Written by Andrea L. Dono
Every year, Money magazine rates America’s 100 best small towns to live. In the August 2009 issue, we were thrilled to see that 10 out of the 100 were Main Street towns. This year’s list includes Liberty, Mo.; Suwanee, Ga.; Medina, Ohio; Rochester, Mich.; Mt. Airy, Md.; Batavia, Ill.; Simsbury, Conn.; Pewaukee, Wisc.; Emmaus, Penn.; and Concord, N.H.
A closer look at Rochester, Michigan, reveals a suburb of Detroit that has an unemployment rate that is lower than most of the country, as well as 82 acres of parkland, three waterways, and many rehabbed 19th century buildings in its downtown.
Kristi Trevarrow, the director of the local Main Street program in Rochester tells us that her town had its debut on the list in 2005 and so she was pleased to get listed again this year. “For us to make it back on the list in a down economy is pretty phenomenal, especially since our area has been hit pretty hard by everything happening in the auto industry,” Kristi says, pointing out that Chrysler’s headquarters is 15 minutes from downtown. “I had the opportunity to talk to Money magazine writers because they called our office to get information about the local economy. They seemed impressed by the amount of new businesses opening and the small number of businesses closing, so I think that made a difference.”
A look at Medina, Ohio, will show a town square surrounded by impeccably rehabbed historic buildings. “Many communities have at least one eyesore building or one white elephant, but we fortunately do not,” boasts Matthew Wiederhold, executive director of Main Street Medina. “We also have a fantastic school system and a strong arts presence in the community, while still maintaining a very small-town atmosphere.”
Matthew feels the Main Street program was a contributing factor to helping get Medina named to the list. He cites the fact that Medina raised the bar for historic preservation in Ohio and that the revitalization organization assisted local businesses while promoting the historic district as a destination.
Given the charms of small towns, high quality of life, historic settings, and interesting local businesses, we’re not surprised that these Main Street towns made the cut. Money magazine sought towns with populations 8,500 to 50,000 and compared various statistics and amenities, such as crime rates, arts funding, restaurants, and air quality, of each location against the Best Places average.
Money magazine’s full list is available here.
Andrea L. Dono is an associate editor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center.
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