Click here to download the Rating the 'Burbs Top 47 Communities in the Tristate (PDF)

 

Click here to download the Rating the 'Burbs Education: Stellar Public Schools (PDF)

 

Click here to download the Rating the 'Burbs Crime: The Safest Towns (PDF)

 

Home is where the heart is. In the American mind"”especially among upwardly mobile professionals"”home also is the bedrock of a family's financial portfolio. And the value of a home begins with the real estate mantra: location.

 

Cincy Business decided to take a close look at Greater Cincinnati communities and not only evaluate the best ones, but rank them. Welcome to our first "Rating the 'Burbs."

 

We stepped back and took the perspective of a relocation guide. If you were a Gillette executive or manager in Boston being transferred to Procter & Gamble here, what would you seek in a great town or neighborhood?

 

First, we looked at eight counties in the 13-county metro region: Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren in Ohio; Boone, Campbell and Kenton in Kentucky, and Dearborn in Indiana. Then we sought the best of the best in terms of home values. Our starting list included only those communities where the 2006 median sale price of a single-family residential property was $190,000 or more. The grouping was flexed to include the best of Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana communities. Some towns couldn't be included because they did not have enough home sales activity last year.

 

Our scope was not limited to suburbs and exurbs outside Cincinnati, which is why we use the shorthand term "Burbs." This term encompasses city communities that once were suburbs of the core city, such as Hyde Park and Mount Lookout.

Research suggests three main factors guide relocation decisions: property values, safety and education. We began with sales prices of homes because those numbers can signal the value and vitality of a community, including many of the intangible factors that shape our perceptions.

 

You will also see how these places stack up in terms of property taxes. For some professionals, getting the best return on their home investment is important. Others are willing to pay a premium.

 

Remember: These communities are the best of the best. Just by being included in our survey, every single one can lay claim to being one of the Best 'Burbs in the Tristate. Most enjoy low crime and good public schools. And we cannot emphasize this enough: We are blessed with countless other neighborhoods and subdivisions that are terrific places to live and raise families in the Tristate's rainbow radius, from Fairfield to Walton, from Batavia to Batesville.

 

We took into account many variables. For example: city communities were rated with data for all of Cincinnati Public Schools, even though many parents send their children to private schools or the best CPS schools. But the value of homes in those city neighborhoods could be higher if the entire school system was on par with suburban competitors.

 

Much depends on personal preferences. Some people like the far reaches, where new subdivisions carved from farms offer more land, bigger houses and more amenities for less money than more-established communities. Although some of those boom areas struggle with clogged traffic and overcrowded classrooms, some exurban pioneers are willing to wait for the infrastructure of a more mature community.

 

Measuring home appreciation is a difficult science. One technique is to track specific, comparable properties over 10 years or more, but even that approach is biased toward homes that turn over often. This is why we report the five-year change in median sale prices of houses, but do not use it as an appreciation yardstick. See "Behind The Numbers" (page 47) to learn more about the methodology. This is just a starting point. We welcome your comments and suggestions. E-mail burbs@cincybusinessmag.com.

 

"Rating the 'Burbs" is meant to prompt constructive dialogue. If this special feature energizes progress toward making great communities even better, that's good for the health of the region we enjoy together.

 

"”THE EDITORS

 

Special thanks to: Jim Abele and the MLS staff of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors; Julie Morris and the MLS staff of the Northern Kentucky Board of Realtors; Sue Page and the MLS staff of the Southeast Indiana Board of Realtors, and the police departments and school districts listed for their assistance.

 

1. TERRACE PARK

Call this the little village that could. This relatively tiny municipality "” incorporated in 1893 "” jumped to the top of the heap by virtue of high property values, the No. 1 ranking in our safety rankings and, being in the Mariemont school system, superb education scores. What no statistics or number-crunching can accurately capture is the given charm or neighborliness of a community. Terrace Park has it all in spades. Sandwiched between Mariemont, Indian Hill and Milford, this affluent community (with its own historical society) is often compared to New England towns. Behind the charm of historical homes and facades, many Terrace Park homes have been expensively updated for the modern living of young families, whose children can walk or bike to Terrace Park Elementary. A full 95 percent of the housing in Terrace Park is owner-occupied; renters need not apply. And the population (37 percent English/Irish/Scottish and 34 percent German) of 2,000 is exactly divided"”to a one, mind you"”between male and female. What are those odds?

The maternal grandparents of Helen C. Barnett, 90, moved there on their honeymoon in 1896, three years after the village was founded and six years after the original construction of what is now the recently renovated Community Building. Her paternal grandparents lived there, too. Talk about stability and tradition.

 

2. INDIAN HILL

What can you say about the zip code that's the second richest in Ohio after Cleveland's Pepper Pike? This is the playground of the rich and famous, with a country club (Camargo) so exclusive that gazillonaire Carl Lindner had a hard time getting in. It's a 'burb known for its sprawling horse farms and equine trails. And it's a community that likely packs more Rolls Royces into its 20 square miles than any other place in Cincinnati. Once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee and Miami tribes, Indian Hill had become a farming community of 500 by the turn of the last century. It incorporated as a village in 1941, but its blood was running blue long before that.

