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Old 04-06-2022, 02:53 PM
 
202 posts, read 204,334 times
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Let’s deviate away from the popular cities and discuss the small ones. No suburbs, nothing in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or Washtenaw counties. Either totally standalone cities, or cities with small “Micro-suburbs” that do not steal their thunder. Cities of 20k-50k.
East Lansing is excluded since it’s A) a significant Lansing suburb, and B) cool enough where most people will put it at #1 so it has too big an advanatage.

Rank the following from best to worst.
Your opinions and criteria will be yours alone and will differ. That’s cool. Just explain your reasoning for rankings.

Port Huron

Bay City

Midland

Jackson

Muskegon

Monroe

Adrian

Holland

Mount Pleasant

For me?
1. Holland. Not much negative to say. Great downtown, good beach nearby, has its own individual, unique character. Large Hispanic presence which gives it a more diverse flavor and depth.
2. Monroe. A bit underrated. Interesting architecture and a bit of history. Not far from both Detroit’s southern suburbs and Toledo. You can hand out equally often in 2 different states. Frenchtown Twp has extra options for shopping and dining at chain stores. A few rough looking blocks near 2nd street, a documented drug problem, but still a lot of nice areas. Downtown is absolutely empty during Sunday’s. But overall, more good than bad.
3. Midland. Safe. Good neighborhoods. Has the basics. However, quite boring and in a very, very rural area. It almost feels too remote. And seems completely dominated by me company. We see how well that worked for Flint. Middle class, but beyond walking through gardens and riding snowmobiles on state land in the winter, what else is there to do? But at least it’s not the slums.
4. Mt Pleasant- Not bad. Is there much to it beyond gambling and college students though?
5.Port Huron-eh. Not real impressive. Underutilized waterfront. However, Lakeside Beach is good. I drove there from Oakland County and thought it was worth the trip. Many run-down neighborhoods. Few decent jobs. But Fort Gratiot is To PoHu what Frenchtown is to Monroe. Malls, chain stores, restaurants. Very convenient for most people. Again, I’m not impressed, but it’s the economic center of the area and serves a few functions, plus has a great beach.
6. Adrian. Should be 1 county south. Looks and feels like a typical Ohio city more than a Michigan city. Not the best, not the worst. Cost of living and convenient, compact size help. Small college presence keeps it populated and noteworthy.
7. Muskegon. Kind of run down. Few decent jobs. A bit distressed. Has several “burbs” but none are significant. Seems like a great location being woefully underinvested in.
8. Bay City- beyond being the county seat of the similar-named Bay County, I can’t figure out why it exists. Not good. Not bad. Not much to see or say at all. It’s just kind of there.
9. Jackson- reminds me of a failed attempt at something bigger. Big buildings, urban style neighborhoods, but all plotted too small. Not developed to intended scale. East side is grimy and looks unsafe. West side has nice neighborhoods and homes. What exactly is the economy here? Is there one? Worse than Bay City because the crime rate is higher.
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Old 04-06-2022, 06:19 PM
 
3,646 posts, read 11,871,585 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowdawg View Post
Let’s deviate away from the popular cities and discuss the small ones. No suburbs, nothing in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or Washtenaw counties. Either totally standalone cities, or cities with small “Micro-suburbs” that do not steal their thunder. Cities of 20k-50k.
East Lansing is excluded since it’s A) a significant Lansing suburb, and B) cool enough where most people will put it at #1 so it has too big an advanatage.

Rank the following from best to worst.
Your opinions and criteria will be yours alone and will differ. That’s cool. Just explain your reasoning for rankings.

