Flagstaff Is Number 1!
I sent a letter, not to you, but to a dear friend/fellow professor who might want to retire to Flagstaff. I wrote,
Dear MM, Oh, how exciting--both the idea of retirement and the idea of you moving here.
Flagstaff is the very best. It has access to nearly everything (except for Trader Joe's) and yet isn't overrun except for once and a while when it's hot in Phoenix. Little traffic. Low crime. Fun people. Everyone is in good shape—it’s hard to find people who don’t run marathons or race bikes or hikes the Grand Canyon once a spring. With access to National Parks. Close to Sedona.
There is no water--I mean, there's enough to drink (I checked directly with the guy at the water treatment plant) but nowhere to go sit by the water (well, except by the water treatment plant).
There is some of that chain stores-are-everywhere thing going on. Applebee’s, Culvers, Walmart, Sportsmans Warehouse but there are a considerable number of local shops. Barefoot Cowgirl Bookstore, Farmer's Market Store, Rainbow's End, Winter Sun, that are great.
There are more and more exciting restaurants: Root, Shift, Commerce, to go with Tinderbox (where you and I ate last time we were in town) and Proper and Brix. Great Mexican food at Martanne’s, Salsa Brava, Tacos Los Altos and Pobolitas.
The healthcare is pretty good. Flagstaff Medical Center is solid. For major stuff, sometimes they'll send you to Phoenix.
I love everything about here except the fact that NAU, or my department at least, has serious budget woes.
For traveling, Flag airport is OK and the drive to Phoenix to fly isn't bad.
It's pretty expensive--property values are high like they are all over the west.
3 bedroom, 2 bath, $350,000.
But groceries aren't more expensive than, say, Salt Lake City. No sales tax on them! And, every weekend, there is awesome stuff going on.
I'll send you to the link about goings on in Flagstaff.
It's kind of hard to grow tomatoes here but not impossible!
Move here! We will have so much fun.
A couple of days later, Flagstaff was listed as number 1 small college town. It highlighted the same things as I did and included some things I’d forgotten about or become so accustomed to that I forgot how awesome they were: the urban trail system and Buffalo Park, the Arboretum, and the Flagstaff Symphony. I added the link saying “we’re number one” to my Facebook page. One of my favorite magazine editors warned me about such lists. She said Charlottesville, Virginia used to top those lists and now, Charlottesville’s local charm is not so local—the chain stores have taken over. It barely counts as a small town anymore. There’s traffic. Crime. Several Walmarts.
Then it became clear that the HUB, an apartment building to house 600 people (but only 300 cars) will be built even against much community push back. People don’t want the lot by Fratelli’s pizza, Revolution Bicycle, Motherroad Brewing or Pizzacletta to be turned into a cookie-cutter, traffic-causing, parking stressing, not-in-keeping-with-historic-looking, small town Flagstaff.
What draws people to Flagstaff is the very things Flagstaff will lose as it draws more people here. As NAU must grow to sustain itself and the cost of tuition, its marketing to potential to students relies on not so much charm but amenities—new housing, recognizable chain restaurants and stores, fancy buildings but they really aren’t Flagstaff.
There’s a risk in pivoting to meet expectations. You turn away from what made your school, your town, your community unique. By the time you turn back to point and show, see how great Flagstaff is, that Flagstaff has been replaced by big box stores and carbon-copy apartment buildings.
Don’t PHX FLG is one of my favorite bumper stickers. It’s not so much Phoenixing Flag that’s the problem so much as cooking-cutting Flagstaff. Once Flagstaff becomes everyplace it will just be a busy place with traffic and no parking and still no water to sit by, except at the overtaxed water treatment plant.