Downtown living is finally making a comeback after the pandemic-driven flight to the suburbs. But not all downtowns are cut from the same cloth. Some are better than others at getting the right mix of amenities to keep residents engaged after working hours. One of the best is Phoenix, which ranks in the Top 10 among best cities for downtown living.

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To find out which cities can best cater to urban lifestyles, StorageCafe, a nationwide self storage marketplace, issued a report that drills down on the key features that make downtowns appealing for renters. Based on a series of factors including cost of living, rental amenities, access to entertainment and shopping, safety and more, the South comes out as the best destination for those in search of a premier downtown living experience. Phoenix landed 10th on the list.

Phoenix shines among best cities for downtown living

Phoenix has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past few years, mainly propelled by the healthy job market and a cost of living that’s lower than in many other major urban hubs. The apartment market has grown tremendously in recent times, with the Phoenix’ downtown area having added over 70% of its total inventory of apartments in the last decade.

Nearly all apartment buildings (92%) provide access to gyms and well over half of the apartments (64%) are in the high-end category. Among other enticing perks, downtown Phoenix apartments come with an average of about 790 square feet of space, much more generous than in many other cities’ downtowns.

Downtown living is usually appealing because it’s where dining, shopping and entertainment converge, and PHX has a little bit of everything in this respect. There are about 12 restaurants/1,000 residents, offering various options from the typical burger joint to Asian, Tex-Mex and Italian cuisines. Entertainment is easy to find with over 2.5 theaters/1,000 people. The city center is also full to the brim with various museums, resorts and access to hiking trails, theaters and other recreation  venues. With the Footprint Center and Chase Field being located in the downtown area, you can go to a concert while staying in your zip code.

Two Southern cities share the podium for downtown living with Chicago

With the South delivering in terms of real estate construction and overall living standards, it’s no surprise that one of its cities stands out for downtown living. As it turns out, you can sometimes judge a book by its cover – not only does Dallas have one of the most visually appealing skylines, but it’s also the best for downtown living. 

With apartments being the traditional choice for downtown living,Dallas’s city center is well-supplied, with over 15K apartments located in rental buildings with 50+ units, per StorageCafe data. Besides access to plenty of apartments, the downtown area delivers in terms of rental building features, with a staggering majority of apartments having access to gyms (95% of units) and high-end living (81% of units). Dallas’s downtown also shines brightly for its provision of theaters, restaurants and shopping venues that make for a lively entertainment scene.

The second city to boast a stellar downtown area is Austin, another Texan city center recommended for the lifestyle amenities it can offer. Supported by a strong economy offering jobs in tech and other desirable fields, Austin has seen its population swell. And for good reason too – median downtown incomes have surpassed six figures, considerably above the national average, which helps to make up for the increasing real estate prices and the general cost of living in the area.

If you’re an apartment dweller in Austin, you’re in for a treat, especially if green and spacious living rank high on your list of priorities. Downtown Austin comes first for green living, with almost half of its apartments located in buildings that carry the LEED certification. Moreover, with the average apartment tallying close to 940 square feet, you get some of the most spacious city-center residences in the country. Premier living is complemented by various opportunities to enjoy the downtown area in terms of entertainment. You can have a night out on the town at any of the 14.6 restaurants and the 2.8 theaters per 1,000 residents.

Chicago, IL, takes the bronze for downtown living thanks to the mix of amenities the area offers. In terms of apartment living, you get access to fitness centers in almost all apartment buildings (90%) and well over half of apartments offer high-end living conditions. Moreover, close to a quarter of the apartments are located in buildings that received LEED certification indicating green living conditions. Living here is by no means cheap, but high incomes help to keep the cost of housing below the 30% affordability threshold.

Downtown Chicago is definitely a lively area, having many places where you can find entertainment. With about 11 restaurants/1,000 people, you have plenty of options to sample the local cuisine. For an additional downtown experience, you can go see a play at any of the 2.6 theaters1,000 people located in the area.

Besides the Windy City, Columbus, OH, is the second Midwestern presence in the top 10 of cities for best downtown living. With the city offering employment in finance, IT and other high-paying industries, many employees choose downtown living. And that typically means living in an apartment. In Columbus, you get about 790 square feet of space in a downtown apartment. While that situates downtown apartments way above the national average in terms of space, you could still probably use a little extra room. That’s why turning to self storage can help Columbus downtowners keep seasonal and bulky items away from home. A 5’x10’ unit is ideal for this purpose. A Columbus self storage unit rents for about $90/month.

Downtown Columbus has a lot to offer after work hours: You can easily find a dining spot to your liking among the 18.2 restaurants/1,000 people. Additionally, Columbus’s city center boasts about 8.7 stores and supermarkets/1,000 people, so shopping for essentials or for other items is pretty easy.