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Top 10 cities for downtown living in 2023

Multifamily Housing

Top 10 cities for downtown living in 2023

From downtown Chicago to the Phoenix metro, these 10 U.S. cities provide the best bang for your buck.

By Quinn Purcell, Managing Editor | January 24, 2023
City skyline of Houston, Texas, at sunset
Houston, Texas, is one of the several Southern cities to make the top 10 list. Photo courtesy Trace Hudson, Pexels

A StorageCafe study found the top 10 cities in the U.S. for downtown living as of 2023. The places that offer the “best bang for the buck” include several cities in the South, downtown Chicago, Ill., and Boston, Mass.

Based on a combination of metrics including cost of living, apartment options, entertainment, safety, and other desirable urban features, here are StorageCafe’s top 10 cities for a great downtown living experience.


10. Phoenix, Ariz.

Downtown Phoenix, Arizona
Downtown Phoenix, Ariz. Photo courtesy SeanPavonePhoto, Adobe Stock

According to the report, multifamily living remains the dominant housing option in downtown Phoenix, Ariz. Its downtown scene offers residents access to live music, art galleries, theaters, and around 200 restaurants. Overall, Phoenix ranks best in:

  • Apartments with access to fitness centers
  • Apartment availability related to population
  • Access to theaters

The Phoenix metro has had a population growth of 14% from 2012 to 2021, according to a RentCafe analysis. The city has built 62,000 new apartments within that time frame, as well as 10 million sf of self storage space.


9. San Diego, Calif.

San Diego, California, downtown
Downtown San Diego, Calif. Photo courtesy Brett Sayles, Pexels

Those living in downtown San Diego, Calif., are given multiple shopping and entertainment venues, fresh groceries stores, and the ability to live in one of the green-certified buildings comprising 13% of downtown apartments. Overall, San Diego ranks best in:

  • Public EV chargers
  • Neighborhood safety
  • Green apartment buildings

According to the StorageCafe study, close to 80% of San Diego’s downtown apartment buildings offer access to fitness centers. The downtown area also boasts 180 electric vehicle (EV) chargers, as well as 12.6 restaurants and 7.3 stores per 1,000 residents.


8. Columbus, Ohio

Downtown Columbus, Ohio
Downtown Columbus, Ohio. Photo courtesy f11photo, Adobe Stock

The city of Columbus, Ohio, attracts young professionals with its strong economy and city buzz. In its downtown scene, Columbus’ apartments offer 790 sf of space per person—around 250 more sf than the national average. Overall, Columbus ranks best in:

  • Apartment availability related to population
  • Access to restaurants
  • Access to theaters

Columbus’ Olde Towne and downtown districts are peppered with coffee shops, specialty shops, and multiple options for all tastes and budgets.

RELATED: Columbus, Ohio, to be new home for 100,000-sf esports arena


7. Houston, Texas

Downtown Houston, Texas
Downtown Houston, Texas. Photo courtesy Nate Hovee, Pexels

Based on the report, over half of the top 10 cities are located in the South, with Texas taking three spots in the ranking. Overall, Houston ranks best in:

  • Rent-to-income ratio
  • Apartment space per person
  • Apartments with access to fitness centers

Houston’s rent-to-income ratio is one of the lowest at 22%, a few points below the national threshold of 30 percent. The city’s downtown apartments are some of the most affordable in that case—and are some of the largest, too, with 890 sf of space per person.


6. Nashville, Tenn.

Downtown Nashville, Tennessee
Downtown Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy James Anthony, Pexels

More than half (65%) of Nashville’s downtown apartment units are located in high-end buildings. Overall, Nashville ranks best in:

  • Apartment availability related to population
  • Access to restaurants
  • Access to theaters

Though Nashville remains anchored in its reputation as “country music central,” there is more here than meets the eye. The city’s downtown scene comes first for its restaurant (22.4 per 1,000 people) and theater (19.4 per 1,000 people) options, according to the StorageCafe report.


5. Seattle, Wash.

Downtown Seattle, Washington space needle
Downtown Seattle, Wash. Photo courtesy Josh Fields, Pexels

Seattle, Wash., has a downtown that merges nature and city. “People can easily bike, go hiking or sip lattes without leaving their downtown zip code(s),” writes Mirela Mohan, Writer, StorageCafe. Seattle, Wash., ranks best in:

  • Rent-to-income ratio
  • Green apartment buildings
  • Neighborhood safety

Seattle’s downtown area includes over 20% of green-certified properties, fitness centers in nearly 80% of apartment buildings, and residents that earn one of the highest median household incomes ($118k/year) of the list.


4. Boston, Mass.

Downtown Boston, Massachusetts
Downtown Boston, Mass. Photo courtesy Abdullah Almutairi, Pexels

Boston, Mass., is home to luxury apartments that make up 93% of its downtown units. Additionally, 25% of its downtown apartments are green-certified. Boston ranks best in:

  • Apartments located in luxury buildings
  • Green apartment buildings
  • Access to restaurants

The city is also among the most educated on the list. Nearly 80% of adults living in downtown Boston hold a Bachelor's degree or higher. The area also comes with 18.4 restaurants and 2.9 theaters per 1,000 people.


3. Chicago, Ill.

Downtown Chicago, Illinois
Downtown Chicago, Ill. Photo courtesy Grzegorz Zdanowski, Pexels

Two-thirds of Chicago’s downtown apartments are high-end, though renters justify the city’s cost of living for its wide selection of amenities. Chicago, Ill., ranks best in:

  • Educated population
  • Green apartment buildings
  • Rent-to-income ratio

Downtown Chicago has 11 restaurants per 1,000 people, apartment complexes that nearly all (90%) come with fitness centers, and over 140 EV charging stations.


2. Austin, Texas

People crossing city street in Austin, Texas
Downtown Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy Jeswin Thomas, Pexels

Austin is the second of three Texas cities to make the list. Nearly half (47%) of its large-scale downtown apartment complexes are LEED-certified, and it hosts some of the biggest apartments per person (939 sf/person) in the country. Austin, Texas, ranks best in:

  • Green apartment buildings
  • Apartment personal space
  • Educated population

Besides its 14.6 restaurants and 2.8 theaters per 1,000 people, downtown Austin is the number one city in the country for green-certified apartment buildings. Additionally, StorageCafe finds Austin to be one of the safest places among the list.


1. Dallas, Texas

Downtown Dallas, Texas
Downtown Dallas, Texas. Photo courtesy Pixabay

Dallas, Texas, comes first in downtown living in multiple areas. Most (95%) include fitness centers, premier apartments comprise 81% of units, and the sf of apartments averages nearly 1,000 sf/person. Dallas, Texas, ranks best in:

  • Apartments with access to fitness centers
  • Apartments located in luxury buildings
  • Apartment personal space

Dallas is also the leading U.S. city in multifamily and self storage development over the last decade. Dallas’ activity in developing storage units is followed by New York, N.Y.; Houston, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; and Phoenix, Ariz.; according to a RentCafe analysis of Yardi Matrix data.

RELATED: Self storage development booms in high multifamily construction areas

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