Naperville, a regular on MONEY’s Best Places to Live list, consistently draws families for its highly rated schools and safe neighborhoods. Yet unlike many Chicago suburbs, a vibrant downtown also gives Naperville a cosmopolitan feel. People run or stroll along the four-mile long brick Riverwalk, which hugs the DuPage River that runs through downtown. The pedestrian-friendly city center has more than 50 restaurants (pizza lovers will find both wood-fired varieties and Chicago’s signature deep-dish style on offer), as well as art galleries, boutiques and live music clubs.
Many residents do the 30-minute train commute into Chicago but local jobs are plentiful too: Naperville is located on the Illinois I-88 technology and research corridor and home to major companies like ConAgra and OfficeMax.
The big complaint around Naperville? Traffic. Rush hour can be brutal, and you can find yourself suddenly sitting in gridlock at any time of day.
What has changed?
1. The description mentions traffic. This is particularly bad going north-south in Naperville as the major highways goes east-west. You don’t want to be stuck on Route 59 on the western edge of Naperville, a road full of people traveling to Naperville as well as other burgeoning suburbs like Aurora and Plainfield.
2. Is something lost in the size of the community? Maybe, maybe not – the #1 place is McKinney, Texas which has a population around 140,000.
3. The methodology for the rankings might have changed. Here is how the found the Best Places To Live for 2014:
Next, we narrow down the list further by excluding places with a median family income of more than 210% of the state average or a median home price of $1 million or more. Then we use a proprietary formula to rank the remaining cities according to 45 factors in eight categories: Economic opportunity and jobs, housing affordability, education, crime, health, arts and leisure, ease of living, and diversity.
We give the most weight to the first four factors, and evenly represent the major regions of the country (West, Northeast, Midwest, South). That leaves us with about 100 cities…
Economic opportunity is based on purchasing power, foreclosure rate, tax burden, and state’s fiscal strength. Job opportunities is based on income growth, county employment (not seasonally adjusted), and projected job growth. Housing affordability is based on median home-price-to-income ratio and average property taxes. Education is based on test scores, educational interests and attainment, and percentage of kids in public schools. Health is based on number of doctors and hospitals in the area and health of residents. Crime is based on property and violent crime rates. Arts and leisure is based on activities in the town and area, including movie theaters, museums, green spaces, and sports venues.
If the first four factors matter more, Naperville might hampered by the state of Illinois’ fiscal strength and higher housing prices than a number of the top-ranked places. Looking further down the list, crime might be up some in Naperville.