Cincy Magazine's fourth annual "Rating the Burbs" started with a simple premise:

Most folks want to live in growing, thriving "” or at least stable and healthy "” communities. They want to be safe. And they want a good education system for their children.

We started with the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 census and its American FactFinder 2008 Population Estimates for the metropolitan area. The census provides data on more than 200 villages, towns, townships and census-designated places in Greater Cincinnati.

The first cut: Communities with fewer than 1,000 residents were eliminated.

We gathered neighborhood-specific home sales data from the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors and the Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors. From that, we looked at the total number of 2009 sales and median sale prices for each locality and compared the prices with the median in 2004. Naturally, with the 2008 housing bust, prices in many areas declined, but some others went up.

We also collected tax data from the various county auditors and treasurers (Ohio) and property valuation administrators (Kentucky); and owner-occupied housing and average commute-to-work times from the 2000 census.

For the school district ratings, we consulted state report cards, school web sites and contacted many school districts directly.

In looking at the safety of our communities, we went to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which lists four categories of violent crime as well as four categories of property crime for 2008. For areas not in the FBI statistics, we checked community web sites and contacted our local sheriffs' offices and township, city and village police departments for breakdowns of crimes in areas they cover. Communities that did not report crime statistics were eliminated. We weighted crimes "” with murder and robbery given more heft than, say, motor-vehicle theft.

Worth noting on the crime statistics: Areas with high numbers of thefts could be the result of having shopping centers, big-box retailers, hotels/motels or other sites that draw large numbers of people "” and, therefore, more thefts than your average bedroom community.

The research team: Meghan Berneking, Caroline Solis, Bill Ferguson Jr., Cheryl Ferguson, Gretchen Keen

To view more Rating the Burb rankings, please visit the links below.
Where Are They Now Ratings

 

And the #1 burb is....
 
MADEIRA

We didn't set out to name Madeira the No. 1 suburban Cincinnati community in our 2010 "Rating the Burbs" on its 100th anniversary.

It just turned out that way "” just in time for Madeira's 100th birthday this summer.

After measuring education, crime, housing and other statistics, Madeira stood out as the top suburb for 2010. Sure enough, this city of 8,558 residents about 12 miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati has plenty to be proud of, including its long history.

According to the Madeira Historical Society, Daniel Bates arrived in the area in 1787 as the original settler. As more people arrived, what is now Montgomery Road was built in 1824, making travel easier between the village and Cincinnati. Madeira incorporated as a village in 1910, when the council had its first meeting in August.

The city is "a community of very involved residents, from the city government perspective as well as the schools," City Manager Tom Moeller says. "There are so many activities, so many things going on, with the city and the schools, and they are intertwined through shared facilities, shared programs. That gives it very much a special quality that is unique."

Moeller, 55, should know. The St. Bernard native landed his job in Madeira 21 years ago and decided to stay. He says he and his family not only enjoy the people of his city, but they are impressed by the Madeira education system, which is among the best school districts in the area. Madeira City Schools attained the top "Excellent" rating each year since the state of Ohio instituted local report cards, and in 2009, it was rated "Excellent with Distinction," the first year that such a designation was available.

To celebrate its centennial this year, the city is planning bigger versions of its signature events. The annual Independence Day Parade and Festival usually draws up to 5,000 people for its fireworks show and 80 to 100 units in its parade. It is prepared for even more this year, encouraging more organizations to enter floats in the parade for its 100th birthday.

The city's annual Madeira Street Dance, which began on its 75th anniversary in 1985, also is a big a draw the third Saturday every August. Think of it as a mini "taste of Madeira" event, Moeller says, drawing thousands to its downtown. Get your burgers, German sausages and roasted corn on the cob there.

Madeira is a bedroom community in the truest sense: 85% of it is residential, with the remaining 15% zoned for commercial and retail. The median price of a home climbed to $198,500 from $180,000 five years earlier "” significant, considering the meltdown of the U.S. economy in the past two and a half years. The city also has low crime rates.

The central business district "” a triangle bordered by Miami Avenue, Camargo Road and Euclid Avenue "” is home to more than 150 retail and service businesses. Moeller says that in the late '80s and early '90s, downtown "was looking a little tired," so city officials and residents went to work to spruce it up and make it the centerpiece of the community.

