aren't you scared of what might be in the water up there, those people are crazy". Greenvillians think of Columbia as boring (no mountains, no beach), and as hot as Las Vegas in July. Columbians think everyone in Greenville is a Bob Jones, bible thumping, right-wing nut job. This wasn't long after state senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) tried to eliminate coed dorms at USC, and at the same time as the anti-gay resolution controversy in Greenville.

In reality, both sides are partly right and partly wrong. Columbia is hot in the summer (lots of asphalt, no mountain or ocean breeze), but there is much more nightlife than Greenville (thanks in no small part to the college population). Greenville does have more than it's share of right wing nuts (Senator Fair being just one of them) that give the area a bad name. However, there are also plenty of tolerate, welcoming people too.

As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle of the extremes that most people project.

That percentage of people moving in from out of state can also be deceptive. Columbia is 70 miles from the state line and Greenville County bordersNC and is very close to Georgia. This probably accounts for most of that difference.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Good point.

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True.  It is splitting hairs.  The earlier post however make Greenville out to be a place totally devoid of diversity and Columbia as a bastion of diversity.  They are very much the same, as is Charleston and probably the rest of SC and the South for that matter.

I did find it interesting that Greenville county has a much higher percentage (11% more than Richland county) that moved from out of state.  Other than that, you are right, splitting hairs.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I found those facts very interesting. That is something that is often overlooked when discussing diversity. That gives us ammunition when people accuse Greenville of not having diversity. :)

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I found those facts very interesting. That is something that is often overlooked when discussing diversity. That gives us ammunition when people accuse Greenville of not having diversity. :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Remember that Greenville County borders North Carolina and is very close to Georgia. I wouldn't get too excited about that stat until you know where that 11% comes from.

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