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January 31, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Walkable cities and neighborhoods in those cities - or help us pick a place to live:

We're looking at moving late summer early fall from the San Francisco bay area to somewhere in the continental united states. We're leaning towards the pacific northwest (due to family), but are open for really anywhere in the states with some nice to have features of where we end up...since this is a broad topic we're sourcing the hive mind for their suggestions and personal experiences:

* An hours drive/train ride from a reasonably sized airport - aka feeder in to a major hub for multiple airlines with several flights in and out daily.
* Rental housing - 3 bedroom/2 bath houses for around 1400/mo.
* Walkable - wife wants to be able to walk with the baby, is tired of piling in to the car to get groceries/etc.
* Good or above average public schools.
* Weather - reasonable climate - we don't mind snow/rain/sun but we do like distinct seasons.
* Access to nature - hiking, biking, walking, climbing, etc
* Ethnic diversity (we live in a very diverse part of the country right now, and while it's not possible everywhere, we really like it and want to remain in it).

Portland/Seattle/Denver are on the list of places, but what neighborhoods in those cities or others and outlieing areas would fit the above criteria? Help us broaden our housing horizons!

Job is highly portable, I work remotely or fly wherever I am needed. Sometimes this means flying out of town every week, so being close-ish to an airport means I can get out and get home to the wife and baby without wasting travel time.
posted by iamabot to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A tool you may want to use is walkscore.com. It's not perfect (e.g. when I plug in my apartment, it counts the kwik-e-mart place down the street as a viable grocery option), but is great to help you visualize the layout of the neighborhood. Definitely worth checking out.
posted by phunniemee at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Portland, where I live, is not exactly ethnically diverse, unless the presence of both white and off-white are considered a diverse population; that was a little flip, I guess, but Portland's about 85% white. It does meet most of your other criteria, though - PDX is my favorite airport in the world because it's big enough to have several airlines that can get you to major cities, but small enough to not be perpetually overcrowded. Plus it's on the light rail so you wouldn't have to drive there.

I don't have kids so can't speak to the schools, but Portland's a pretty good place to live and worth investigating further. Feel free to memail me if you have questions.
posted by pdb at 3:06 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Understanding that ethnically diverse may be pretty vague in terms of what it means to many people. It might be better to say ethnically tolerant and socially liberal but that's probably just as vague. It's going to be hard to get the ethnic diversity you might encounter in LA, SF or NY, but it's something we talked about actively when considering places to live.
posted by iamabot at 3:19 PM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: Corvallis, Oregon.

* An hours drive/train ride from a reasonably sized airport - aka feeder in to a major hub for multiple airlines with several flights in and out daily.

Less than an hour to EUG, which feeds mainly into PDX and SFO. Less than 2 hours to PDX. If you have a little extra time, there's a shuttle.

* Rental housing - 3 bedroom/2 bath houses for around 1400/mo.

That's approximately right.

* Walkable - wife wants to be able to walk with the baby, is tired of piling in to the car to get groceries/etc.

Yes, very much so, especially in the northwest neighborhoods. Our walkscore on Zillow is only middling, which is ridiculous. We can walk to work, and we do often walk to groceries (Trader Joe, Fred Meyer, Co-op), walk to coffee, etc. You've probably lived places where anyone walking with groceries looks down-and-out? Not here. Everyone walks with their groceries, it's almost a badge of honor. Plus, the bus system is going fareless pretty soon.

* Good or above average public schools.

Very good schools. Two NAEYC accredited day cares. University town, need I say more?

* Weather - reasonable climate - we don't mind snow/rain/sun but we do like distinct seasons.

Okay, lots of rain, but if you are looking at the Pacific NW, no surprise.

* Access to nature - hiking, biking, walking, climbing, etc

I think you are legally required to own a bike. (joking) Seriously, deer walk down our street on a regular basis, so clearly we are encroaching on nature.

* Ethnic diversity (we live in a very diverse part of the country right now, and while it's not possible everywhere, we really like it and want to remain in it).