"For us, it's a gem," Moeller says. "It's what truly makes Madeira a community. Unlike a lot of smaller suburban cities and villages, where you have a commercial area built along a highway, we have a true central business district that is surrounded by our residential development. Our residents and community as a whole really enjoy it."

Longtime Cincinnatians already knew that Madeira has a reputation for family-friendly living. And the rest of the nation found out when BusinessWeek rated it No. 40 on its "Best Places to Raise Your Kids" in the U.S. in 2007, something the city trumpets on its web site home page.

Madeira is truly a small town in a big city. If Daniel Bates returned today, he wouldn't recognize the place. But he'd be proud.



#2 Indian Hill
 
Although its population makes it a city, Indian Hill prides itself on retaining its quiet, residential atmosphere. With a strong sense of community, reputation for low crime, good schools and varied recreational activities, the area has become a magnet for business and political leaders. At $877,500, Indian Hill has, by far, the highest median sale price of homes in the region. The 20-square-mile town has its own water supply, police (the Indian Hill Rangers, founded in 1903) and fire protection. It also has walking paths, nature trails, bridle trails, playgrounds and picnic areas for residents' enjoyment.
 

#3 Villa Hills, KY
 
Sitting along the Ohio River on what was once farmland, Villa Hills prides itself on excellent schools, great places of worship and economic opportunity. The city, started partly with a $300 loan in 1962, is convenient to downtown Cincinnati as well as Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Many Reds and Bengals have chosen to make Villa Hills their home throughout the years.
 

#4 Clearcreek Township (Warren)
 
Clearcreek Township has a long history, dating to its establishment in October 1815. It has been claimed that by 1840, it had one of the best unpaved road systems in the state. While much of the western side of the township has been annexed by Springboro, Clearcreek still is among the fastest-growing areas in Southwest Ohio. It gained 41 percent in population from 2000 to 2008.
 

#5 Edgewood, KY
 
Edgewood was formed in 1948 and, through numerous mergers and annexations, has grown to a city of about 9,000 residents. The biggest merger occurred in 1968, when the cities of Edgewood, Summit Hills Heights and St. Pius Heights voted to join together. Edgewood's Freedom and Presidents parks provide residents with ample opportunity for recreation, including baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis and volleyball.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#6 Glendale
 
Citizens of Glendale enjoy a quiet, tranquil village "” one of just a couple of Ohio villages designated as National Historic Landmarks by the federal government. The 1.7-square-mile town is close to major shopping and sits next to Interstate 75, giving fast access to the rest of the region. The city is known for its large population of black squirrels. For its 150th birthday in 2005, the village celebrated with hand-painted, 4-foot-tall, fiberglass squirrels.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#7 Wilder, KY
 
With a mixture of rural, suburban and urban settings, Wilder is a five-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati and next door to Northern Kentucky University, one of the fastest-growing universities in the state. Wilder was the first settlement in Campbell County and is named after its famous ophthalmologist, William Hamlin Wilder (1860-1931).
 

#8 Fort Thomas, KY
 
Like its name suggests, Fort Thomas has a rich military history. Just minutes from downtown Cincinnati off Interstate 471, the city is home to the historic Fort Thomas Military and Community Museum. The city was named in honor of Civil War Gen. George Henry Thomas, considered among the top Union generals. More than 80,000 were inducted into service at Fort Thomas.
 

#9 Montgomery
 
Montgomery is a vibrant, family-oriented city founded in 1795. While looking toward its future, it also values its past. Among its features are six parks, a nature preserve and a municipal swimming pool that provide recreational opportunities for all. Montgomery was a stopping point along the old "3-C" Highway (Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland), and its old buildings remind visitors of a quieter past. Eight properties are on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
 
 
 
 
 

#10 Wyoming
 
Wyoming truly is a small town in a big city, its mayor says. A close-knit atmosphere brings a commitment to volunteerism, whether it be with its fire department or helping preserve the city's beauty. Wyoming is diverse, with various cultural and religious backgrounds, many ethnicities and a range of incomes. Its schools consistently receive top ratings. The city operates 11 parks and other recreational centers.
 

