Jacksonville is more like Tampa than it is Memphis, and it always has been. Nor is it a close call. A hundred years ago, we were the big dog in a state with less than one million residents. A population equal to Hillsborough and Pinellas, combined.
Not true. This is more North Florida folklore than anything else. Never in Jax's history was it a lone "big dog" of dominance in Florida's history. In the 19th century, Pensacola and Key West were just as dominant or larger and Tampa was on our ass by the turn-of-the-century. Fueled by the cigar industry, Hillsborough had already surpassed Duval County in population by 1910. In 1912, Pinellas was carved out of it. 1910
57,699 - Jacksonville
37,782 - Tampa*
4,127 - St. Petersburg*- [West Tampa was a separate city until 1925. One of the reasons Jax annexed Murray Hill in 1925 was to bump the city's population back over Tampa's after the Tampa-West Tampa merger.1910
75,163 - Duval County
78,374 - Hillsborough County
Pinellas County (was a part of Hillsborough County until 1912)1920
113,540 - Duval County
88,257 - Hillsborough County
28,265 - Pinellas County1930
155,503 - Duval County
153,519 - Hillsborough County
62,149 - Pinellas County
The two urban areas basically stayed at a similar scale until the 1920s land boom catapulted Central and South Florida forever. South Florida then received another economic boost due to Castro taking over Cuba in the 1960s, bumping it to another level above the Tampa area. The mouse would then come and transform Orlando from a 1970s version of modern day Lakeland into the sprawling metropolis it is today.
Now, those two counties combined easily more than double us.
They doubled us over 50 years ago.
Yes, the Bay Area is much larger but our areas remain very similar -- as long as you understand people are people, not accents (and that difference is exaggerated).
Pinellas County is roughly half the Bay Area. We have very little in common economically and development-wise with Pinellas. I'll give you central Tampa, but I can make that argument for certain pockets of any city in the US that was of decent size between 1910 and 1930. Then even with Tampa, it was always more economically diverse due to immigrants moving there specifically to work in the cigar industry.
Plus, the growth in Jacksonville may only now be kicking into high gear. Memphis? Hell no.
Growth in Jax isn't kicking into high gear. I equate high gear growth to what's taking place in Miami, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, Raleigh, etc. Here, the core city is still dropping in population just like the core city of many of it's early 20th century Midwestern and Sunbelt counterparts (ex. Memphis, Birmingham, Louisville, Dayton, etc.). Fringe areas like St. Johns County are booming at a rate that suburban Memphis isn't. So in another 20 years, we may not be of similar scale if the current trends continue. On the other hand, Florida's other large cities are about 10 to 15 years ahead of us in terms of densifying. Since college, I've seen St. Pete go from being called God's Waiting Room to having one of Florida's most vibrant downtowns and bicycle friendly landscapes.
I do love your dogged refusal to let go of that narrative, though. It's quite familiar. So many Floridians just don't know how to see this city, even when it's in plain sight 24/7/365.
I see, accept and embrace the city for what it is. A second tier regional Sunbelt city with a diverse mix of neighborhoods that we still haven't found a way to better utilize, revitalize and promote.