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October 31, 2006

« 10,000 Hours Show Wants You! | Main | Example of the Great Mayors of America »

Last month, I asked readers to write in with stories of how they chose the place they live, and what it has meant to the rest of their lives (see original blog entry). The response was phenomenal, and I got to read dozens of stories, some touching, some funny -- all of them insightful.

Many of you mentioned neighborhoods as a key part of a location decision. This got me thinking: why not ask about neighborhoods? So that’s what I’m doing now. See, a large part of the new book is about the different types of neighborhoods we live in, from Stroller-Land in the burbs to the Urban Mosaics of our inner cities.

This request is trickier – it’s more subjective, because we’re asking you to evaluate neighborhoods by type. Take a look at the list below. Tell me what you think about how my team and I have grouped different neighborhoods across our country. Tell me how you would define them, in your words. Which ones do you agree with? Disagree? Why? Tell me about any kinds of neighborhoods you think are missing on this list. What hoods would you add to our lists? Move around? How have neighborhoods affected your moves from place to place?

Be brutally honest with me. This stuff can be hard to classify – it’s almost entirely qualitative. I really need your input. Send your stories to: [email protected], or post them on the comment section of this entry, or do both. Can’t wait to see what kind of conversation this request generates – thanks as ever!


Below please find a list of neighborhood types and some examples (from our homebase here in metro Washington DC and some other spots around the country) and please add to or edit them when you email to us or post on the blog. Thanks again.

BOBO-BURG: Arlington & Alexandria, VA (Washington DC); Brookine (Boston, MA)

COLLEGE TOWNS: Ann Arbor, MI; Columbia, MO; Flagstaff, AZ

DESIGNER DIGS: Georgetown (Washington DC); Palo Alto (San Jose, CA); LoDo (Denver, CO)

ETHNIC ENCLAVE: Falls Church, VA (Washington, DC); Czech Village (Cedar Rapids, IA)

FAMILY LAND: Potomac, MD; McClean & Fairfax, VA (Washington DC); Bloomfield Hills, Troy (Detroit, MI)

GAY ENCLAVES: Dupont Circle; Takoma Park, MD (Washington DC); West Hollywood (Los Angeles, CA)

HIPSTER HAVEN: U Street, Adams Morgan (Washington DC); Wicker Park, Bucktown (Chicago, IL)

URBAN HOLDOVER: Mt. Pleasant (Washington DC); Hoboken, NJ

URBAN MOSAIC: Columbia Heights (Washington DC); Northern Liberties (Philadelphia, PA)



Well, Dupont Circle has ceased to be a gay enclave; it's more Designer Digs. For the gay enclave you need to head east to Logan Circle.

Sean Ammirati

Rich, you forgot to add one
"The Best of the Best" --- Manhattan, NY

:) -- Sean


You are combining neighborhoods (geographic proximity) and communities (commonality of interests). The best neighborhoods combine both aspects. I choose Seattle for the neighborhood (combination of professionals and some grad / medical student rentals - but not enough to overwhelm with constant turnover)next to the University. But the community I became involved in revolved around restoring wooden boats with some participants coming from as far as Boise and Portland for weekends or sailing trips. Fortunately, some of the neighbors are wooden boat fanatics so both aspects come together.

Vanna Langdon

I'm a real estate broker in Cary NC (RTP area). I love this state with the mountains on one side and the beach on the other! I really adore the city, it's relatively small (120K population) with large city conveniences. There is low crime, great schools, diversity, growth, and a thriving job market. The seasons are felt and the town of Cary is well maintained and planned. I like calling Cary home!



You are correct about DuPont/Logan. We forgot to update. thanks,


I think you need to revise the "Family Land" category. The suburbs you list (Potomac, MD, etc.) are dominated by increasinly empty-nesting Baby Boomers who originally moved to these areas in the 1970s and 1980s. Their kids are now in their 20s and 30s, and depending on their particular life stage, are often currently in the hipster/urban areas, or, if they are forming families, moving out to the exurban areas. Your "Family Land" places are currently so expensive, few Gen Xers with kids (such as myself), even with good educations and jobs, can easily afford these areas. The places you list could be more accuratly described as "Elite Boomer-Burbs".