Port Huron

Bay City

Midland

Jackson

Muskegon

Monroe

Adrian

Holland

Mount Pleasant

For me?
1. Holland. Not much negative to say. Great downtown, good beach nearby, has its own individual, unique character. Large Hispanic presence which gives it a more diverse flavor and depth.
2. Monroe. A bit underrated. Interesting architecture and a bit of history. Not far from both Detroit’s southern suburbs and Toledo. You can hand out equally often in 2 different states. Frenchtown Twp has extra options for shopping and dining at chain stores. A few rough looking blocks near 2nd street, a documented drug problem, but still a lot of nice areas. Downtown is absolutely empty during Sunday’s. But overall, more good than bad.
3. Midland. Safe. Good neighborhoods. Has the basics. However, quite boring and in a very, very rural area. It almost feels too remote. And seems completely dominated by me company. We see how well that worked for Flint. Middle class, but beyond walking through gardens and riding snowmobiles on state land in the winter, what else is there to do? But at least it’s not the slums.
4. Mt Pleasant- Not bad. Is there much to it beyond gambling and college students though?
5.Port Huron-eh. Not real impressive. Underutilized waterfront. However, Lakeside Beach is good. I drove there from Oakland County and thought it was worth the trip. Many run-down neighborhoods. Few decent jobs. But Fort Gratiot is To PoHu what Frenchtown is to Monroe. Malls, chain stores, restaurants. Very convenient for most people. Again, I’m not impressed, but it’s the economic center of the area and serves a few functions, plus has a great beach.
6. Adrian. Should be 1 county south. Looks and feels like a typical Ohio city more than a Michigan city. Not the best, not the worst. Cost of living and convenient, compact size help. Small college presence keeps it populated and noteworthy.
7. Muskegon. Kind of run down. Few decent jobs. A bit distressed. Has several “burbs” but none are significant. Seems like a great location being woefully underinvested in.
8. Bay City- beyond being the county seat of the similar-named Bay County, I can’t figure out why it exists. Not good. Not bad. Not much to see or say at all. It’s just kind of there.
9. Jackson- reminds me of a failed attempt at something bigger. Big buildings, urban style neighborhoods, but all plotted too small. Not developed to intended scale. East side is grimy and looks unsafe. West side has nice neighborhoods and homes. What exactly is the economy here? Is there one? Worse than Bay City because the crime rate is higher.
Hmmm...just curious, have you ever been north of Bay City? There are quite a few nice small towns in the Northern part of the mitt. A few that come to mind is Petoskey, Gaylord, Cheboygan and Mackinaw City. That's just below the bridge. Have a few more that could be added in the UP.
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Old 04-07-2022, 02:24 AM
 
55 posts, read 39,764 times
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Quote:
8. Bay City- beyond being the county seat of the similar-named Bay County, I can’t figure out why it exists. Not good. Not bad. Not much to see or say at all. It’s just kind of there.
FWIW, driving up I-75 doesn't and seeing the exit signs doesn't mean that you have been to Bay City. Bay City is there because there used to be a significant lumber industry presence, which was then replaced by heavy industry. From 1890-1910, Bay City and Saginaw were two of the top five cities in the entire state when ranking by population.
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Old 04-07-2022, 02:56 AM
 
202 posts, read 204,334 times
Reputation: 256
Yes, I’ve been north of Bay City.
None of the cities you mentioned come close to a population of 20k. Those are more like quaint, cute small towns.
Traverse City couldn’t make the cut because it has 15k and that was the closest.

Thanks for clearing me up on Bay City. Yes, I’ve been in Bay City. All parts of it. East, west, many neighborhoods. It’s not bad per se. I’ve heard it compared to Detroit and Flint, in a bad way,even by locals. That was definitely hyperbolic. But I have felt that it had an identity crisis and just kind of lived in Saginaws shadow as a little brother.
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Old 04-07-2022, 03:51 AM
 
Location: Louisville
4,930 posts, read 5,082,240 times
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City population may actually be the worst possible metric to use when making these comparisons. Better to use urbanized or metro when looking at these things. Traverse City may have only a city population of 15k, but it anchors an urban population of over 50k, a metro of 140k+, it's home to the 4th busiest airport in Michigan after Flint, and has the media and retail offerings of a 500k person metro. It may not fit your criteria because it has 15k people in 7sq mi even though the urbanized portions and influence spill well outside of its borders.
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Old 04-07-2022, 05:01 AM
 
Location: Louisville
4,930 posts, read 5,082,240 times
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These cities ranked by urban population which I think is a much better gauge of what a city "feels like". I included Traverse, and Benton Harbor/St. Joe. since they are larger population centers than most realize. *Using census reporter latest figures for UA.

