Time/Money Magazine ranked the top small cities with populations between 50,000 and 300,000, and West Hartford had a major jump in the rankings.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford has earned the no. 15 spot on Time/Money Magazine’s ranking of the “Best Places to Live 2016,” jumping up from the no. 45 spot it received when the top small cities were last ranked in 2014.
Time/Money Magazine alternates ranking the “Top 50” smaller towns with top small cities. The ranking was previously called CNN/Money Magazine’s “Top 100,” and in 2012, West Hartford was ranked no. 72. In 2010 the town earned a no. 55 ranking. The ranking involves analysis of 60 key factors, with criteria including taxes, education, health care, housing, and the local job market.
“To be no. 15 on the ‘Best Places to Live’ – that’s amazing,” Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said. Out of 16,000 communities that fit the criteria, even being in the top 100 is quite an achievement, he said.
Van Winkle said that people who live here know this town is a great place to live, and the schools are amazing. “Housing prices are as high as they have ever been because people want to be here,” he said.
“We’re thrilled that West Hartford was recognized,” Mayor Shari Cantor said.
“We know and love West Hartford as an amazing, terrific place to work, live, raise a family, and retire – and we’re so pleased that we were recognized by Money Magazine in the context of other wonderful communities around the country,” Cantor said.
The write-up on West Hartford cited the town’s “two public golf courses, a skating rink, multiple pools, and America’s oldest public rose garden” as attributes. West Hartford’s multiple shopping and eating districts, and its easy commute to large employers like Lego, ESPN, and various insurance companies was also noted.
Time/Money also praised Playhouse on Park as the “crowning jewel of the community, turning it from a good place to live into a destination for arts lovers.”
“They do a wonderful job,” Van Winkle said of Playhouse on Park, which has received regional as well as national acclaim for its high quality and diverse productions.
“It’s an opportunity for people who don’t have a lot of money to come in and see theater,” Playhouse on Park Executive Director Tracy Flater told Time/Money. “The West Hartford residents are really invested, and they see the benefits of this in their community. They value us as much as we value all that they do for us.”
An affordable housing project set for groundbreaking next month and other residential development was also praised, as was this year’s USA-Cuba Goodwill Tour, an effort in “baseball diplomacy” involving groups of teens from West Hartford and Holguin, Cuba.
“In West Hartford you don’t buy a house, you buy a community,” Van Winkle said. “It’s not just a center hall Colonial, it’s the neighborhood, the downtown, the police, the schools, the amenities like golf courses and the theater.”
“Everything’s working well here, and we’re so pleased to be recognized,” Van Winkle said.
The top-ranked community on Time/Money’s 2016 list is Columbia, MD. Two other Connecticut towns – Hamden (no. 38) and Greenwich (no. 40) made the top 50.
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