Instead, try these replacements for the places you list, to be named truer "Family Land" areas:

Instead of Potomac, MD, I would substitute Germantown, MD. Instead of McLean/Fairfax, VA, I would substitue Ashburn/Leesburg, VA. Instead of Bloomfield Hills/Troy, MI, I would substitute Novi/Farmington Hills, MI.


Great comments all. Very useful. John good call on Logan. And U Street too.

Sean, thanks for the shout for Manhattan, tell us more about Manhattan's many hoods, seems like it has many of the kinds we outline here...

Fred, tell us more about Seattle's hoods, if you have a minute. I know some but not all....

Vanna, we know and love Cary, right Sean.... I've written an article with Jim Goodnight, actually we give Cary a nice shout out as a family-friendly, child friendly community later in the book....

MPS, great comments. I love the idea of elite-boomer-burgs. Yes on Potomac, and double yes on Birmingham. My wife Rana is from there: I always ask her why so many people wear designer fashions to get their morning coffee at Starbucks.



I've actually toyed with this idea of classifying neighborhoods over a year ago and came up with a clunky "system" myself. I've applied it (imperfectly) to several metros, but here I'll try to show it for the Washington DC and Chicago areas, respectively, the two large cities I'm most familiar with:


HIP HOOD ("HIPSTER HAVEN"): Adams Morgan, Wicker Park/Bucktown

EMERGING HIP HOOD ("URBAN MOSAIC"): SW Waterfront or Columbia Heights; Ukrainian Village or South Loop

NERDISTAN (Joel Kotkin's term), or TRADITIONAL EDGE CITIES (Joel Garreau's term): Tysons-Dulles Corridor or I-270 Corridor, Naperville or Schaumburg

Loudoun County (Ashburn/Leesburg) or Howard County (Elkridge), Kane/McHenry Counties (Geneva/St. Charles/Huntley)

GENERIC SPRAWL or NEAR MIDOPOLITAN (Joel Kotkin's term): Hoffman Estates or Northern DuPage County, parts of Prince William County

BLUE-BLOOD-BURB-CUM-COOL or GENTRIFIED/BOBOFIED UPSCALE SUBURB (what I called "ELITE BOOMER BURB" above): Hinsdale or Lake Forest, Potomac or McLean

LATTE BURB (borrowing from David Brooks) or GENTRIFIED MIDOPOLIS: Oak Park or Evanston, Bethesda or Alexandria

EMERGING LATTE BURB (GENTRIFYING MIDDLE/UPPER MIDDLE CLASS SUBURB): Skokie or Libertyville or Elmhurst, Gaithersburg/Silver Spring or Vienna/Fairfax


STAGNANT MIDOPOLIS: Elmwood Park or Tinley Park or Hillside or Harvey, Langley Park (MD) or Upper Marlboro (MD)) or Woodbridge (VA)

(DISTANT) LATTE TOWNS or VALHALLAS (credit to Brooks & Kotkin, respectively): Lake Geneva (WI) or western Michigan lake towns or Door County (WI), Charlottesville or Annapolis or Maryland/Delaware beaches

(currently) UNPRETENTIOUS (but promising) FUTURE: Aurora/Elgin/Joliet, Frederick/Manassas


Great comments. As a chicago native and a resident of DC, I find your categories and examples very insightful. Thank you for joining the conversation.


MPS--thank you!!!!!


I just wanted to add something here that I believe Mr. Florida once mentioned - enumerating these neighborhoods reflects the notion that a good metro area should have "something for everyone", and goes to show there is not a one-size-fits-all environment for the creative class. Mr. Florida, in the case of Chicago, noted that "size matters" - it helps to be a big enough metro to encompass many types of neighborhoods. Kind of like in investing, it prevents a metro from putting all of its eggs in one basket. I believe even smaller metros can benefit from this. Where I live, Columbia, SC, actually has about 3-4 different "downtown urban" environments, albeit on a smaller scale than DC or Chicago, and 4-5 different suburban environments. This makes it easier to attract people and let them figure out how their personality and needs fit with the various neighborhoods' personalities. There is no need to fall into a false dichotomy, for example, between hip urban hood and boring suburb (or conversely, dangerous, edgy city and safe, quiet suburb). Those metros that only provide two or three such options will not be as competitive, I believe.

