20 years of Best Places

Money's top places have always had great schools, reasonable housing and a genuine sense of community. For many, the trick today is to maintain those virtues when everyone wants to move in. Here is an update on seven past winners.

Seattle (1989)
The Puget Sound ferries provide commuters a view of the skyline and Cascade Mountains.
Seattle (1989)
1989 510,600 4.1% $122,300
2007 578,700 4.5% $380,200

Back in 1989 a three-bedroom tudor in Seattle sold for around $130,000 and Boeing dominated the economy, although the area's growing importance as an international trade zone was providing some needed diversity. Oh, and local coffee retailer Starbucks had a few dozen stores, and a nearby software outfit known as Microsoft was really ramping up.

Now those corporate giants, along with the rise of Internet retailer Amazon.com, have made Seattle a destination for on-the-rise professionals. Despite Boeing's corporate-headquarters move to Chicago in 2005, the company's main manufacturing facility is in Seattle and has been busier than ever with rebounding demand for aircraft. The influx of the well educated and well heeled has turned Seattle into a cultural mecca. The downside of all this upside: Seattle is far more expensive. Housing prices have more than tripled. And it still rains. A lot.

Biggest development since 1989: The Rem Koolhaas-designed library opened in 2004, and the Experience Music Project museum, designed by Frank Gehry, opened in 2000, offering classes and rock-themed exhibits, including a collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.

Nashua, N.H.


Rochester, Minn.

Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill

Gainesville, Fla.

Charlottesville, Va.

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