#11 Blue Ash
 
As home to about 2,000 businesses, Blue Ash's population quadruples in the daytime hours. With land use at about 35% residential, 35% business and 30% public, the city is considered a model community of its size as it juggles varied interests. Its has numerous parks and recreational activities, as well as the re-created Crosley Field, where the Reds played until 1970. Blue Ash is well-known for its July Fourth and Taste of Blue Ash celebrations, both of which feature big-name entertainment and draw thousands.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 #12 Mariemont
 
Settled in 1788, Mariemont later became one of the first planned communities in the U.S. The village is known for its charming historic architecture, award-winning school system and civic-minded residents. The tradition of town criers is kept alive in the village, which has its own official town crier" one of a few in the country. Mariemont High School was the first in Ohio to receive the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Award four times.
 

#13 Turtlecreek Township (Warren)
 
Turtlecreek Township is primarily a residential/agricultural community. In the past few years, the area has undergone strong population growth (26.5% from 2000 to 2008) as many new subdivisions went up. Many people think that the township got its name from Turtle Creek, which runs through the township. However, a historian found that it is named after Little Turtle, chief of the Miamis, and that township trustees, as early as 1850, determined that the township's name was one word even though many maps show it as two.
 

#14 Mason
 
Now here's a city that's worthy of work and play. Cintas Corp., Mitsubishi, Procter & Gamble's Health Care Research Center and Luxottica Retail are among the premier companies located in Mason. And when work is finished, head over to Kings Island amusement park, The Beach Waterpark, Great Wolf Lodge and Conference Center or The Golf Center at Kings Island. Mason is also home to the world-recognized Tennis Masters Series-Cincinnati. The city was settled in 1803 and was largely a small farming community until 1970, when it was incorporated as a city with about 5,700 residents. It is now more than five times as large, but Mason has preserved its small-town charm.
 
 
 
 

#15 Ross Township (Butler)
 
With its rolling landscape, the Great Miami River and several streams, Ross Township is fertile ground for farming. In recent years, the quiet area has begun gaining in population. The housing bust barely affected the 207-year-old township, as its median home price remained stable from 2004 to 2009.
 

#16 Evendale
 
Evendale is probably best known for its largest employer: GE Aviation, the top supplier of aircraft engines in the world, is based in the village. GE's complex was built during World War II and employs about 7,400 in the region. The company in fall 2009 committed $100 million to improving its global aviation headquarters in Evendale. The village was also home to Underground Railroad hero John Van Zandt, who illegally provided a safe haven for runaway slaves.
 

#17 Cold Spring, KY
 
 
Named for a natural cold spring discovered in the area in the 1780s, Cold Spring is a city of more than 5,800 residents with room to grow. With 40 percent of the area occupied by homes and 20 percent by industrial and commercial concerns, it still has 40 percent of developable area. Part of Campbell County Schools, the area has three elementary schools within its city limits, with a middle school and a high school in a nearby part of the county. Five parks provide residents with recreation. The city, incorporated in 1941, is home to the Disabled American Veterans headquarters.
 

#18 Liberty Township (Butler)
 
Located between Cincinnati and Dayton, Liberty Township is a growing suburb boasting an excellent school system and an outstanding quality of life. The township's easy access to Interstate 75 (and to Interstate 275 not too far down the road) has led to 20 percent residential growth since the 2000 census. Lakota schools, which serve Liberty residents, have an outstanding reputation for academic and extracurricular activities. Liberty's employment base also continues to expand.
 

#19 Amberley Village
 
Mid-century modern, contemporary and traditional architectural styles help distinguish Amberley Village. The village is at the center of the Interstate 275 circle, and its location along Ronald Reagan Highway gives residents quick access to the entire metro area. The Mayerson JCC, with a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, indoor water park, spa and café, provides activities for everyone. Several synagogues point to Amberley's Jewish past, while the town now prides itself on diversity.
 

#20 Taylor Mill
 
With annual events such as Park Fest and Family Camp Out, this city located just 11 miles from downtown Cincinnati is viewed as a quiet, family-friendly place to live. Taylor Mill is a relatively young city, incorporated in 1957, but its roots go back to the late 18th century, shortly after Kentucky was admitted to the Union. It was a farming community until the early 1900s, when the urban Cincinnati population started moving south.