 

3. MONTGOMERY

The town that Ted Gregory made. Well, not actually, though the Ribs King certainly did play a major role in the community through his Montgomery Inn restaurant. It was no less than Charles Dickens, though, while resting at the town center's Sage Tavern stagecoach stop, who suggested someone ought to open "a Montgomery inn" because of the ideal location. Today, the Olde Montgomery city center is a charmer. The neighborhood streets are textbook Americana. At any moment, you expect the "Beav" to come bounding out at you.

 

4. AMBERLEY VILLAGE

Talk about a location with a flavor all its own. The village council spent decades successfully battling off encroaching strip malls and chain restaurants, preserving the rural character of Amberley. Among Hamilton County's 48 political jurisdictions, Amberley ranks first in the percentage of children enrolled in private school (52 percent); first in the percentage who drive alone to work (93 percent) and tops in percentage of those who work in real estate (6 percent).

 

5. CLEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP

Clear Creek Township sits at the extreme northern top of Warren County (the best reference point for its location is that it's near the Dayton Daily News building off Interstate 75). Created by county commissioners in 1815, Clear Creek is the latest slice of farmland to encounter suburban sprawl, as Dayton and Cincinnati draw ever closer to each other to form one gigantic metropolis.

 

6. MASON

Mason: The Water Park Capitol of the World. No, that's not this city's official slogan, but it ought to be. Home to Kings Island theme park and adjoining Boomerang Bay sprayground, The Beach Waterpark, the Golf Center at Kings Island and now Great Wolf Lodge water resort, Mason is where the region goes to play. Named Palmira in 1815, the town took on its current moniker after the death of wealthy land-owner William Mason in 1832. These days, it's home to such major players as Cintas Corporation, Mitsubishi, the Procter & Gamble Health Care Research Center, and Luxottica Retail.



 

7. WYOMING

This northern suburb traces its history back 125 years, and its historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural styles range from Victorian to modern, helping the community win a national "Prettiest Painted Places" award. With 14 parks and preserves, there's a whole lot of green going on here. If this fact says anything about civic pride and concern for the environment, there's more recycling done here than anywhere else in Hamilton County.

 

8. MARIEMONT

Quaint. Scenic. Stunning. These are just some of the words Mariemont residents use to describe their hometown. When philanthropist Mary Emery quietly purchased one square mile of orchards and cornfields in 1923, she envisioned what would become one of the first planned communities in America. The village square is peppered with Tudor businesses: the striking Mariemont Inn, Mariemont Theater, the National Exemplar restaurant, a Graeter's ice cream parlor and the Mariemont Strand, an assortment of gift shops and gourmet eateries. In other words, postcard-picture perfect.

 

9. WEST CHESTER

West Chester's motto, "Where families grow and businesses prosper," rings true in many ways, beginning with its ideal hub location and multiple access points to I-75. Commerce here has transformed the economic base from primarily light industrial to upscale retail and office development, technology businesses, and regional medical facilities. West Chester is all about growth"”for families and for jobs. The fast-growing Union Centre retail center adds flavorful restaurants and yupscale shopping to the mix.

 

10. TURTLE CREEK TOWNSHIP

Established in 1804, the township was named after Turtle Creek, a stream that was in turn named for Native American chief Little Turtle. In the past 20 years, Turtle Creek has joined a rare fraternity of neighborhoods where average income has leap-frogged up more than 20 percent (even after adjusting for inflation).

 

11. HAMILTON TOWNSHIP

Hamilton Township is one of the original four townships created when Warren County was divided in 1803. It's centrally located, bounded on the north and west by the Little Miami State and National Scenic River, on the east by Harlan and Salem townships, and on the south by Clermont County.

 

12. GLENDALE

The streets of Glendale practically scream old-world charm, and few wh'™ve ever enjoyed a meal at Grand Finale or the Iron Horse Inn would doubt this is culinary central, as well. Children stroll to school along gas-lit avenues, moms and dads push baby carriages while walking the family dog, and Deputy Barney Fife is found hanging out at the barbershop"¦Well, not quite. Actually, "Mayberry" never had it this good.

 

13. MADEIRA

Originally developed along a railroad line linking West Virginia with points west, this city finally incorporated in 1910. Today, Madeira's bustling business district"”fronted by the vintage railroad depot"”is a favorite for many shoppers and diners, with its unique storefronts and eclectic assortment of eateries. Homeowners choose to live here for its central location, schools and vibrant community spirit.

 

14. SYMMES TOWNSHIP

The township bears the name of John Cleves Symmes who, in 1788, made the "Miami  Purchase""”which led to the founding of Cincinnati. The community is rightfully proud of its Camp Dennison Nature Trail, Harper's Station Greenspace,  Seven Gables Park,  Lake Isabella, and other attractions.

 

15. VILLA HILLS

This Kentucky community is so proud of itself that it adopted the slogan "A Special Place to Live." And Villa Hills is certainly that: Overlooking the Ohio River, its residents include many Cincinnati sports stars and television personalities. Its origins were modest. Thanks to a $300 loan from the Villa Hills Civic Club, the community was incorporated in 1962. Landmarks include Villa Madonna Academy and Saint Walburg Monastery.


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