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Old 10-13-2015, 06:40 AM
 
24 posts, read 22,918 times
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Background : Married couple, late 20's, with a newborn kid. We've lived our entire life in a midwest "city" that's actually just a giant clump of suburbs. We'd love to live (and raise our kid) in a urban environment. (Where "urban" means "the default building is not a single family standalone house" and "cars / bikes aren't the only viable transit option"). That's impossible to do here, so we're investigating relocating :

The area doesn't have to actually be a big city, if it's urban enough. (I've never seen these, but I'm told "urban suburbs" exist. Bellevue is the closest example I can think of, downtown is urban enough with a decent transit center, but it still has good schools)

Weather : Totally fine with cold. Love rain. Love clouds and overcast. Heat is tolerable, if it's only temporary (1-2 months a year). No extreme heat would be preferable (not a fan of places like Phoenix or Miami).

Politics / Religion : We're non religious, "Bernie Sanders type" liberal. We can probably be fine living anywhere. (Our current area is hyper conservative, hyper Christian. Nothing wrong with that, and we can easily pass under that radar if needed. But it would be nice to not *have* to do that).

Jobs : We can probably find work anywhere if we try hard enough. Our main issue is cost of living. Our area is approx 20% below average on wages, but only approx 10% lower than average cost-of-living. And urban areas tend to be 20-40% higher average wages / cost of living. Which makes saving up here to go there take twice as long as it should.

Schools : This is will be an issue in a few years. I don't really know what to do about it

Areas considered :

Seattle / Portland : Beautiful. Perfect. I've visited both in the last three years (including multiple weeks in Seattle), taking public transit literally everywhere. The suburbs have urban-type areas with great schools. Transit is being rapidly expanded. The main problem is that these areas are very trendy / very in demand, so they're priced way out of what we can ever afford or save for.

Minneapolis / St. Paul : Overall nice. Has good enough transit (at least, better than here). Main concerns are the downtown. It feels like it might be a bigger version of where we are at now -- where wages are low (and property costs too high) for people to actually live in the downtown, because "no one actually supposed to live downtown".

Chicago : Super affordable. Lots of urban living that we could actually afford. The best transit of any city I've ever been to. Main fear is violent crime and schools. I don't want to start an argument about it (and the Chicago forum seems like it's in lockdown over the issue) but it's something I'm concerned with, and I'm not sure how to address it. I sort of assumed it was a "well everywhere has bad neighborhoods" type of issue. But I'm seeing posts here that Chicago might be different in that regard, that it's an issue even in "nice neighborhoods" like Lincoln Park. According to data on Wolfram Alpha, Chicago's total crime rate is a tiny bit lower than where we live now, but Violent crime is 4x higher.

So I'm turning to the C-D community of experience. Thoughts? Ideas? Is the logic here on these places sound? Are there places that I'm not thinking of, that we should be considering?
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Old 10-13-2015, 07:28 AM
 
56,648 posts, read 80,952,685 times
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Perhaps parts of the city of Pittsburgh or a nearby suburb like Dormont may work. Lakewood OH outside of Cleveland is another place to look into. Maybe even Kenmore NY adjacent to Buffalo too.
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Old 10-13-2015, 07:29 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,436 posts, read 11,933,106 times
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Coming at it from an "urban parent" standpoint, Seattle and Portland are indeed among the best urban public school systems in the country. They are, as you noted, pricey areas however, and getting more so as time passes. IMHO they also aren't particularly urban as major cities go, but Seattle in particular is getting better as it demolishes more single-family housing for denser development.

Chicago is actually fine, depending upon the neighborhood. It has always had a robust magnet system which has been in high demand. Lately the demand has been so high that a lot of neighborhood schools on the north/northwest side have started seeing more middle-class parents enroll their children, which has led to significant improvements in test scores (for obvious reasons).

In general, regarding major cities, I would but them in two batches regarding urban schooling.

First there are cities like Boston, NYC, and San Francisco, where the overall school system lags the suburbs, but it is so big and has so much school choice that you cannot stereotype. Two middle-class parents with above average intelligence will likely kids smart enough to test into the merit-based magnets, which functionally end up no different than top suburban schools. Of course, these cities tend to be high-cost, so you end up with the Seattle problem here as well.

Second, there are cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC where the public school system as a whole lags outside of a much smaller "favored quarter." Magnet options exist, but are generally much more limited Being in public school unless you are in this favored quarter can be dicey, yet the portion of the city which is in the best feeder zone is generally far, far more expensive than the city at large.

FWIW, Pittsburgh is more affordable, and has fairly decent public schools (our daughter is currently a first grader in PPS) it has both a robust magnet system along with a "favored quarter" where the neighborhood schools themselves are highly regarded. Unfortunately the most urban neighborhoods generally do not align well with the best neighborhood schools, but things may be changing in this regard by the time your child is school aged.
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Old 10-13-2015, 12:00 PM
 
Location: TOVCCA
8,452 posts, read 11,447,601 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by infrastructurist View Post
Our main issue is cost of living
What is your budget for a rent and/or buy situation? And what careers do you both have?
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Old 10-13-2015, 12:37 PM
 
21,196 posts, read 30,388,339 times
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Have you considered "urban suburban" locations near Chicago like Evanston, Skokie or Wilmette? They're in fairly close proximity to Downtown Chicago in terms of commutes (15 miles or so) with considerable transit availability, good schools and safe neighborhoods largely.
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Old 10-13-2015, 01:31 PM
 