Muskegon 164,234
Holland 102,488
Jackson 88,084
Port Huron 85,778
Bay City 67,481
(Benton Harbor/St. Joe 60,843)
Midland 57,400
(Traverse City 51,065)
Monroe 50,082
Adrian 44,634
Mt. Pleasant 37,566
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Old 04-07-2022, 05:41 AM
 
Location: Louisville
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Ranked using the urban criteria:

Traverse City: I know it's not included in the criteria, but Id rank it 1st if it were. It is the 2nd fastest growing population center in the state after the Grand Rapids area. In my opinion these other cities can't beat it's retail, restaurant, and recreation offerings. Not to mention the 50k person urban population represents its year round residents. It does not include the population surge that happens from May-Sept. How many other cities of 15k people have BMW and Benz dealerships?

Holland: Overall I find Holland fairly underwhelming. Decent amount of investments in its downtown. Once you get away from downtown the built environment gets very bland very quickly. Though if we are going by city alone Holland probably has the most upward mobility, and "quaint" core of this grouping. Holland benefits from being a small city comparatively with a billionaire family making relentless investments in its future. There are entire states without any billionaires, you can see the difference having one can make.

Muskegon: Unpopular to put it here, though I imagine the OP hasn't spent much time there. Muskegon has definitely seen better days but the last 2 decades its proximity to GR has resulted in quite a bit of investment spill over. Contrary to the OP MKG has actually seen more investment $ recently than most of the cities listed here. It still has a way to go to be certain, but it's leadership focus seems to be in the right area. It is a port for Great Lakes cruise ships, and they have taken many aggressive steps toward removing the industrial areas on the waterfront and replacing them with recreational, commercial, residential investments. It is also one of the few population centers on this list that is still gaining and not losing residents. It's urban size and proximity to other clusters such as Grand Haven give it better retail and restaurant options than most of the cities it's being compared to.

Bay City: I was surprised by Bay City when I visited it. Like most cities on the list it struggles with population. They have done a good job investing in the riverfront and the downtown area is more quaint than one might expect.

Jackson: People are going to think I'm crazy but I actually like Jackson. Once we get to cities this small there's only so much "quaint" that can make them interesting to me. Jackson far and away has the best and most interesting urban bones of any city listed here. It was also the most populated of the cities listed here at one point and is still the most dense. Jackson suffers from quite a bit of malaise, but I think it has the most potential. Downtown Jackson is my favorite on this list.

Midland: Being the home of Dow gives Midland a pretty stout economy. It is surprisingly bland and non descript given it's size, and resources. I don't have anything really bad to say about Midland, it's a neutral place with a lot of untapped potential.

Port Huron:It may be the city most under it's potential. Located on an international border and the northern terminus of I-69, and I-94. I've been there only once and like most of the cities on this list could picture what it would be like if it had more investment.

Monroe: It's sandwiched very closely between one really big metro, and one medium sized metro and doesn't seem to reap the benefits of either. Monroe is closer to Detroit than Ann Arbor but feels like it's counties away. I know there's *some* uniqueness of it's downtown, but not enough to really separate it from this pack. I've found it to be less interesting/quaint than Bay City. I've never understood how Monroe and it's county are immediately on the border of two much larger population centers, but doesnt get spillover from either of them.

Adrian: Don't know a lot about it, other than a fairly non-descript land locked population center.

Mt. Pleasant: Without CMU it would be not much interesting. Even with CMU there's not enough to make it stand out to these other cities.

Benton Harbor/St. Joe: Close proximity to Chicago, home to some of the best beaches in the state, seat of one of the largest corporations in out state Michigan and yet still has the worst population performance of these population clusters. I've never fully understood it with all of those ingredients.

Last edited by mjlo; 04-07-2022 at 06:12 AM..
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Old 04-07-2022, 07:24 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
30,253 posts, read 74,301,245 times
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It is very hard to find cities in Michigan between 20,000 and 50,000 population outside the core counties. Many of my favorite cities have populations of under 1000, or at least under 5000. The mid sized cities are pretty bland. There is one exception IMO. Several of the of the cities on OPs list do not meet OPs criteria. Are we sataying under 50,000 population or not?



