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What makes a big city feel like a big city?


craigharmann
OK, let me explain my thoughts. I moved the end of January from Sheboygan, to San Antonio. For any of you who have been to Sheboygan, I'm sorry. There is nothing at all in Sheboygan. Granted, it's a huge culture shock to move from a sleeping little city to a major metropolitan area, which is where I feel much more comfortable, but what exactly is it that gives a major city it's feel? I've also lived in Portland, Oregon and spent a lot of time down in Milwaukee, and if I had to rank the 3, San Antonio has the best feel of a big city, followed by Portland, and Milwaukee. I think a big part of it has to do with city leadership and looking ahead. Here in San Antonio, yes there are a lot of visitors, but there is a desire to consistently upgrade and maintain what is here. It felt the same way in Portland. In Milwaukee, it seems like not only is there an inferiority complex compared to Chicago, but there's no desire to maintain and upgrade what is there. Miller Park, to me is a great example. It is a fantastic, great place to watch a baseball game. Who is developing the area around it? Or what is going on to link it to the things to do downtown? Any thoughts? I know the feel of a big city is quite subjective, but I'm interested in finding out your thoughts.
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Your definition will change if you ever make it to Manhattan. It puts other 'big cities' to shame. Even Los Angeles, while a picture perfect example of urban sprawl, pales in comparison to the big city that is the big apple.
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I guess a big city to me, always feels like there are things to do. Especially for me, thinking this weekend that San Antonio is hosting the Final Four. There is so much going on here this weekend, and so much really cool stuff that typically goes on here that brings people in. There's some of that in Milwaukee with the summer festivals and Summerfest, but it doesn't always seem to me that those things are a big attraction TO the city. Maybe that's just me.
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Yeah, every time I'd go to Manhattan for something and come back home to Chicago, I'd get the same feeling I'd get going to Milwaukee or Madison from Chicago. The energy shift is palpable. I can't even imagine what it must be like in a place like , say, Cairo. London doesn't feel as "muscular" as New York since it lacks a Midtown-esque gaggle of skyscrapers. London still has that energy though.

 

I think a big thing for cities is a lot of foot traffic--LA is about 10+ times the size of San Francisco population-wise, but SF always feels more urban to me for whatever reason--always a lot of people coming and going, business districts and neighborhoods hopping, trains and buses and trolleys racing by, etc

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2 words: Public Transportation.

 

Tall buildings, unlimited options, and late business hours are all pluses too, but when I moved to Philly, the fact that there was a subway AND a regional rail system made the difference.

I think you nailed it. I basically decide `bigness` by the size and extent of the metro.

 

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"To me, big cities mean ghettos, grafitti, and gangs"

 

That's what I call a bad neighborhood.

"Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the strength or bat speed to hit major-league pitching consistently, and he has no power......He probably has a future as a backup infielder if he can stop rolling over to third base and shortstop." Keith Law, 2006
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Homer, that's where we parked our cars to go to the Dome, downtown Mpls. Just blocks away is vandalism that never seems to be painted over, guys hanging out on the corner with the same "colors", and the like. Always a window or two in apartment buildings with plywood where a window would be.
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OK, so you've just described about one half acre of the city of Minneapolis.
"Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the strength or bat speed to hit major-league pitching consistently, and he has no power......He probably has a future as a backup infielder if he can stop rolling over to third base and shortstop." Keith Law, 2006
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To be fair to Al, much of Minneapolis was a mess when he lived here. Downtown, campus, and the north side were absolute wastelands and several other neighborhoods in south, northeast, and Uptown were almost as bad. Their is a reason Minneapolis has undertaken numerous "beautification" projects throughout the city over the past decade. Now, rather then entire sections of the city being unsafe and crime ridden, it's much smaller pockets of a block or two and as an added bonus the city actually looks nicer too. It's no Portland or Toronto, but it's far better then it was.

 

That all being said the northside is still a mess. It would be nice if the city actually cared about cleaning it up.

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guys hanging out on the corner with the same "colors"

 

You were going to a game and saw people wearing the same colors? Get out of here. http://forum.brewerfan.net/images/smilies/wink.gif

 

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What makes a big city feel like a big city?

 

Awful traffic, no parking, and bums everywhere. All of these things combining to erase the excitement you felt about all the things to do in the city. It all sounds awesome, but then you realize it takes an hour to get somewhere and parking is $15.

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Well, as a long-time city resident, I can tell you traffic isn't as big of a deal to actual residents since most of the time I don't drive--we don't have to.

 

I don't want to turn this too nasty since I love going out to the boonies to visit relatives but I'll take some congestion and graffiti over a barren nightlife, sparse cultural and sporting opportunities, and lower-paying jobs any day.

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Well, as a long-time city resident, I can tell you traffic isn't as big of a deal to actual residents since most of the time I don't drive--we don't have to.
Hear, hear. I went a wonderful 5 years without ever owning a car in the Cities and even now only use my car on bad weather days. Otherwise I simply bike, bus, or even *gasp* walk to work. The lack of stress from not having to deal with an annoying commute easily makes up for slightly more limited transportation options.
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It takes some luck to get the right arrangement, though. In my case, the best jobs are typically several miles from the city since we need to be accessible to clients who wouldn't drive and park downtown. The housing options near my work (Minnetonka) are primarily $300K houses that I can't afford. But yeah, there are professions where you can live and work right in the middle of the action, which would be a great arrangement.
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I think it comes down to personal preference, depending on what line of work you're in. You're not gonna be able to live in, say, Ontario, WI and get a job in advertising or IT. Nor can you be a farmer and live on Division and Damen in Chicago (maybe a horticulturist though!).

 

For most careers though you have a choice: you have to weigh what you want to spend your money on, how much time you want to spend in commute, and whether the multitude of opportunities and options outweigh your desire for true peace and quiet (although again, that's something that's easier to find in the city than you'd expect).

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There are a lot of things that make a place feel like a big city. . .

 

Pro sports teams

Live theater

Art & history museums

Interesting architecture

Visible taxi service

Developed independent retailers

World class medical facilities

Street vendors

Mass transit

Ethnic neighborhoods

Multiple daily newspapers sold on newsstands

Tourists and things for them to see & do

 

My favorite cities:

New York

Miami

Denver

Washington, DC

Minneapolis

 

My least favorite:

San Francisco

Chicago

Philadelphia

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