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Where to relocate to - warmer, urban-cultural, affordable, walkable?
Old 08-29-2011, 03:29 PM   #1
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Where to relocate to - warmer, urban-cultural, affordable, walkable?

DH and I have been FIREd (occasionally freelance) for 3 years. In our 40s, no kids. We want to move out of the Chicago area to something a lot less cold. But at the same time, it should be culturally (& intellectually) active, diverse, urban/city-living and a very walkable neighborhood (close to restaurants, theaters, galleries, etc). And, of course, not a very high cost of living and preferably low income taxes . Willing to spend around $1500-1800 for 2bed/2ba rental.
Does such a place exist? I have been reading all the Top 10, Top 50 places lists as well as forums. We have also traveled and taken some road trips.
I love Chicago (city/downtown) for the 4 warm months of the year, but would like a similar place that stays warm 8-12 months of the year.
Some of the neighborhoods in the Bay Area seem interesting, but the "walkable" areas are unaffordable. Research Triangle Park area in North Carolina could be another possibility, not sure. Cities in Florida, Arizona do not seem like they would fit the bill - maybe I am wrong.
Any recommendations, thoughts, suggestions?
RA
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Old 08-29-2011, 04:02 PM   #2
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I love San Diego for all of those reasons. Balancing walkable with affordability is probably the hardest, but North Park would be a good neighborhood to start looking at. Not everything is walkable, and you need a car if you want to experience everything the city has to offer, but in the right neighborhood, you could go without a car most of the time.
I've heard RTP is a lot like San Diego.
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Old 08-29-2011, 04:14 PM   #3
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Have you looked into Portland Oregon? I don't know about the prices there, but the weather is somewhat cool and wet during the winter months and moderate to warm during summer. My wife and I passed through there a couple of years ago and were impressed by the metropolitan down town, and the surrounding areas and Columbia River are quite nice.
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:20 AM   #4
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I think the 'walkable' requirement is the hard part... I have not been to a lot of places, but the only ones that I have been that I can say are walkable are New York and London.... Chicago to me is a possibility, but I did not live there and when I was there we took cabs everywhere, so except for when I walked along the river when not working, I did not see it...

I think one of the requirements of a good walkable place is a good public transportation system that can get you from point A to point B quickly so you can walk the rest of the way... I can tell you from experience that walking from 33rd street to 67th take a bit of time if you are just strolling along... it is much easier to jump on the subway at 33rd and get out at 66th and walk the one block...


PS... good public transportation means something coming by like every 5 to 10 minutes.... not 30 to 60 plus... and can get you there faster than a few miles per hour...
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:25 AM   #5
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Usually a list like this includes a lot of college towns, but they are becoming more popular and less affordable.
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:27 AM   #6
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Usually a list like this includes a lot of college towns, but they are becoming more popular and less affordable.
Austin certainly meets the "warmer" criteria...
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:53 AM   #7
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Austin certainly meets the "warmer" criteria...
It just set a record of 70+ consecutive days of temperatures over 100, so the summers may be a little too warm for some.

DD and SIL have lived in Austin for 12 years and loved it but are now on the move to Belleview, Wa.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:01 AM   #8
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It just set a record of 70+ consecutive days of temperatures over 100, so the summers may be a little too warm for some.
74 and counting, I believe, though not consecutive. There have been stretches of 20+ consecutive days, but not quite 74 in a row. There have been a small number of mid to upper 90s in the last three months.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:03 AM   #9
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Have you looked into Portland Oregon? I don't know about the prices there, but the weather is somewhat cool and wet during the winter months and moderate to warm during summer. My wife and I passed through there a couple of years ago and were impressed by the metropolitan down town, and the surrounding areas and Columbia River are quite nice.
I visited Portland this summer and was impressed by the city...lots to see and do. Very walkable. Has a youthful, outdoorsy 'vibe'. Great public transportation (which is actually free within the city center!).

People were very friendly -- they'd see us stop to get our bearings on a map while we were out walking around town and they'd come over and ask if we needed any help/directions.

Restaurants in town were plentiful, lots of variety, with good food, moderately priced (cheap compared to Chicago prices)and not over-crowded.

Of course it was sunny and warm the week I was there, so that made me like it even more.

I've heard that 9 months of the year it can be sort of gray and rainy, so I'd want to check that out before paying any serious consideration.

Can't help you on housing costs.

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Old 08-30-2011, 10:09 AM   #10
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74 and counting, I believe, though not consecutive. There have been stretches of 20+ consecutive days, but not quite 74 in a row. There have been a small number of mid to upper 90s in the last three months.
Thanks Ziggy. That sounds much more bearable
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:15 AM   #11
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How about Charleston, SC?
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:16 AM   #12
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How about Charleston, SC?
Humidity and hurricanes? Though Sarah could surely speak to this better than I could...
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:21 AM   #13
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If you're willing to go to a smaller city, the costs can get affordable.

For example, the downtown section of Greenville, SC has a high walkability score, but once you get outside of downtown the score drops dramatically.

There are a couple of tools you could use to help in your search. One is called "findyourspot.com". It's a free site that asks a lot of questions about your location preferences. It then compiles your responses and provides a list of 20 cities (big, medium or small based on your preference) that fit how you answered the questions.

