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Thread: Post-college towns

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Post-college towns

    Lately, we've been posting a lot about the traits of a college town; what they are, what they have, what they don't have, and why some towns with a dominant college or university seem to be lacking the amenities college town flavor that other similarly sized communities enjoy.

    Just as there are college towns, there are emerging post-college towns. What is a post-college town? Cities and towns that have the amenities, vibrancy, counter-cultural vibe, young educated population, and collective left-leaning mindset of college towns, but with a fairly low ratio of college students to overall population. These are places where you'll see the local characters, the Volvo and Subaru wagons with roof boxes in every driveway, the young professionals decked out in outdoor gear, the abundant local bookstores and coffeehouses, the organic markets on every other corner, and the bulletin boards loaded with posters for yoga classes, but you really won't see that many students. They're places where, as Fred Armisen said in the premiere of Portlandia, young people go to retire.

    So, what are some post-college towns? In my opinion, in North America they include:
    • Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first post-college town.
    • Portland, Oregon. Do I have to say more?
    • Seattle, Washington. Where contemporary coffeehouse culture was born.
    • Austin, Texas. Yes Austin has UT, but the ratio of students to townies is quite low compared to Madison, Eugene, Ann Arbor, and the like.
    • Vancouver, British Columbia. If Portland had a one-night stand with Toronto, Vancouver would be the resulting love child.

    The post-college town seems to be a phenomenon of the 1990s. Was Portland that much different than Denver, Omaha or Indianapolis in the 1980s and earlier?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    BANNED
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    Well, first I would consider all of those post-college cities. As for post-college towns, there are probably a few in the Bay Area. Burlingame comes to mine off the top of my head.

    I am sure there a probably many towns and cities with a high amount of college educated living there, but few will actually have the same traits of college towns.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The post-college town seems to be a phenomenon of the 1990s. Was Portland that much different than Denver, Omaha or Indianapolis in the 1980s and earlier?
    I think a few post-college towns started more in the last decade than the 1990's, mainly in the South and with a slightly different edge than the post-college towns you mentioned - still liberal, but in a slightly more conservative context due to their surrounding areas.

    Examples: Nashville, Raleigh, Louisville.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I think there are definitely suburbs and boomburbs that have gone down this track.

    Naperville, IL comes to mind. It's still very suburban in nature, but it seems to be the suburb of choice for yuppie liberal types relocating to the Chicago area from other parts of the country (aside from some of the inner-ring burbs). It also has a very active downtown area. It does have a small liberal arts college downtown and some satellite campuses along the I-88 corridor, but it is not a real college town at all. The town really prides its schools, which are typically considered to be among the highest-performing in the western suburbs.

    Oak Park, IL is another one. I'm sure other Cyburbians can attest to the vibe it gives off. Lots of culture and history, lots of new urban development, very close to the city, abundant mass transit, and quite liberal.

    Outside of Chicagoland, Arlington, VA comes to mind. Like Naperville, it includes plenty of satellite campuses but only has one liberal arts school. The politics are very liberal, it has great mass transit access, it is very urbane and built-up, and there is plenty to do and see without ever having to leave the city. It also has one of the highest percentages in the country of residents with graduate degrees and is rated as one of the best places for the rich and single.

    As for a non-suburb city, Dubuque, Iowa comes to mind. There are plenty of colleges here, but most are small and religious. Aside from that, Dubuque is rated by many sources as among the best cities to live, raise a family, start a business, etc. It has a rich history and vibrant culture, lots of tourism, plenty of business, excellent parks, schools, and healthcare, and it leans liberal.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    Outside of Chicagoland, Arlington, VA comes to mind. Like Naperville, it includes plenty of satellite campuses but only has one liberal arts school. The politics are very liberal, it has great mass transit access, it is very urbane and built-up, and there is plenty to do and see without ever having to leave the city. It also has one of the highest percentages in the country of residents with graduate degrees and is rated as one of the best places for the rich and single.
    Arlington, VA is a county not a city and it I cannot think of anyone associating the area as a college area of VA or DC. Also, George Mason is hardly a liberal arts college. Its the largest public university in VA with over 1/3 of its students enrolled in graduate courses. Even with this Arlington has always been associated with DC as a suburb and later the location on many companies that work with the Federal Government and the home to the Department of Defense since WWII.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  6. #6
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    Arlington, VA is a county not a city and it I cannot think of anyone associating the area as a college area of VA or DC. Also, George Mason is hardly a liberal arts college. Its the largest public university in VA with over 1/3 of its students enrolled in graduate courses. Even with this Arlington has always been associated with DC as a suburb and later the location on many companies that work with the Federal Government and the home to the Department of Defense since WWII.
    Well, technically, yes, on paper, it is a county. But in reality, it is a city. Also, I think you misinterpreted the thread. As Dan describes this phenomenon: "Cities and towns that have the amenities, vibrancy, counter-cultural vibe, young educated population, and collective left-leaning mindset of college towns, but with a fairly low ratio of college students to overall population". Thus, the whole point of this thread is to come up with places that aren't really college towns but through their amenities, characteristics, demographics, and vibe make it seem like it is. With the highest percentage of people with graduate degrees, I think Arlington is the ultimate post-college town.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    These are usually my favorite places. And, most interesting is the fact ESRI's Tapestry Population Segmentation almost always describes the top three segments in these areas to be: "Urban Chic", "Metro Renters", and "Laptops & Lattes."