Not as much as where you live now, certainly, but being a university town, definitely more than you would get in many other Pacific NW towns.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:25 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live in Denver, and I do not have a car. I know quite a few people in this city who do not -- it's completely doable, as long you live in specific areas, and work either downtown or along the south I-25 corridor (where the light rail runs). I live in Capitol Hill, one of the oldest and most diverse places in the city. It has pretty houses and lots of trees (which you can't say about some parts of Denver) You can find a rental here for under $1400 a month (I pay $600 for a one bedroom), but it won't be in a house (freestanding houses in this area, which mainly consists of apartment buildings and condos, with some duplexes and triplexes are rare and pricey). There are three grocery stores within walking distance of me, one of the city's most awesome parks is a few blocks away, and it's a straight shot down 12th Street to enter the city's extensive set of bike trails. The weather in Denver is far superior to that of Portland or Seattle most of the year (although when it gets hot in August, I find myself wishing wistfully for some Pacific Northwest summer temperatures) -- I've lived in all three, and the main reason I'm in Denver rather than one of the other two is the weather. It's sunny all the damn time, whether it's 5 degrees or 90 degrees out.

That said, the public schools in my area are not great, I've heard -- there are very few families in my neighborhood overall, and most people move out of Capitol Hill when they mate up and have kids. Several of the neighborhoods in central Denver are mainly populated by people who don't have children.

Some other neighborhoods that might fit your needs better might be Congress Park (east of Capitol Hill, but with more families and houses, although it can be pricey); and Highlands (more of a developing area, but there are lots of interesting stores and restaurants moving in). Some areas in some of the inner-ring suburbs such as Englewood and Arvada (particularly Old Town Arvada) might fit your needs and be cheaper.

For the most part, Denver is a tolerant, but still segregated city. African-Americans tend to live in the north; Hispanics live in west Denver, and whites live everywhere else (the Asian population is pretty small here). There are exceptions, of course -- my neighborhood is one, depending on which block you're on, and some of the northern southeastern suburbs are attracting more and more Latinos and immigrants.

Access to nature around Denver is, of course, fantastic, but you really need a car to get out to do anything in the mountains.

DIA is everything you want in an airport -- it's larger and busier than either SeaTac or PDX, but it is a PAIN IN THE ASS to get there from wherever you are in the city. Everything that you've heard about it being far away is true. However, it's pretty cheap to fly out of there, since it's a hub for both United and Frontier (and Southwest keeps expanding its flights in and out of DIA).
posted by heurtebise at 3:27 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Come to St. Paul!

Airport - well, not so much on the multiple airlines (Delta dominates)
Housing - don't know the rental market but I have to think it is competitive with any other metro area
Walkable - very! From my house I can walk to small grocery store, diner, dry cleaner, drugstore, kids' school, several churches, and more.
Public schools - good enough - we've been largely satisfied.
Climate - it's brisk, but you definitely get four seasons.
Nature - no mountains, but lots of bike trails, rivers/lakes for kayaking, and all the snow/ice sports.
Diversity - the Twin Cities have, iirc, more Somalis than anywhere outside Africa. Also a population center for the Hmong, and considerable Hispanic and African-American communities.
posted by lakeroon at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Understanding that 1400 is probably a dealbreaker think of it as a starting point for rent somewhere, if the place you have in mind is more please feel free to share it. More is in the budget but lower cost of living overall from the bay area is something we're chasing a bit so 1400 seemed (when I pulled it out of thin air) to be a good number to start from.
posted by iamabot at 3:45 PM on January 31, 2011

Olympia, Washington.
posted by gyusan at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2011

Twin Cities. I moved here from the Bay Area a year ago, wish I'd done it ten years ago.

The rental market is your speed, for sure. It can vary by neighborhood but I can walk to virtually everything my family needs, and public transit seems great compared to Muni. And the place is designed for people who like to do things outside, all year round.
posted by padraigin at 4:15 PM on January 31, 2011

I came here to also suggest Corvallis, OR. (Hi Knowyournuts - we must be neighbors!)

I live in a smaller town about half an hour away, but I work in the downtown area there and I was able to buy every single christmas present for my family while walking places on my lunch breaks. So freaking awesome. They've done a great job with the downtown area in particular. Also, there are people on bikes everywhere - the cars seem to be quite respectful of their space, which is a huge change from my previous home in Texas.

Your rent price seems about right for the area, maybe a little high.

I'm amazed at the amount of things to do in the area. The coast and the mountains are both about an hour away from me (30-45 min from Corvallis).