Once you have that information you can cross reference it to the city or town's walkability score (Get Your Walk Score - A Walkability Score For Any Address). The thing to watch with the walkability score is that some places that you would think have a very low score have pockets that are very walkable. Both Dallas and Houston have neighborhoods that have a great walkable score, but once you move outside of those pockets the score drops dramatically.

Good luck in your hunt! And when you find Nirvana let us know...your criteria is the same for many of us.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:24 AM   #14
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How about Charleston, SC?
We're on the same hunt as OP, so have researched some of the cities being mentioned.

The problem with Charleston is that the area that is walkable is VERY EXPENSIVE (in the half mill range for a small house). Chareleston overall is affordable, but the most affordable areas are not walkable.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:59 AM   #15
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If you're willing to go to a smaller city, the costs can get affordable.

For example, the downtown section of Greenville, SC has a high walkability score, but once you get outside of downtown the score drops dramatically.

There are a couple of tools you could use to help in your search. One is called "findyourspot.com". It's a free site that asks a lot of questions about your location preferences. It then compiles your responses and provides a list of 20 cities (big, medium or small based on your preference) that fit how you answered the questions.

Once you have that information you can cross reference it to the city or town's walkability score (Get Your Walk Score - A Walkability Score For Any Address). The thing to watch with the walkability score is that some places that you would think have a very low score have pockets that are very walkable. Both Dallas and Houston have neighborhoods that have a great walkable score, but once you move outside of those pockets the score drops dramatically.

Good luck in your hunt! And when you find Nirvana let us know...your criteria is the same for many of us.
My aunt and uncle live just outside of Greenville, and its a nice area. No Portland, but you are 20 minutes from the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.........
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Old 08-30-2011, 11:17 AM   #16
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It just set a record of 70+ consecutive days of temperatures over 100, so the summers may be a little too warm for some.

DD and SIL have lived in Austin for 12 years and loved it but are now on the move to Belleview, Wa.

Bellevue?

I'm guessing it will be less of an environmental shock moving here to the PNW from England than it would have been coming from Austin.

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Old 08-30-2011, 12:03 PM   #17
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Our neighborhood in West Vancouver is walkable and there is regular, frequent transit to downtown (12 minutes, also walkable) but the winters are dreary and the costs are high. We spend winter in PV living right dowtown and also walkable with frequent low cost bus service to outlying places. That reduces our living costs by 23%.

We love San Diego and San Francisco but stay downtown in hotels. When we home swap, it becomes a drivable place exclusively.

My advice would be to try any potential targets before you move.
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Old 08-30-2011, 12:38 PM   #18
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When the OP says "walkable", I'm not sure if that means you won't own or drive a car, or if you just want a temperate, outdoor atmosphere to enjoy, say a nice downtown. Livning in a larger city's downtown area is going to cost money.

Another option is Boulder, Fort Collns or Denver. Nicer climate than Chicago (but definately 4 seasons), way more sunshine than the Northwest, very nice walkable downtown areas, and (for Denver) good mass transit. Boulder is a big college town, which means more young people, more activities, and higher cost.
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:42 PM   #19
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I think out west for the most part walkable areas are going to be confined to small downtown areas. The availability of land caused cities to spread out. But some of the downtown areas are very nice. I've heard good things about Portland in that regard. Lots of smaller cities have similar areas, but you might end up living outside that area and have to drive to it to enjoy the walkable area.
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:47 PM   #20
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  • something a lot less cold
  • culturally (& intellectually) active,
  • diverse,
  • urban/city-living and a very walkable neighborhood (close to restaurants, theaters, galleries, etc)
  • not a very high cost of living and preferably low income taxes
Good luck. Just what most people want...which makes low cost of living unlikely.

We're from the Chicago area and we're looking for the same thing, and interestingly after researching and visiting several cities, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill is firmly our top choice. It meets all these criteria except it's the land of suburbs. Not to say there aren't walkable areas, there certainly are (Chapel Hill/Carrboro, as well as a few communities near Raleigh and Durham), but they come at a premium as you'd expect. And I don't believe you will find anything to match downtown Chicago, San Francisco, Manhattan in terms of walkability - all very expensive, and in states facing serious fiscal challenges (IL, CA, NY).

As a wise old Aunt told us at a recent family reunion, 'there is no such place, and if there was it would be so expensive and so crowded you wouldn't want to live there.' She's absolutely right of course...

People have mentioned most of the good options already, though none meet all your criteria (most fail low cost of living/taxes unless you live at Lake Point Towers now - see pic below). If you'd consider Portland, you might want to look at Asheville NC. Quirky in much the same way as Portland IMO (mix of hippies & wealthy, but getting along just peachy for the most part), but cost of living/taxes are more reasonable than Portland. Asheville is a beautiful part of the US IMO, mountains in all directions.

Austin TX would be our first choice if not for the oppressive summer heat. You might not mind that aspect, in which case I'd give Austin consideration.

I suspect you've already found these, but in case you haven't...
Stats about all US cities - real estate, relocation info, house prices, home value estimator, recent sales, cost of living, crime, race, income, photos, education, maps, weather, houses, schools, neighborhoods, and more
Get Your Walk Score - A Walkability Score For Any Address
Best Places to Live | Compare cost of living, crime, cities, schools and more. Sperling's BestPlaces
And I can give you many others, but these are the ones I come back to most often. Best of luck...
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