“Tweener towns” can be defined as:
Those communities that are conveniently located in between two or more large cities and provide easy access to for work, commuting, shopping, and entertainment, but which largely remain outside the immediate urbanized area of those large cities.
It is important to note that just because a town is located between some major cities does not mean it can be classified as a “tweener” as defined above. The distance from the “tweener” to the nearby cities has to be no less than 15 miles and no more than roughly 30 miles. In addition, as time goes by, some former “tweener towns” become engulfed in the spatial area of the nearby larger cities and lose their “tweener” status. Princeton, New Jersey and Attleboro, Massachusetts are examples of a former “tweener towns.”
The clearest and most prolific example of a “tweener town” that I am familiar with is Brighton, Michigan. Located at the crossroads of Interstate 96 and U.S. 23 in Livingston County, Brighton is just 15 minutes north of Ann Arbor, 20 minutes west of the northwest Detroit suburbs, 30 minutes east of downtown Lansing, and 20 minutes south of Flint. As a result, a number of area residents commute along the intersecting expressways to all four urban areas surrounding Brighton.
In some instances, “tweener towns” will grow enough to become important economic centers as well. In Brighton’s case, it has seen a boom in retail development over the past decade with the addition of Kohl’s, Costco, JCP, Barnes and Noble, and many other national retailers. The city and surrounding area are starting to become an important employment destination too.
For planners, “tweener towns” present some interesting challenges that may rapidly change. As they grow into bedroom communities, pressure mounts in “tweener towns” for additional, housing, schools, and public infrastructure. Existing interchanges can become quickly overburdened with the growth in commuting traffic and commercial uses. If the “tweener town” morphs from primarily a bedroom community into a retail and business center, a whole series of new challenges develop – among them is keeping the master plan viable and the zoning ordinance current, so they account for the rapid changes and needs of the community.
Lastly, if the “tweener town” should be absorbed into the spatial area of the nearby larger city(ies), planners are presents with a whole new series of dynamics. Throughout the transformation process, reliable data and continuous community input from stakeholders are key for determining the future of the “tweener town.” Otherwise, the community can be caught flat-footed and overwhelmed by the rising tide of development.
Here is a partial list of other “tweener towns” and the nearby urban centers they are situated between. Please feel free to suggest more.
- Monroe, Michigan – Detroit and Toledo
- Portland, Michigan – Grand Rapids and Lansing
- Dundee, Michigan – Ann Arbor and Toledo
- Lebanon, Indiana – Indianapolis and Lafayette
- Kenosha, Wisconsin – Northern Chicago suburbs and Milwaukee
- Medina, Ohio – Cleveland and Akron
- Durand, Michigan – Lansing and Flint
- Holly, Michigan – Flint and northern Detroit suburbs
- Otsego and Plainwell, Michigan – Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo
- Coopersville, Michigan – Grand Rapids and Muskegon
- Franklin and Springboro, Ohio – Cincinnati and Dayton
- Lebanon and Monroe, Ohio – Cincinnati and Dayton
- Pendleton and Lapel, Indiana – Indianapolis and Anderson-Muncie
- Columbia and Laurel, Maryland – Washington and Baltimore
- Frederick, Maryland – Washington, Baltimore, and Hagerstown
- DeLand, Florida – Orlando and Daytona Beach
- Plant City, Florida – Tampa and Lakeland
- West Branch, Iowa – Iowa City and Quad Cities
- Quakertown, Pennsylvania – Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia
- Burlington, North Carolina – Research Triangle and Greensboro
- Ravenna, Ohio – Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown
- New Braunfels and San Marcos, Texas – Austin and San Antonio
- Frankfort, Kentucky – Louisville and Lexington
- Davis, California – Sacramento and northern Oakland-East Bay
- Woodburn, Oregon – Portland and Salem
- Albany, Oregon – Eugene, Salem, and Corvallis
- Picayune, Mississippi – New Orleans and Mississippi Gulf Coast
- Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh and Youngstown
- Hurricane, West Virginia – Charleston and Huntington
- Watertown and Jefferson, Wisconsin – Madison and Milwaukee
- Marengo, Illinois – Chicago and Rockford
- Lawrence, Kansas – Kansas City and Topeka
- Ashland, Nebraska – Lincoln and Omaha