Eugene, OR might also be nice, but I'm not nearly as familiar with it.
posted by WowLookStars at 4:39 PM on January 31, 2011

Yea, some areas of both St Paul and Minneapolis fit your criteria. Snow, yea, but people here make the most of it in all seasons.
posted by cabingirl at 4:40 PM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: Seattle fits the bill (except for seasons, we just have "summer" and "rain" -- oh, and it's not exactly diverse). 3 bedroom houses for $1400 a month is pushing up against the limits of what you can get in a nice neighborhood inside the city limits. I rent a 3BR house, and I know others who do too -- they're in the $2000 ballpark.

Once you push out into slightly less central neighborhoods, though, it's doable. In West Seattle you could find a hundred houses in that price range. But only a small belt of West Seattle is what I'd call "walkable" -- mostly the area around the northern half of California Ave. Pretty nice neighborhood though.

You could find one in Ballard, but it would probably be a pretty crummy house -- and in the part of Ballard that's less walkable. Ditto for most of the North Seattle neighborhoods. Maybe in Ravenna.

Portland is sort of the same thing but significantly cheaper -- you can live in much of the city at your price range. The economy sucks, or so my unemployed friends in Portland tell me. Single data point: I don't know any unemployed people in Seattle. Don't underestimate this consideration...
posted by zvs at 6:15 PM on January 31, 2011

Oh, sorry, I missed the part about your existing portable job. In that case I would move to a giant Craftsman house in Portland immediately. =)
posted by zvs at 6:16 PM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: What specific areas/neighborhoods of St. Paul and Minneapolis?

I live in the Uptown area, a collection of several neighborhoods surrounding a couple of the lakes, on the southwest side of Minneapolis. They are on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but coming from the Bay Area, that means that a lot of the area still seems incredibly reasonable to us, and perhaps to the OP as well (for example, I rent out half of my duplex for $1500: that's two stories, three bedrooms, two baths, a mile from the best public school in town, two blocks from the lake, one block from the bus line to downtown).

We did look at several other neighborhoods though, and it was a stroke of luck getting a place in a top public school that led us to where we ended up. Based on our personal checklist of amenities, we'd have been happy in quite a few different parts of the Twin Cities.

Depending on your preference for grit, the kind of architecture you like, the precise number of coffee shops you need to be able to see from your window--I'm amazed at how there's something for everyone within the cities proper, without ever having to venture to the suburbs for space, or quiet, or whatever it is that leads people out of the urban center.
posted by padraigin at 6:34 PM on January 31, 2011

As far as St. Paul goes, the most walkable neighborhood is probably Macalester/Groveland, which wraps around Grand Avenue. It's a less diverse neighborhood than most in St. Paul, I'd say. Pretty family-oriented though.
posted by cabingirl at 6:43 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some parts of Philadelphia might fit the bill. (Except "access to nature" might be a bit difficult. I'm a native Philadelphian (who moved to Oakland six months ago) and not particularly into nature; maybe someone else can weigh in.) This might be a bit further east than you want to go, though...
posted by madcaptenor at 7:25 PM on January 31, 2011

St. Louis is a great place to live with a family. Areas like Maplewood have a diverse population, are close to public transit, very walkable and have good public schools. The airport is super easy to get to, and get through. There are great hikes and rivers within an hour of downtown. There are defined seasons and it's very affordable. Memail me if you want more info--we love it here in the Midwest!
posted by fyrebelley at 8:53 PM on January 31, 2011

Some parts of Philadelphia might fit the bill. (Except "access to nature" might be a bit difficult.

Erm, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia is somewhat analogous in character and location to Golden Gate Park (though four times the acreage) with both formal parks and large swaths of undeveloped land.

My diverse neighborhood in South Philly is very walkable, affordable, and the airport is right outside the city. We've got four seasons, for real.

But the school situation is problematic at best, and an utter catastrophe at worst.
posted by desuetude at 9:58 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the feedback. The neighborhood specific info is very helpful as we evaluate where we land. We have a 3 month old currently and will be adding another monkey to the mix in a few years, so schools while lower importance now, are only picking up speed and will eventually be the most important thing. Thanks again for everyones feedback, if anyone else has ideas please post, or has info on specific neighborhoods beyond what is posted above please let us know.

We plan on starting to visit prospective places this month to scout out the neighborhoods.
posted by iamabot at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2011

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