2. Eden Prairie, Minn.
why we love it
Where the great outdoors meets a great job market.
|Median Home Price||$310,000|
|Commute time||20 minutes|
Of all the things you expect to find in frosty Minnesota—lakes, hockey players, really nice Scandinavian-Americans—a community where every home features solar power is perhaps not at the top of the list. Tony and Amanda Nagy were surprised too, and they’re from Minneapolis.
But when Tony’s occupational therapy clinic opened a branch 20 miles from the city in Eden Prairie last year, the couple decided to look for a house nearby. That’s when they stumbled upon the Eden Gardens neighborhood, where the 36 homes are all built from reclaimed materials and feature solar panels, high-efficiency heating and cooling, and no-mow or low-mow yards. There’s also abundant communal space for veggie and flower growers. “We love being able to connect with our neighbors at the Eden Gardens playground and gardening after dinner each night,” says Amanda. “I thought I would regret living in the suburbs. We haven’t regretted it, not even a little bit.”
That’s a common sentiment around town. Eden Prairie has appeared on Money’s Best Places list several times and finished No. 1 in 2010. One reason for its success: Like those eco-friendly homes, the economy is self-sustaining too. Several large employers, including Optum, C.H. Robinson, Starkey, and Supervalu, have their headquarters here. Though Eden Prairie has only 62,000 residents, it is home to 57,000 jobs and a downright skimpy 3.6% unemployment rate.
Thanks to its low debt and diversified tax base, the city has earned a AAA bond rating from Moody’s every year since 2003. The local economy will likely get another boost in the next few years, with an extension of the Southwest light rail that will connect the city to downtown Minneapolis.
True to its name, Eden Prairie has invested in its outdoor splendors as well. The city contains 37 parks, 17 lakes, and 200 miles of sidewalks and trails. In a 2014 quality of life survey of Eden Prairie conducted by the city, 95% of respondents gave their hometown good or excellent ratings.
That seal of approval is for more than amenities. It also reflects residents’ appreciation of what their neighbors offer one another. “Eden Prairie attracts a very diverse crowd,” says Amanda, whose daughter, Nyah, is enrolled in a Spanish immersion day care. “We love living in a community that reflects the world we live in.”