From East Coast to West, these six places offer the best of urban living at a price you can afford.
Sure, small cities have their charm, and the ones on our Best Places ranking have it in spades. But some of us don’t feel as if we’re really living unless we’re doing it in the middle of a bustling metropolis. Our Best Big Cities list identifies the metro area (300,000-plus population) in each region of the country that offers all the benefits of big-city living plus strong job growth, affordable housing, good schools, low crime, and great quality-of-life factors such as ample transportation options and access to green space. These six places emerged from our pool of 63 contenders as the hottest spots for urban dwellers now.
- Best in the NE = Boston
- Best in the SE = Raleigh
- Best in the Midwest = Columbus
- Best in the S = Arlington, TX
- Best in the Mountains = Colorado Springs
- Best in the West = Portland
Portland is the place where Portlandia seems more documentary than satire. Farm-to-table restaurants, stretched earlobe rings, craft-beer-swilling hipsters, and cries of “Bicycle right!” are common in this burgeoning Pacific Northwest city. But that quirky spirit, coupled with a vibrant tech culture, is precisely why people are moving here—or moving back.
“When I graduated from the University of Oregon in the ’80s, my college counselor told me to leave the state because there were no jobs,” says Leslie Carlson, a partner with Brink Communications, a small firm that combines social activism and marketing. That’s not a problem today. Portland’s unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, and its 3.3% job-growth rate puts it in the top 10 of large U.S. cities. The arrival of technology companies including wind-power giant Vestas, home-sharing site Airbnb, and venture-backed Puppet Labs has earned treelined Portland the nickname “Silicon Forest.”
AT A GLANCE
- Population 622,004
- Median Home Price $349,000
- Average Property Tax $4,285
- Unemployment Rate 7%
Portland: Silicon Valley Meets Hipster Heaven
Increasingly, leaders from that other tech hub, Silicon Valley, have relocated here for the lifestyle. With amenities like Forest Park, an eight-mile-long urban forest reserve designed by the Olmsted Brothers (sons of famed Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted); an extensive network of neighborhood greenways (a.k.a. “bicycle boulevards”); and a world-class food scene, Portland culture caters to the green life-work balance. “We can ride our bikes almost anywhere,” says Carlson, who lives in Southeast Portland.
Not surprisingly, the city has seen an attendant surge in home prices. The median price is up $30,000 year over year, to $349,000. Then again, that’s still less than half the median in San Francisco, where a lot of new residents hail from.
HOT HOOD: South of Portland’s -bustling Division Street near the banks of the Willamette River, Sellwood–Moreland is less hipster (and more expensive) than some other popular parts of town, but homes are selling fast to families looking for an old-fashioned neighborhood feeling, plus proximity to good schools and a short distance to the amenities of downtown.
Sept. 17, 2016 | Money Magazine