Sep 22, 2014, 9:49pm MST UPDATED: Sep 23, 2014, 7:06am MST
Time Money released rankings for the most livable small cities and for the best bargain neighborhoods in big cities with Gilbert and Phoenix making the cut, respectively.
The town of Gilbert ranked No. 22 in “Best Places to Live 2014” for cities with a population of 50,000 to 300,000 people, a jump from No.33 in 2012. The median family income is $85,872, the median home price is $242,541, the average property tax is $1,672 and projected job growth is 8 percent.
More than 50 factors ranging from local economy and housing prices to schools and health care were used to evaluate 781 small cities. Reporters were sent to the top 35 cities to account for the intangibles.
Of the top 50 cities, only two had populations greater than 200,000, includingGilbert with a population of 218,338. The other city was No. 14 Irvine, California, with 222,540.
“When we do surveys of the residents, they still say Gilbert has a small-town feel,” Lewis said.
Business growth after the recession, especially downtown, also helped put Gilbert on the list. The science community in Gilbert has contributed to the town’s 5 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in Arizona, and a job growth projection of 8 percent.
When a business leader in Gilbert asked Lewis to describe the town in 20 seconds or less, Lewis said he responded, “Gilbert is a satellite, algae, cancer fighting, cardiovascular and non-controversial stem cell research community.”
Lewis said Gilbert is also becoming a good spot for restaurants. Already the town has popular Valley spot Joe’s Barbecue, he said, but it is also adding LoLo’s Chicken and Waffles, Zin Burger, Pomo Pizzeria and Snooze A.M. Eatery.
Both Money and Lewis said Gilbert‘s natural setting and opportunities for outdoor activities contributed to its ranking.
The only downside the rankings cited was Gilbert‘s public schools. Recently the school board cut 80 positions and three administrators resigned, according to Money. The ranking said the town has new hope for a turnaround with the hiring of a superintendent Christina Kishimoto.
Lewis said Gilbert has three school districts, 20 charter schools and four private schools for K-12. He said the issues came from only one of the school districts and repeated the list’s sentiments regarding Kishimoto’s hiring.
At the same time, Money also released a ranking for the best bargain neighborhoods within big cities, which slotted Phoenix at second.
“Best Big-City Bargains” choose the top 10 cities with a population greater than 500,000 that ranked high in housing affordability, economic strength, home price forecasts and livability. The study also included another key factor.
Only two of the cities had populations greater than 1 million. Besides Phoenix, with 1,511,870, the other was Chicago with 2,737,170.
Phoenix had a median home price of $199,100, average property tax of $1,330, median family income of $56,800 and projected five-year job growth of 6 percent.
The two neighborhoods highlighted were Arcadia Lite and Desert Ridge.
Arcadia Lite’s proximity to Arcadia yet with cheaper home prices for its 1950s and ’60s ranch-style houses made it ideal. Another high point was its bike trails and closeness to Camelback Mountain.
Desert Ridge was given compliments for its accessibility to the 101 and 51 freeways. Additional perks were its public schools, nature trails and Cashman Park. Business bonuses were the Desert Ridge Marketplace and Mayo Clinic hospital.
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