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Old 11-04-2009, 06:54 AM
 
9 posts, read 19,987 times
Reputation: 11

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My husband and I are presently living in Kentucky but will retire in Spring of 2012 and want to move back to the North (having never really adjusted to different social norms here). I grew up in Northern Illinois and always liked Madison, WI and surrounding areas. We decided that we preferred Michigan to Wisconsin. We like the feel and the many small towns that still have walkable downtowns and also there are more small cities within an hour or so of each other to explore.

We spent 2 1/2 weeks visiting Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and met with realtors in each. We started out assuming we would prefer Ann Arbor because it is liberal and cultured with a university (we are both college professors) but found we both preferred Grand Rapids! -- More of a real city, with public art! and accessible to Lake Michigan beaches and towns. In Ann Arbor I had a feeling that we might feel a bit out of things if we weren't connected to the University plus prices were too high for us. Kalamazoo felt deader to us, not really a charming college town despite the college and university and not lively enough as a city, although there are some nice things including community theater.

Ideally we would like:

A smaller, friendly, accepting community within about 45 minutes of Grand Rapids and within about an hour of Lake Michigan beaches.

A bit of that Up North feel like a place you would vacation with woods and accessibility to lakes, not the middle of a city or bare suburban lots.

Price $150,000 or less (the bitter consequence of our salaries and home equity at Kentucky prices).

Places we liked a lot were Rockford and Lake Doster.

What we'd like to know is what other communities should we consider?

Thank you so much for your advice!!
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:28 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
8,252 posts, read 16,852,288 times
Reputation: 8953
Newaygo area? Small town in the middle of a bunch of 'ponds'- dammed up river areas that are a smaller version of TVA lakes.
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:58 AM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,019,907 times
Reputation: 236
I'd suggest you checkout Grand Haven it's actually on Lake Michigan, and you can live in town for $150k I'm sure. Similarly, you should consider Spring Lake (though it's more suburban, there are also older parts).

I agree that Newaygo might be worthy of consideration.
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:52 AM
 
5 posts, read 16,746 times
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I lived in Kalamazoo for 4-5 years while attending WMU and that is a spot-on description - dead.

For small, walkable, downtowns, I recommend Hastings, Allegan, or Lowell. There a lot of lakes and rural areas surrounding Grand Rapids; Gun Lake comes to mind, as does Newaygo.

You might like the Holland area as well; property tends to be more expensive than other areas since it's right on the lakeshore, but i'm sure you can find something reasonable for 150K. Grand Haven and Holland are going to be fairly similar.
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:05 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
3,095 posts, read 5,629,849 times
Reputation: 4404
Lowell and Hastings are worth checking out. Both are situated in somewhat hilly and wooded areas. Hastings is about a 30 minute drive southeast of Grand Rapids (if you know the shortcut!). Lowell is a pretty easy 20 minute drive straight east of Grand Rapids. Hastings has a better downtown, but Lowell is more conveniently located. It would be tough to get to Lake Michigan in an hour from Hastings.
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:05 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,083 posts, read 34,975,311 times
Reputation: 16907
Looks like one place that keeps popping into peoples heads is Newaygo. That area is the first place that I though of also when I read the post as well. I have a Sister who lives down that direction and her Hubby fishes the dams all the time. Seems like a real nice place.
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:26 AM
 
Location: Loving life in Gaylord!
4,121 posts, read 7,957,069 times
Reputation: 3895
we went camping in Newaygo this past summer and it was real nice. A very up north feel with all the lakes and woods. The area around the Dam is beautiful!
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Old 11-04-2009, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,872 posts, read 17,756,057 times
Reputation: 3838
I wouldn't recommend Newaygo to anyone that was even considering Ann Arbor, or looking for even the slightest bit of a "progressive" or "intellectual" culture. Same goes with Greenville. They're just too far from GR and actually attract the gun rack sandinistas. Rockford's probably a good bet, and Grand Haven (as someone else mentioned). You might also try Saugatuck/Douglas for a resort feel.
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Old 11-05-2009, 08:28 PM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,019,907 times
Reputation: 236
I have to agree a little with magellan on this. if Ann Arbor was on the list as "hey, I like this a little bit" then most of our rural small downtowns in Metro-GR are going to feel like backwaters.

I'm not saying they are... I'm just saying someone who likes Ann Arbor and enjoyed that Grand Rapids was "more of a real city" might feel that way.

But who knows, they need to visit and find out, right?
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Old 11-05-2009, 09:17 PM
 
Location: Somewhere below Mason/Dixon
7,171 posts, read 7,966,644 times
Reputation: 11932
Better stick to GR proper if your looking for any liberal progressive type atmosphere. ( and you will find only a little of it there) Small town Michigan is not very tolerant of liberalism. Just to give you a hint of what the local culture is like up here, many of the schools have the deer season opener off for the day. Everyone drives a chevy pickup and no one belongs to the sierra club. Dont let the election of 08 fool you, the only reason Michigan is considered blue is ONE very populated county (wayne) that votes nearly 100% socialist every election. Outside of that area very few areas of Michigan are progressive or liberal at all. Those who do vote dem only do it because they are union members, but NOT liberals. Much of the state is as redneck as any down south. If your liberalism is that important too you, maybe you should reconsider Ann Arbor.
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