We have many more options in many metros.


Judging by the dates, I'm pretty late with my comment, but I just moved to DC from Phoenix, AZ to attend grad school (I am an MFA candidate in painting). I chose Dupont Circle because it is generally known as a gay area and as a young woman who is used to a car culture I feel very vulnerable walking everywhere. It was important that the area I live in has an active night life, not because I want to party, but because that means there are eyes on the street at all times. It doesn't matter if it is 2am, I am never walking alone. I lived in a ghetto area in Phx, but the difference is I didn't walk anywhere!

My place here is situated between Dupont proper and the 14th St / U Street Corridor. I am able to attend gallery openings and go to some great spots, but conduct my everyday living in Dupont (which is easier with an accessible metro). I feel like for my varied lifestyle in which creativity and flavor is important, I like living in the in-between places where I can have my cake and eat it too!


Sara - Never too late. Thanks for sending this in.


I moved to a small city (around 26,000) after college because I was starting out as a newspaper writer/editor, a job so low paying that I could have made more money if I had remained a waitress in a cheap-drinks bar. I had intended to go to NYC or Chicago, but I still had school loans to pay. Hence, small-city Indiana.

I worked and excelled here, meeting wonderful, friendly and bright people, and surprisingly, I found socially tolerant people. (I spent next-to-no time in the Bible-belt part of town, so their only impact was on our community's inability to have a festival that served beer, nor did I have children who could only learn about evolution in the Catholic schools because the public schools didn't dare teach it.) I lived in an incredible downtown apartment with leaded-glass windows, great character and walking-distance proximity to many things. It was like living in the big city.

I took a job transfer to Louisiana and became homesick for the first time in my life -- for this small Indiana city. What I came to appreciate was that having fewer obvious cultural and entertainment choices mean that I had deeper involvement in them, and deeper friendships with those I'd met. It didn't hurt that the amazing stock of older homes were -- and are -- dirt cheap.

Another lesson: Big city, downtown living isn't that much different than living in a smaller city; you stick to certain neighborhoods most of the time.

I moved back, and now live in a fabulous older house in walking distance from everything. I'm involved in our local Main Street group, which is trying to salvage downtown in sensible ways. As one friend on the board put it, we will never have a fabulous big city, but we can have a very cool small city. We even managed to get a festival serving beer past the naysayers. They're not socially tolerant, but the wisest ones realize that they can't be so intolerant.

Small cities have potential, if we let them.

Michael Wells

I understand why you focus on younger creative class folks when you’re projecting future growth, their mobility, etc. But don’t forget the older (40-50+) creatives -- college professors, named partners in architectural firms, Principle Investigator researchers, senior engineers, established artists, successful entrepreneurs. They provide teachers, mentors and role models for younger creatives, hire them, finance them, advocate for them.

I live in Portland’s Willamette Heights, a neighborhood with lots of established working artists, creative professionals, academics & teachers and nonprofit executives. Many of them moved here when property was cheap, which it isn’t anymore but the tone is set for newcomers. The age range (not counting children) is 30’s to 80’s, with most in the middle. We have neighbors who write bestsellers, show in galleries here and New York, etc. Not multi-millionaires but mostly upper-middle class at least.

This may be a kind of BOBO-BURG, but I don’t think it’s that self conscious. Maybe it’s the CREATIVE ESTABLISHMENT. I think there are probably neighborhoods like this in many cities -- the Berkeley Hills and New York’s Upper West Side come to mind.


I've always preferred homogeneous communities compared to diverse ones. Now I'm not talking about Nuremberg law communities or places demographically similar to the Israeli settlements, but in general, I like areas no more than 2% non-European.

My current neighborhood is located in the beautiful town of East Aurora NY. Its a typical "main-street USA" type of a town. We have one of the oldest five-in-dime stores in the country. I would have to classify it has a "Valhalla" community. In fact, "Valhalla" is a perfect description of EA. We have a saying in our town that I think sums it up perfectly:

"East Aurora is not a place, its a state of mind." Indeed it is.

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