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Big Rustbelt cities vs. Small/midsized Sunbelt cities

5713 Views 57 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  NLouisianaJay
Which do you see poised to perform better in the years to come: big Rustbelt cities (e.g., Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) or small/midsized Sunbelt cities (e.g., Raleigh, Huntsville, Jacksonville), and why?

P.S.--I'm considering metro/urbanized area populations when I speak of size.
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Atlanta was more like a Grand Rapids than a Milwaukee in its early years. Sure Atlanta has an historic core, but its not nearly as large as what you'll find in the larger Midwestern cities. Even in the 1920's Milwaukee was more than twice the size of Atlanta.
Detroit - 993,078 - 77.9 sq. mi. - 12,748 ppsm
Milwaukee - 457,147 - 25.3 sq. mi. - 18,069 ppsm
Atlanta - 200,616 - 26.2 sq. mi. - 7,657 ppsm
Grand Rapids - 137,634 - 17.5 sq. mi. - 7,865 ppsm

I don't know about you, but I would definitely say Atlanta had a lot more in common with Grand Rapids than it did with Milwaukee or Detroit. It was definitely a larger and more important city than Grand Rapids, considering that it was the capital and largest city in Georgia, but on a relative scale, its closer to Grand Rapid Rapids than it is to other large Midwestern cites. I guess a better comparison would have been Columbus or Indianapolis, but even those cities were larger than Atlanta in the 1920's.
Atlanta's downtown core has 40+ highrise buildings from 1900-1920's, the oldest being the Flatiron Building built in 1895. There is a large neighborhood downtown called Fairleigh-Poplar that is nothing but historic buildings; then there is Castleberry Hill, which is an 1800's industrial/warehouse district that is booming with residential and retail loft conversions; the Marietta St. corridor is another 1800's industrial district, with retail and residential lofts. These comprise a huge part of downtown and I'm sure can compete with Milwaukee. In 1920 Atlanta's population was 200,000 to Milwaukee's 457,000...Atlanta was smaller, but still a large city for that time period. There is a large amount of history here that is often overlooked by people who have never visited and make assumptions that Atlanta is a "new" city. Oh, and Grand Rapids population in 2000 wasn't even as large as Atlanta's in 1920, so definitely not a good comparison.
How am I saying that? I just said that Atlanta was more similar to Grand Rapids than it was to Milwaukee or Detroit in the 1920's. It's not like Grand Rapids isn't an historic older city on its own... Sure to compare Atlanta and Grand Rapids today is ridiculous, but 100 years ago it was a different story.

I don't think people would say comparing Des Moines to Wichita today is out of the question, but in fifty years, Des Moines could be a major city of 5 million while Wichita could be languishing around 1 million.
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