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Old Posted Sep 30, 2019, 1:01 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Originally Posted by SIGSEGV View Post
Is the Hampton Roads the largest metro area in the US with no obvious dominant city?
Not from Hampton Roads, but I'd argue that Norfolk is pretty clearly the "real city" of the bunch. Yes, Virginia Beach is the largest city by population, but that's largely due to Virginia's weird local incorporation laws, which ensure cities cannot be part of counties. In the mid 20th century the mergers of cities and counties resulted in the creation of the "cities" of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Suffolk, which all had oodles of undeveloped land still at the time. The former was so large that it eventually eclipsed the more traditional cities of Hampton Roads in population, even though it lacks an urban core to speak of.

The "core four" of Hampton Roads are really Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News. Newport News and Hampton were both very small cities in the prewar area. Newport News had a downtown area close to the shipyards, but it was basically urban renewed into oblivion, with some scattered old buildings left but nothing cohesive remaining. Hampton has a very small downtown area with maybe a block of decent urbanity (but little commercial vitality).

Portsmouth, though the smallest of the "main four" today, boomed a bit earlier than the above two. It has a real downtown area which goes on for several blocks. Just to the north it has the (rather pretentiously named) Olde Towne, which is one of the handful of semi-intact rowhouse-like neighborhoods in the South. But it still doesn't hold a candle to Norfolk, which has an actual (though small) CBD area, a nice traditionally urban streetscape with prewar midrises along Granby St, and the (relatively) old urban neighborhood of Ghent.
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