Money Magazine has released its annual survey of the best places to live in America – and Cherry Hill is on the list.
The township bested some tough competition to rank 47th in the nation based on a range of criteria, from family income to crime rates. This year’s list includes larger towns and cities with a population of at least 50,000 but not more than 300,000.
Coming in at No. 1 was Fort Collins, Colo. Cherry Hill was one of five New Jersey municipalities to make the top 100 list. Texas had the most ranked cities, with 10.
The rankings appear in the August issue, which hits newsstands this week.
The magazine sought “livable locales that combine the best of city and suburban life” – in other words, safety and economic vitality combined with myriad cultural and recreational opportunities. Cherry Hill fit the bill on nearly all counts, according to Money editors.
The township ranks well above the national average in median family income, at $88,401, yet has relatively affordable housing. Its median home price of $257,000 is lower than the magazine’s “best places average” of $259,566.
Cherry Hill shone in the quality-of-life category, with only seven of the ranked cities having a lower overall risk of crime, according to data compiled by the magazine. The township also scored well in the number of nearby leisure and culture options, access to health care, test scores, level of education and cost of living.
Mayor Bernie Platt was busting his buttons last week as word of the honor began to get around.
“We’re very proud of the ranking,” he said. “These things are just tremendous for the township. It’s a boon for what we want to do to raise our profile nationally.
“People will want to come here and open businesses. (They) now realize it’s a destination place.
“I think everyone (in the township) should be very proud, because they all contributed to the success.”
In light of the low crime rate, Platt reserved special praise for the Cherry Hill police.
“We have the best police force in the state of New Jersey,” he gushed.
Money Magazine reporter Donna Rosato said this year’s survey emphasized local character and availability of jobs. Small towns and bedroom communities were passed over in favor of municipalities with a significant job and retail base.
“This year, we defined the best small cities in America. By that I mean not only a great place to live but a great place to work as well,” she said. “This is why we did not have a lot of suburban places. They may be great places to live, they my have great schools, but they did not meet our ‘best small cities’ criteria.
“Cherry Hill made it because it really had many employees within the city itself,” she continued. “That gave it a ‘great place to live and to work’ feel.”
Rosato said that the magazine likes to change its criteria from year to year to avoid repetition and highlight different qualities that define good living.
Last year, nearby Moorestown was named the No. 1 place to live in the nation. With fewer than 20,000 people, it was ineligible for this year’s survey. Naperville, Ill., on the other hand, made the top 10 both years.
Cherry Hill “would have ranked higher if it had more of a city feel,” Rosato pointed out. All of the top 10 towns in this year’s survey boast strong town centers or highly distinct cultural or recreational amenities.
The magazine conducted a nationwide poll asking what people value the most in a community. Answers included job opportunities, good schools, low crime and a good arts and leisure scene.
While Cherry Hill’s proximity to Philadelphia counted as an asset, it earned its rank based in qualities closer to home.
“There are things (in Cherry Hill) that encourage people to stay there on the weekends,” Rosato noted.
In summing up why he thinks his town made the top 50, Platt definitely agreed.
“Cherry Hill is a great place to raise a family, work, shop and play.”