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Old 10-24-2009, 09:28 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,196 posts, read 67,344,690 times
Reputation: 15841

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Hello forum!

As many of you may know I grew up on the outskirts of Scranton, PA, a city with blue-collar roots that suffered very deeply from Rust Belt decline, shedding half of its former population of 145,000 as the local economy tanked. However, Scranton's "bones" are still amongst the best in the nation with a generous stock of historic architecture, a location just two hours from New York City or Philadelphia, gorgeous natural surroundings, distinct neighborhoods, and generally friendly and hard-working people. After college graduation I decided to relocate to experience life in a whole new area---Northern Virginia (DC suburbs). While I appreciate that this area is more diverse, more forward-thinking politically, more tolerant of interracial relationships and the LGBT community, etc. it is also lacking strongly in the character, charm, or soul that Scranton had. Scranton may have throngs of blighted buildings, but some of those homes told stories about the immigrant who came here in 1890 and built that home with its natural woodwork and stained glass windows with his own bloodied hands to house his six children. What's the story here in Reston? Our "historic district" is from the mid-1960s and looks like something out of the Jetsons. The homes lining the cul-de-sacs here tell the story of a developer putting up particle-board and vinyl monstrosities in order to make a quick buck.

I can't tell you how many days I've been shedding tears since I've moved here because I quite honestly can't tell where to live where I can feel like I belong. I crave a city that has the core elements Scranton had (down-to-earth people, historic architecture, distinct neighborhoods, walkability) but also has the few things I like about NoVA (diversity, tolerance, social progression, highly literate and intelligent population). Scranton lacks those items and is very much still living in the 1950s so I won't dare return to life there. Is there any such place left in America that incorporates a healthy blend of those elements but is also affordable?

As of right now Pittsburgh continues to pop up on my radar because it is in many ways a larger version of Scranton but has a heavier emphasis upon higher education, a slightly more liberal population, and housing prices that the middle-class can still afford (for now). What other cities do others think may be a good fit? Bear in mind I'd prefer to live in the Northeast or Midwest. I was thinking Richmond might be another option.

Thank you.
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Old 10-24-2009, 09:34 PM
 
1,247 posts, read 3,430,254 times
Reputation: 556
Cincinnati would be a good option, or you can always come to Dayton (probably a little more "Scranton-ish" than you want, though).
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Old 10-24-2009, 09:51 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,196 posts, read 67,344,690 times
Reputation: 15841
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daytonnatian View Post
Cincinnati would be a good option, or you can always come to Dayton (probably a little more "Scranton-ish" than you want, though).
Ohio has also crept up onto my radar (along with believe it or not Michigan). I visited Cincinnati once and really enjoyed it, although I didn't spend enough time in the city proper to get a good enough "feel" for it (I was visiting friends in Anderson Twp. in the suburbs). I've admittedly never been to Dayton and have only heard awful things about it, but then again what I've come to learn from my tenure here on City-Data is that those who dislike an area will chirp the loudest while those who are content where they live normally just sit back and don't bother to rave about it.

I know I'm going to get the standard "PA, OH, or MI? There's no jobs there! Are you nuts?" types of replies, but that's honestly where I'm honing in on (along with some other cities like Peoria, IL, Dubuque, IA, the Twin Cities, Duluth, MN, and Richmond, VA). To me I don't need to be earning six-figures and driving an Audi to feel "accomplished" (the way many here in NoVA do). I plan to obtain my MBA or MPA and potentially open my own business, so "making big bucks" is of little concern to me. What's more important is that I move to a city with good roots---a place with homes that aren't primarily mass-produced vinyl/particle-board garbage on cul-de-sacs, a place where people care more about chit-chatting with you on your front porch with lemonade than they do about trying to out-do you all the time or stab you in the back, a place where people may not necessarily be the brightest but have hearts of gold, etc. I'm looking for Bedford Falls or Mayberry in a nation that is trying its damndest to make those sorts of environments disappear. I'm seeking an area with nostalgia, history, charm, diversity, and (most importantly), housing prices attainable for the middle-class (let's say $40k-$80k annual household incomes).
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Old 10-24-2009, 11:27 PM
 
Location: New York City
2,814 posts, read 6,019,618 times
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if you are young man, the suburbs aren't for you. how about living in the cool part of DC? I forget the name right now. Also, what about a New England town like Northampton in MA.
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Old 10-25-2009, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Dayton, OH/Portland, OR
398 posts, read 1,162,881 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScranBarre View Post
Ohio has also crept up onto my radar (along with believe it or not Michigan). I visited Cincinnati once and really enjoyed it, although I didn't spend enough time in the city proper to get a good enough "feel" for it (I was visiting friends in Anderson Twp. in the suburbs). I've admittedly never been to Dayton and have only heard awful things about it, but then again what I've come to learn from my tenure here on City-Data is that those who dislike an area will chirp the loudest while those who are content where they live normally just sit back and don't bother to rave about it.
It's too bad that a lot of people diss on Dayton. It really is a nice area. I have lived here in Dayton for a handful of years - moving away soon, but not because Dayton is an "awful" place. You should come check it out sometime!

