Pittsburgh ranks 9th on magazine's list of 'smartest places to live'
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Here are the top 10 smartest places to live in the country, along with their descriptions, from Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.
1. Nashville, Tenn.
Our top pick offers affordable homes, a mild climate and a phenomenal entertainment scene that goes far beyond country.
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul
The Twin Cities offer a hip and progressive atmosphere with a midwestern sensibility, multiple cultural outlets, pro teams in all four major sports, a dozen universities and colleges, and a diverse economy.
3. Albuquerque, N.M.
This laid-back city offers resort-town ambience, a boomtown economy and cow-town prices.
The capital of Georgia is a vibrant city with a rich history, good health care, a great cultural scene and genteel neighborhoods shaded by magnificent dogwood and magnolia trees.
5. Austin, Texas
Home to the University of Texas, the state capitol, the Zachary Scott Theatre and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, Austin is a sophisticated salsa of culture, history and politics.
6. Kansas City
This city split along state lines offers something for everyone: from stately houses to downtown lofts and world-class museums to barbecue.
7. Asheville, N.C.
A virtually franchise-free downtown, world-class cuisine, amazing crafts, live music venues and fine arts make this city tucked into the Blue Ridge mountain range one of a kind.
8. Ithaca, N.Y.
True, it's in the Finger Lakes boonies of central New York, but Ithaca is an Ivy League outpost with great food, beautiful scenery and Naderite politics.
Currently undergoing a renaissance, this hidden gem has distinctive neighborhoods, tree-lined streets, glittering skyscrapers, upscale shops and a diversified economy.
10. Iowa City, Iowa
An oasis on the prairie, this wholesome middle-American city is bursting with creative and intellectual energy.
Pittsburgh is a smart place to live, and that's not just the word from the local chamber of commerce. A new survey by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine thinks the region is pretty swell, too.
The Pittsburgh metropolitan area ranked ninth in the nation in its list of the smartest places to set down roots, the magazine said yesterday. Affordability, cultural and leisure activities, education options and quality housing were major factors.
Top honors went to Nashville, Tenn., followed by the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and Albuquerque, N.M. Pittsburgh was one notch below Ithaca, N.Y., and one above Iowa City, Iowa, which grabbed 10th place.
The study, which also looked at the quality of health care, crime rates, weather and commute times, was aimed at determining the 50 most fiscally sensible cities in America in which to live -- places where good living wasn't too bad for the pocketbook.
"We emphasize cost of living and quality of life," said Kiplinger's staffer Sean O'Neill, who visited Pittsburgh (the magazine's reporters visited the top 10 towns to gain a close-up look at life in each one).
"While the other lists are talking about what is most buzzy or hot, ours focuses on getting a good deal or raising a family or retiring," he said.
Kiplinger's did not pull those criteria from the air. They were suggested by a panel of the magazine's readers in response to questions about what they would look for in a city.
Affordability was a key criterion, and a major factor in Pittsburgh's placement on the list.
The region had the lowest median home price of any of the top 10 cities, $105,040, and its appreciation rate of only 5.5 percent indicated that it would be unlikely to turn suddenly hot and unaffordable.
With its bridges and hilly terrain, Mr. O'Neill referred to the city as "the affordable San Francisco," and said that he was struck by the civility displayed by Pittsburghers and the fact that "they're all outrageous Steelers fans."
Cross-state rival Philadelphia ranked 22, and Cleveland didn't even make the top 50, which was closed out by No. 50 Holland, Mich., near Grand Rapids on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
"We gave extra weight to economic diversity and overall quality of life," said Janet Bodnar, the magazine's deputy editor. A West Homestead native, she recused herself from any involvement in Pittsburgh's ranking.
Coastal cities, from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to Boston, New York and Miami, fared poorly because it costs so much to live in them, she said.
Ms. Bodnar returned yesterday to present Mayor Bob O'Connor with a framed copy of the June issue containing the "50 smart cities" report.
Cities on the list are likely to appeal to one or all of five demographic groups -- singles, young couples, families, empty nesters and retirees. Pittsburgh scored best in the families and retirees categories.
While the seven-county area was the only one of the top 10 metropolitan areas to lose population the last five years, Mr. O'Connor expressed optimism that that would not continue to be the case.
"Numbers don't lie. The affordability is there," he said. "I'm hearing more and more young people wanting to come back to Pittsburgh because we have everything they've wanted."
The results are in the June issue of the magazine and on its Web site, www.kiplingers.com.
First Published May 9, 2006 12:00 am