I recently encountered an article on Apartment Therapy entitled, “What Are You Willing to Compromise for Location?” Here The article went on to list the many common indignities people endure in order to live in a fabulous city: multiple room mates, crazy high rents, satanic landlords, cramped windowless apartments and so on. The photo depicted my neighborhood here in San Francisco. I personally experienced all of the above before finally settling in to comfortable middle age as a proper home owner, but it took twenty years and we could have bought a palace almost anywhere else for the same money.
Scenes like these tend to conjure up associations with places like Portland, Brooklyn, Seattle, and San Francisco. The sidewalk cafes, the urban live/work lofts, the bicycles, the farmers markets, and the $7 Hipster cup cakes all suggest a trendy coastal city. Scroll through these photos and try to guess where they were taken.
This is the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. This once neglected part of a fair-to-middling Midwestern city has come back strong in recent years. Last week during a visit with friends I had a real estate agent show me a fantastic two and a half bedroom apartment with two fireplaces, back deck, in-unit washer/dryer and magnificent city views in a charming historic building for $155K. Is Cincinnati’s culture and economy equal to San Francisco’s? No. But it delivers high quality urbanism at a very manageable price. The realistic choice for most people isn’t whether they will live in Manhattan, D.C., or Santa Monica forever on an average salary. People get tired of room mates, they get married, they have children, they age, and sooner or later they get priced out and migrate away. The real choice is whether they will hold their nose and move to a dreary suburb to live in a plastic box on a cul-de-sac and lose all touch with city living, or choose a smaller more manageable city that provides most (but not all) of what premier cities offer at a price that makes sense. Would you choose Cincinnati over San Francisco given the cost differential?