Location: New York NY
4,268 posts, read 6,351,433 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle19125 View Post
Have you considered "urban suburban" locations near Chicago like Evanston, Skokie or Wilmette? They're in fairly close proximity to Downtown Chicago in terms of commutes (15 miles or so) with considerable transit availability, good schools and safe neighborhoods largely.
Also, you can add Oak Park to Chicago-area towns to consider.
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Old 10-13-2015, 09:05 PM
 
24 posts, read 22,918 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle19125 View Post
Have you considered "urban suburban" locations near Chicago like Evanston, Skokie or Wilmette? They're in fairly close proximity to Downtown Chicago in terms of commutes (15 miles or so) with considerable transit availability, good schools and safe neighborhoods largely.
I'm happy with considering "urban suburban" locations. I suspect we might have to, to get decent schools. I just don't know of many of them. (Evanston was on my list, but Skokie and Wilmette are new to me).

Quote:
Originally Posted by nightlysparrow View Post
What is your budget for a rent and/or buy situation? And what careers do you both have?
Careers in tech and healthcare admin.

Budget is about $1,400/mn to $1,600/mn ish (rent) or $220k to $260k ish (buy).

We loved our old neighborhood, but it gentrified rapidly (from $800/mn to $1650/mn average rents in the last three years. And it's on track to hit $1,950/mn in 2016), so I'm heavily biased towards owning a condo/townhouse to protect us from that happening again.
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Old 10-13-2015, 09:48 PM
 
Location: Auburn, New York
1,775 posts, read 2,513,956 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by infrastructurist View Post
Minneapolis / St. Paul : Overall nice. Has good enough transit (at least, better than here). Main concerns are the downtown. It feels like it might be a bigger version of where we are at now -- where wages are low (and property costs too high) for people to actually live in the downtown, because "no one actually supposed to live downtown".
Minneapolis actually has higher wages and a lower cost of living than Chicago. Plus, it's 3% unemployment rate is pretty remarkable.

I'd say that the Twin Cities has absolutely everything you're looking for. There's actually a whole lot of new residential high-rises going up in Northeast Minneapolis, just across the river the downtown (Google East Hennepin and Central Avenue NE). http://kstp.com/article/stories/s3721178.shtml

Likewise, the Loring Park neighborhood is affordable, very densely populated (all high-rises) and it borders downtown.

If you're looking into Chicago, the only safe, urban neighborhoods that meet your price range would be Rogers Park or Edgewater Beach. You may be able to find something in Lincoln Square. Albany Park is very affordable and it's right on the Brown Line, but I don't recall it being as safe as the other neighborhoods I mentioned (more property crime).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ckhthankgod View Post
Perhaps parts of the city of Pittsburgh or a nearby suburb like Dormont may work. Lakewood OH outside of Cleveland is another place to look into. Maybe even Kenmore NY adjacent to Buffalo too.
I think these are great suggestions.

To the OP: Lakewood, while technically a suburb, is actually the most densely-populated city in Ohio. You may also like to consider the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland proper.

Pittsburgh's downtown is kind of dead, but the Shadyside neighborhood, I think, offers what you're looking for.

And in terms of Buffalo, with your price range you might want to look into the Allentown neighborhood in Buffalo itself. It definitely has a nice, urban feel.

Likewise, Albany is very dense and urban, inexpensive, and relatively cheap. However, while Albany has a big-city feel near it's core, it doesn't really offer big city amenities.

I've heard great things about Richmond, Virginia, but I've never visited myself. From what friends have said, it could be worth checking out. It's apparently very dense (unlike most Southern cities), charming, and has a lot of trees. Perhaps someone could speak for Richmond better than me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle19125 View Post
Have you considered "urban suburban" locations near Chicago like Evanston, Skokie or Wilmette? They're in fairly close proximity to Downtown Chicago in terms of commutes (15 miles or so) with considerable transit availability, good schools and safe neighborhoods largely.
I can see Evanston, but I don't think Skokie or Wilmette are urban at all.

Last edited by Dawn.Davenport; 10-13-2015 at 10:09 PM..
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Old 10-14-2015, 08:56 AM
 
56,648 posts, read 80,952,685 times
Reputation: 12521
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckhthankgod View Post
Perhaps parts of the city of Pittsburgh or a nearby suburb like Dormont may work. Lakewood OH outside of Cleveland is another place to look into. Maybe even Kenmore NY adjacent to Buffalo too.
Here are street views of these 3 communities, which are some of the most dense suburbs in the country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...er_square_mile


https://www.google.com/maps/@40.3953...8i6656!6m1!1e1

https://www.google.com/maps/@41.4850...8i6656!6m1!1e1

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.9640...8i6656!6m1!1e1
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Old 10-14-2015, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,436 posts, read 11,933,106 times
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Dormont is a great town, but IMHO if your concern is about Pittsburgh Public Schools, it isn't worth the tradeoff. I mean, it performs better than PPS as a whole, but there are plenty of options within the PPS system (such as 6-12 magnets which focus on arts or science/technology respectively) which you would not have access to. So you're basically trading a school system with some excellent, and some terrible options for one which is just all-around average.

People who want a walkable suburb with good schools in Pittsburgh usually move to Mount Lebanon, Aspinwall, or Sewickley. Further discussion is probably best kept to the Pittsburgh forum.
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