When a suburb becomes larger than the core city


Cape Coral, FL - Source: aerialphs.com

Cape Coral, FL – Source: aerialphs.com

Below are examples from the United States of suburbs which have outgrown and overtaken the core city of the metropolitan area in population. As is evident from the list, many of these are planned retirement centers in Florida and Arizona. Virginia Beach originally started as a beach resort and retirement haven for military personnel, as well.

Update on 3/1/15: added Overland Park, KS which is now larger than Kansas City, KS, though it remains quite a bit smaller than the other original core city of the metro area, Kansas City, MO.

Core City             2010 Population          Suburb                 2010 Population

Daytona Beach, FL      61,005                        Deltona, FL                      85,182

Fort Myers, FL             62,298                       Cape Coral, FL               154, 305

Fort Myers, FL             62,298                        Lehigh Acres, FL             86,784

Fort Pierce, FL             41, 590                       Port St. Lucie, FL           164,603

Hollywood, FL           140,768                        Pembroke Pines, FL      154,750

Melbourne, FL              76,068                       Palm Bay, FL                   103,190

Naples, FL                      19,537                        Immokalee, FL                 24, 154

Naples, FL                      19,537                        Golden Gate, FL               23, 961

Norfolk, VA                 242,803                        Virginia Beach, VA         437,994

Overland Park, KS 173,372                         Kansas City, KS               145,786

Prescott, AZ                  39,843                         Prescott Valley, AZ        38,822*                         *(projected to have passed Prescott since 2010)

Punta Gorda, FL          16,641                         Port Charlotte, FL           54,392

Sarasota, FL                  53,326                        North Port, FL                 57,357

Source: en.wikipedia.org

When a suburb exceeds the core city in population, the Census Bureau’s references to the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) begins to change, as well. For instance, what once was the “Fort Myers MSA,” eventually became the “Fort Myers-Cape Coral MSA,” and is now known as “Cape Coral-Fort Myers MSA,” as the moniker is revised with the changing population status. Poor Fort Pierce isn’t even listed as part of the metropolitan area name any longer, as it is just identified as “Port St. Lucie MSA.”

The demographic changes also impact local, state, and national politics; as well as alters funding mechanisms for roads and other public infrastructure. It can even revise how the area is marketed to potential employers, tourists, and especially new residents.

For the original core city, which may have been in existence for many decades longer than the newby suburb, this whole scenario has the potential of adversely impacting its collective ego and image. Granted, there is no expected name change to the “Deltona 500,” but Daytona Beach certainly is no longer is the biggest player in its own county (Volusia) when it comes to population.

In each of the cases listed above, local boosters can no longer boast about being the largest city in the region now that they have to play second fiddle to the new kid(s) on the block.

This entry was posted in cities, economic development, geography, land use, marketing, North America, placemaking, planning, politics, Statistics, tourism, urban planning, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to When a suburb becomes larger than the core city

  1. Richard Lee says:

    First and foremost example: Minneapolis surpassed St. Paul in 1890 in a bitterly contested Census. Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer used to call Minneapolis “our oldest and neediest suburb.”


  2. While Daytona Beach is officially the core city of Volusia County FL, Deltona is really a northern suburb of Orlando, due to its location adjacent to employment centers in Seminole County.


    • problogic says:

      I realize Deltona is at the opposite side of the county, as I have a cousin who lives there. But technically it is within the Daytona MSA as defined by the Census Bureau. Thanks!


  3. Motorvilleboy says:

    Good thing Ontario consolidated York County and its municipalities when it did, I suppose. North York’s population could have eclipsed Toronto’s at the rate it was growing for a while. The thing with VA Beach is that it’s an entire former county (Princess Anne). Norfolk was carved out of the former Norfolk County that’s now three separate independent cities. The other two are Portsmouth and Chesapeake. Had they remained as one unit, Norfolk would have more than a half million residents.


    • problogic says:

      You are definitely correct about Toronto. Saanich, BC has passed Victoria and Surrey, BC could soon pass Vancouver. Yes, VA Beach is consolidated with Princess Anne County. Chesapeake will likely pass Norfolk by 2020 Census.


  4. elgblogs says:

    The “core city” in the KC metro isn’t Kansas City, Kansas…it’s Kansas City, MO, which has 500k inhabitants


    • problogic says:

      I am aware of that. Thank you.


    • problogic says:

      That is why I had added this note to the post back in 2015: “Update on 3/1/15: added Overland Park, KS which is now larger than Kansas City, KS, though it remains quite a bit smaller than the other original core city of the metro area, Kansas City, MO.”

      I believe that at one time (several decades ago) both KC, MO and KC, KS were considered core cities to the metro even though the one in MO is much larger. Thanks for your feedback.


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