#2 Upper Arlington
Great schools, creative development in a bedroom town
MEDIAN: age 42.8
distance to downtown: 6 miles
Long front yards that set well-kept homes back from the street. It’s a look so characteristic of this western suburb, the city doesn’t need to post city limits signs. You know when you’re in “UA.” There’s a homey charm to a town so visibly crafted as a bedroom community (93 percent of the city is residential). It’s a place where curb appeal isn’t just about the look of a home—be it a three-story colonial or modest ranch, the mere property layout says, “Raise your family here.”
Of course, a school district that tops the rest in Central Ohio with a graduation rate continuously hovering in the high 90s only helps the case. The draw to the city’s schools is more than stats on paper, says district director of communications Dan Donovan. It’s an emphasis the district places on education beyond school walls.
“Service learning is extremely big in our district,” he says. “We’re not the only district that does it, but we’re the one that does it best.” For example, to learn about World War II or the Vietnam War, the middle school invites veterans, who interact with students. Or, to understand economics, students will chart out the costs of making cookies for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and study how the local nonprofit relies on contributions.
So pleased with their own childhood experiences, many graduates return to Upper Arlington to raise their kids. The high school’s commencement program is riddled with asterisks next to the names of second-, third- and fourth-generation UA grads.
Outside of the schools, development at Kingsdale shopping center and The Shops on Lane Avenue, especially the opening of a new Whole Foods, are evidence the landlocked city is trying to use the limited space it has to increase quality of life, says Bob Lamb, community and economic development manager. This year, expect growth on Lane Avenue to continue with the opening of Hilton Homewood Suites in August, in addition to a parking garage, 26,000 square feet of retail space and a new apartment complex geared to attract young professionals.