Smaller Cities are a Bargain

Tuesday, The Atlantic Cities published an article arguing in favor of the benefits of small city living. Though I feel like author Micheline Maynard uses the article mostly to point out that she’s really cool because she’s a big, experienced fish in a small pond, there’s actually a good point buried beneath the bragging: small metro areas offer city living at a value.

Maynard uses Ann Arbor as a case study to point out that though cultural opportunities in small cities may be limited, they still exist and in some cases can be more rewarding. She specifically mentions food, theater and other amenities that can be had at lower costs than in major metros:

Turns out my years living in big cities have given me an unexpected education in getting the most out of small city life. They’ve helped me discover what’s most important to me: a lively, diverse community, with access to good food, the arts, the world around us, and a comfortable place to live that’s also affordable on a freelancer’s budget.

Ann Arbor is probably one of the most cosmopolitan American cities of its size, but a similar point would also be true to some extent about Provo. It has good food, some theater and a lively music scene. And perhaps most important, it’s vastly more affordable than huge cities.

Maynard also notes that smaller cities have some advantages over bigger metropolises. They’re easier to get around, for example, and are safer. In those areas, Provo — which is walkable and one of the safest places in the nation — particularly excells.

Reading Maynard’s article, I was reminded of how as I neared the end of my college career dozens of my friends moved to various big cities. I have to admit that I envied many of them. But as my cohort has moved further into professional life, fewer and fewer of them actually stayed in bustling city centers. Many have even moved out into the suburbs in pursuit of cheaper cost of living where they can afford to have families.

In light of Maynard’s article, then, smaller cities like Provo and Ann Arbor offer a kind of middle ground between the two extremes of urban and suburban living that many people experience.

Provo isn’t a huge metropolis, but it increasingly offers many city amenities for a fraction of the price consumers would pay elsewhere.


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