    Try inserting any relevant zip codes into: http://redlandsbaoapp1.esri.com/ZipC...p/Default.aspx

    The results are remarkably consistent.

    Another one of my favorites is Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post

    Try inserting any relevant zip codes into: http://redlandsbaoapp1.esri.com/ZipC...p/Default.aspx

    .
    That was fun! I grew up in zip code in the Bay Area where the number one group is "trend setters", I now live in a zip code in Boston where the number one group is "laptops and lattes". I am feeling hip.

    Actually, the city I grew up in does seem to have large numbers of just out of college people. The downtown is full of things to do and is very walkable. It's quite different from the sleepy, scruffy place I grew up.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Seems just about nearly everyone in college across the Southeast has wanted to move to Atlanta (and did/does) for about the last 20 years (or so).

    As a result, pockets like Virginia-Highlands, Vinings, and once Buckhead, have become post-college meccas.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I can't believe Brooklyn, NY hasn't been mentioned yet. It's a more affordable place to live than Manhattan and provides that interesting mix between post college and pockets of bohemian art atmosphere and foods that many post grads like with the ease of a Subway commute to "normal" jobs uptown.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    I think there are definitely suburbs and boomburbs that have gone down this track.

    Naperville, IL comes to mind. It's still very suburban in nature, but it seems to be the suburb of choice for yuppie liberal types relocating to the Chicago area from other parts of the country (aside from some of the inner-ring burbs). It also has a very active downtown area. It does have a small liberal arts college downtown and some satellite campuses along the I-88 corridor, but it is not a real college town at all. The town really prides its schools, which are typically considered to be among the highest-performing in the western suburbs.

    Oak Park, IL is another one. I'm sure other Cyburbians can attest to the vibe it gives off. Lots of culture and history, lots of new urban development, very close to the city, abundant mass transit, and quite liberal.

    Outside of Chicagoland, Arlington, VA comes to mind. Like Naperville, it includes plenty of satellite campuses but only has one liberal arts school. The politics are very liberal, it has great mass transit access, it is very urbane and built-up, and there is plenty to do and see without ever having to leave the city. It also has one of the highest percentages in the country of residents with graduate degrees and is rated as one of the best places for the rich and single.

    As for a non-suburb city, Dubuque, Iowa comes to mind. There are plenty of colleges here, but most are small and religious. Aside from that, Dubuque is rated by many sources as among the best cities to live, raise a family, start a business, etc. It has a rich history and vibrant culture, lots of tourism, plenty of business, excellent parks, schools, and healthcare, and it leans liberal.
    I definitely agree with Oak Park being one. Not to mention the added benefit of some of the best architecture out there.

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Saugatuck, MI comes to mind.

    I guess the question Dan didn't explicitly pose that I'd be interested in knowing the answer to is why do these particular non-college communities attract these elements? In the case of Saugatuck, this lakeshore community has historical resort roots. It's not difficult to see where an active arts scene can play in to that. There's also a significant gay presence in the community which may contribute as well.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    To try an answer the Why? and looking at the original list, which is a good one, I see some similarities:
    Art- strong scenes in visual, performance, public, and music
    liberal and progressive- ideas, planning and politics
    climate- while all may not do well in Seattle's rain, these are all pretty nice climates
    high tech environments- Santa Fe may not really fit this as much as the others, but...
    outdoor amenities within 50 miles
    foodie culture! include beer, wine, coffee in this.

    and in post 2010, I think a strong ability to tele-commute is prevelant in all of these with broadband linkage. No longer does everyone have to follow the job, but they can choose where to live based on their criteria and then find a job that allows that.

    Salt Lake City could be an up-and-comer on this list, except it constantly gets hung up on the politics and (mis)perceptions of the LDS church.
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.-- William H. Whyte..

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