If you haven’t picked up on the subtle hints by now, we’re moving. As in, moving out of this ridiculously expensive rental house and going…somewhere. More specifically, Oak Park, IL or somewhere around Denver. I know for a lot of you this decision would be an easy one- I honestly don’t know too many people who live in Illinois that would actually stay here if given the chance to move. I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends, acquaintances and strangers (mostly people I meet on rides) and it’s very clear that Illinois isn’t the location of choice. But people have jobs, kids in school, etc. so they don’t have much of a choice and so they’re stuck here.
Did you know that Cook County lost more residents than any other county in the US last year? The net loss of -21,234 residents doesn’t sound like much until you realize that the next county on the list (Wayne- Detroit) only lost -7,696! It’s no wonder- the state is a total mess financially, the property taxes are some of the highest in the country (with nowhere to go but up), there is a lot of crime and the winters are crummy. Now, it doesn’t mean there aren’t good things about Chicago- it’s a amazing city with a lot of history to boot. I love the architecture, the culture, the grit, the friends we’ve met, the trains, baseball…I could go on and on. But we don’t live in the city. If you removed all of the Cubs paraphernalia Glen Ellyn would be Anytown, USA. We’re not close enough to the city to enjoy most of its amenities, and I find the lack of culture and diversity in the suburbs stifling. It’s a night and day difference between GE and Chicago.
Over the last 15 years or so Eric’s interviewed in Chicagoland three times. I’d like to say third time’s a charm but the decision to move here in 2015 was made under duress and it hasn’t been that charming. Every single time we came here though, we gravitated to Oak Park. I love OP- it’s the epicenter of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, is the birthplace of Ernest Hemmingway and quite frankly, is the closest thing we can find to the West Seattle lifestyle that we loved (walkability, very liberal, diverse, aesthetically pleasing, etc.). It’s where 40-somethings go when they finally realize that the city is not a great place for raising kids. It’s a pretty hip place for AKA to grow up in too- ok, so maybe not hip for true city-dwellers I suppose but waaaaayyy cooler than here in the suburbs. However…OP is also an “oasis” of sorts- it borders some rough parts of town like Austin and that worries me a bit. I don’t think there’s much violent crime in OP as far as I know, but I’m sure it has its fair share of other stuff.
And then there’s Denver, one of the hottest cities in the country right now. It seems like everyone is moving there! Eric has the option of working remotely from Denver so we flew out there to take a look around to see what all hype was about. First impression- yuck. The area between the airport and city is run down, and everything is flat and brown. And I didn’t realize that the hills don’t start until you’re west of 470. Armed with our trusty Zillow app, we drove around the residential parts of the city, which I hate to say weren’t very awesome. In the back of my mind I constantly compared it to Seattle yet it’s quite different (no trees, not a great layout, less amenities, hit or miss schools). Slightly disappointed, I decided to bring up a few suburban listings that looked appealing. We ended up on the far southwest side of Littleton in an area called the Ken Caryl Ranch. Nestled in a valley, it’s got it’s own trail system but on the other hand has extremely dated homes (for the price) and is a bit isolated. But the thought of being able to go for a trail run after work, amongst red rocks, is pretty awesome. And given the proximity to trails and such, I’m willing to bet many of the residents are into the same activities we are. To top it off the schools are great and the taxes are 1/3 of those in Oak Park. There is a huge network of bike paths in the suburbs, so you can ride to pretty much anywhere you want. And the roads looked pretty bike-friendly too. Then we ventured up to Golden (nice but $$ and few housing options) and Boulder (awesome but not affordable at all). Of course there are “cons”- Denver’s farther away from our family, although once AKA starts school and I go back to work our weekend trips to MI would be greatly reduced. And after making three cross-country moves in my lifetime…I’m not sure I want to start all over AGAIN. I’m a lot better at making friends now (the cycling community comes through for me every time!), and I know we’ll meet people through AKA’s school, but ugh…I just don’t know.
So what’s keeping us from making a decision? For most part, I think it’s the fear of making a Bad Decision. As of *today* we’re leaning towards Oak Park- it really does make more sense for Eric to be “in the office”, although it’s not mandatory. We allowed for a bit of time after he started his new job to get settled and figure out what our options were. So now that our lease is up at the end of June, I’m worried that we’re not going to find the right home…there are very few listings in our price range (which is the range every young family is searching in BTW) and we are out of town a lot in April. The cost of living is awfully expensive (property taxes are 12k and UP), which makes me second guess my choice because Denver just makes better financial sense. We don’t want some ginormous home (there’s only three of us), but the numbers clearly show that we can afford a lot “more” in Denver. Like four bedrooms instead of three, or a finished basement, or something that’s 80% move-in ready instead of the fixer-uppers in Oak Park.
So what it boils down to is this:
1. A blah, possibly overpriced (yet still affordable) neighborhood with no culture but a plethora of amazing things to do on the weekend, or:
2. An expensive home (that still needs work) with a cool neighborhood and culture, and long drives to find any sort of recreation.
A friend commented that it’s all about choosing between weekdays or weekends. In other words, which is more important- what you do in your daily grind, or what you do on the weekends? Excellent point. I’m more interested in the day-to-day myself…
I really hope to have an update on our situation sooner than later. Stay tuned!