It’s so much fun to talk with people about their neighborhoods. I love my South Park cottage, and my neighbors are great. But to hear residents of Wiles Hill enthuse about their views and their community center, or Cheat Lakers groove on their laid-back lakeside lifestyle, it’s almost enough to make me pick up and move.
It also makes me feel good about our town. The bigger Morgantown gets, the more the neighborhoods become centers of relaxation and play, and the more they develop their own distinct charm and livability.
Morgantown’s livability was recognized in March when it placed in Livability.com’s Top 100 Best Places to Live for the second year in a row. This is one ranking that means something. I studied it in detail—let me tell you about it.
Livability, a quality-of-life research organization, takes a two-pronged, data-intensive approach. Its analysts crunch a truckload of fresh data each year in more than 40 categories under eight quality-of-life factors—things like Amenities and Health. At the same time, they poll people all over about the importance of each category so they can weight the data according to current sentiment.
You might remember that in 2018, Livability’s fifth annual ranking, Morgantown came in 43rd. The pool of contenders included the couple thousand cities with populations up to 350,000, so the Top 100 were the top one-half of 1 percent of small and mid-size U.S. cities. Morgantown’s high marks in Housing, Amenities, and Infrastructure compared with cities that rank high year after year—college towns like Boulder, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin.
This year’s sixth ranking included populations up to 1 million—all but 10 U.S. cities. And to reflect the 2019 survey subjects’ overwhelming preference for affordability, it capped median home values at $250,000. Those changes added dozens of very nice larger cities like Minneapolis and New Orleans to the pool and bumped pricey places like Berkeley, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
So this year, compared with pretty much every city in the U.S., Morgantown came in at number 65, alongside Knoxville, Tennessee. If you’ve ever been to Knoxville, you know that’s saying something.
Also, get this. For six of the eight factors, Morgantown ranked in the top 50. To oversimplify:
- #6 in Housing: diversity and affordability of housing stock;
- #17 in Health: support for healthy lifestyles and access to quality health care;
- #22 in Education: good public schooling and lifelong learning options;
- #26 in Amenities: everything from arts events to air quality;
- #41 in Infrastructure: transportation alternatives, access to broadband; and
- #47 in Social and Civic Capital: volunteering and voter participation.
It came out lower in Demographics—population diversity—and Economy—growth of high-wage jobs.
Here’s my take-away. People everywhere complain about the traffic where they live, or the home prices, or the lack of a truly good bagel. But the Top 100 are the most supremely livable cities in the nation. Compared with all of the places there are, Morgantown has a lot going for it. We’d do well to appreciate what we have while we work to improve it.
Speaking of appreciation, I’ll close this with an appreciation for our sales director, Heather Mills. Heather’s responsive work with advertisers builds advertiser–reader relationships that, over time, lift our entire community. As a colleague, she’s a creative, persistently buoyant force and a joy to work with.
Love our town!
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