Nearly all of its residential areas are historic (pre WWII - back all the way to the early 1800s). Quite a few neighborhoods are designated Historic Districts. It also has a lot of nice suburbs - some have a lot of newer construction, but even some of the suburbs are historic - such as Miamisburg and Oakwood. Miamisburg and some of the outlying towns actually date to the 1700s and have the buildings to prove it!

Dayton is a very pretty and lush and green place with rivers and trees. It has varied topography (not flat).

It has a "real" downtown with tall buildings, albeit the downtown area is much in need of more small businesses and entertainment. Near downtown is the small "Oregon District" with bars/restaurants/shops etc. Now if the downtown could begin to look a bit more like that, this would really be a hopping city, in my opinion. There are a bunch of rennovated loft living buildings downtown that they are having trouble filling/selling. Daytonians need a reason to go downtown!

Dayton has all the amenities anyone would probably need, but it definitely retains "small town charm". In no way is it Cincinnati, but of course it's just a fraction of the size of Cincinnati. The economy right now is hurting, and Dayton has not been spared. But there is a real sense of community and resiliance here. Very few Daytonians seem to have just "given up". One thing that holds and will hold Dayton together in the long run is the presence of the Air Force Base, which is once again expanding in early 2010, by the way.

I think it would be a great place for a budding entrepeneur to start up a business! There is sure plenty of room for that, and many great deals on buildings/spaces to be had right now. Dayton needs people like you to come set up shop and help turn it back into the bustling city it once was! Anyhow, if you are ever in the area, you should take a look for yourself.
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:57 PM
 
Location: Arvada, CO
13,237 posts, read 24,424,164 times
Reputation: 13004
I know it doesn't exactly fit your geographical requirement, but have you ever been to Denver? There are some neighborhoods here right up your alley.
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Old 10-25-2009, 03:07 PM
 
1,630 posts, read 3,596,139 times
Reputation: 866
Why not just move into an historic neighborhood in DC proper?
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Old 10-25-2009, 04:53 PM
 
1,247 posts, read 3,430,254 times
Reputation: 556
ScanBarre- sorry I forgot to mention this before, but I forgot the perfect place for you:

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Really. It meets ALL of your requirements.


Also- Malachi23:

Very nice write-up on Dayton, and so true!!!! Rep points are coming your way.
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Old 10-25-2009, 06:38 PM
 
Location: South Beach and DT Raleigh
11,810 posts, read 18,804,722 times
Reputation: 11136
Madison, WI?
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:43 PM
 
5,772 posts, read 13,729,036 times
Reputation: 4583
The cities you are already considering sound like possibilities. From what I've seen in your posts over the past couple of years, I'm guessing that you might prefer to avoid a really big city, but if that's a possibility, along with the fact that you are considering Pittsburgh, you might look at the other end of your home state and consider Philly.

If you don't want a city as large as Philly but can still go for a moderately large city, a place that jumps out at me as a possibility is St. Paul. St. Paul is said to be a city of close-knit neighborhoods. I've heard the city described as a bunch of small towns which all happen to have the same mayor. I'm not personally familiar with St. Paul enough to know how accurate this description is, but it does have nice old architecture. If the descriptions of its general character are true, it just might be a lot like Mayberry on a larger scale.

A few others to consider:

Columbus. The old architecture that might be appealing is more in the form of old houses in residential neighborhoods. The city's older inner-city architecture looks kind of generically old-city to me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but your past posts give me the impression that you might not consider gentrified hip kind of neighborhoods your top choice, and generally it seems that in C'bus those are some of the nicest areas, though you might find the kind of Mayberryish neighborhood you're after in some older residential areas just outside the true central part of the city in and around downtown.

New Haven. Might be worth checking out if you're looking more for a population similar to Scranton's. New Haven has seen some decline in the past, but seems to be on the upswing, and now seems to be turning into an interesting and lively little city beginning to realize its potential.

Providence. Not exactly a hip culture, but sort of like that, so not much like Mayberry in the trendy sections, but you can find some more neighborhoody kinds of places in some of the older residential sections.

Portland, ME, and Portsmouth. Depends how far off the beaten path you want to be, or can tolerate being. Both are classy vibrant little cities (Portsmouth is a bit more like a large town while Portland is more of a small city), with nice old residential architecture, and some classic architecture downtown (Portsmouth's being a bit more Colonial in appearance, while Portland has some interesting Victorian urban architecture). And, they may not be as far off the beaten path as some would think. Portland is about two hours from Boston, Portsmouth an hour give or take, and Portland itself along with the vicinity of Portsmouth have Amtrak service to Boston.
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