Marquette number 1. This is a nearly ideal city. A small friendly college town with enough to do to be interesting,but not crowded and very friendly (unless you act like a Fudgie). Tons of awesome things to do in the area. Pleasant, safe, pretty (scratch that - beautiful). Ok not a lot of spectacular architecture, but you cannot have everything. If I did not need a job, I might move there right now.



Port Huron - I agree this is an under-appreciated city. It has some great places and a nice waterfront. Not a place I would want to spend a week, but a day there is pleasant. Even a weekend would be nice. It is funny that residents often call it Port Urine.



Monroe- some great architecture downtown. The business atmosphere is dead. Downtown businesses struggle, fail get replaced,struggle fail. . . To us, it is mostly a place to go for yard sales, or a place to stop for breakfast at the start of an out of state trip (no point in sopping for gas here, gas is cheaper in Ohio just a few miles away). Monroe still has a serious residual drug abuse problem but not as bad as its reputation would indicate.



Holland - Holland is ok. Other than the Tulip festival, it does not offer a whole lot. There are a few decent places to eat/drink. Some gift shops,. That is about it. The main attraction of Holland is its proximity to cooler places (none of which qualify for OPs criteria). Holland also has a really cool high end RV reconditioning place (Panther I think) I have not been there, but I look at their RVs online frequently and would love to visit their shop. I do not think they welcome tire kickers though. Maybe in a few years when I am ready to buy an RV they might let me in. If you include Holland Township, this does not meet OP's criteria. It also may not qualify as a stand alone city as it is dependent on Grand Rapids (and infested with Chicago).



Bay City. Surprisingly pleasant and entertaining. we like to go there for a weekend getaway. They have a really cool B & B there and enough interesting dinning/entertainment venues to be interesting for a weekend. They make really poor use of a very nice waterfront. This is a city with great potential. bay City may not qualify for OPs criteria since it is dependent on Saginaw and not truly stand alone.



Battle Creek could fit the criteria if it shed a few thousand people. Battle Creek is surprisingly more interesting than you expect. There is a neat market there and some fun events. There is more to it than just cereal.





Traverse City - Kitschy and pretentious. It was nice once, but it has been ruined. There are many cities in the area that are much more pleasant, but which do not meet OPs criteria. The downtown is still awesome when a third of Chicago is not there, but everything around it is Kitsch. TC is now a nice place to stop over on your way someplace else, or a nice place to go for goods/services not available in smaller/nicer communities nearby (except at the height of summer, then it is a nice place to avoid).



I do not know enough about Muskegon to comment. A friend lives there and loves it.



The other cities that fit the criteria that i am familiar with are simply too bland to warrant any discussion.
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Old 05-02-2022, 11:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Coldjensens View Post
Bay City. Surprisingly pleasant and entertaining. we like to go there for a weekend getaway. They have a really cool B & B there and enough interesting dinning/entertainment venues to be interesting for a weekend. They make really poor use of a very nice waterfront. This is a city with great potential. bay City may not qualify for OPs criteria since it is dependent on Saginaw and not truly stand alone.
Bay City is entirely independent of Saginaw. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone suggest it was dependent on Saginaw. I don't even think people from Bay City travel to Saginaw that often. I belive (but could be wrong) more people go to Midland to work than to Saginaw.

It's also an entirely self-contained town, although I do get the impression that it's slowly dying. Their downtown is probably the best in the region, but all their eggs are in that basket. The rest of the town is losing stores. Neighborhoods are looking more worn down, and the parks are neglected.
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Old 05-02-2022, 01:21 PM
 
Location: Central Mass
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Originally Posted by VM1138 View Post
Bay City is entirely independent of Saginaw. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone suggest it was dependent on Saginaw. I don't even think people from Bay City travel to Saginaw that often. I belive (but could be wrong) more people go to Midland to work than to Saginaw.

It's also an entirely self-contained town, although I do get the impression that it's slowly dying. Their downtown is probably the best in the region, but all their eggs are in that basket. The rest of the town is losing stores. Neighborhoods are looking more worn down, and the parks are neglected.
That would be my guess too. 10 is a straight shot from downtown Bay City to Midland. You've got to drive down 10 to get to 75 to get to Saginaw.

It felt like it was dying the last time I was there ~2005
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