Small city, big reputation

This Dallas neighbor splashes onto list of best small cities in the U.S.

This Dallas neighbor splashes onto list of best small U.S. cities

Southlake Texas
Hooray for Southlake. Visit Southlake Texas/Facebook

Southlake sports an impressive record of athletic success. Over the years, Southlake Carroll High School has collected state titles in football, baseball, soccer, cross country, swimming, and diving.

But this Dallas-Fort Worth neighbor excels in much more than sports. On October 28, personal finance website WalletHub ranked Southlake the 14th best small city in the U.S. Only one other Texas city, Cedar Park, appeared in the top 20; the Austin suburb grabbed the No. 10 spot. Leawood, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, sits at No. 1.

To compile this list, WalletHub sifted through 42 sets of data for more than 1,200 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000. Among the rating factors for livability were housing costs, quality of public schools, and restaurants per capita.

Southlake stood out in two general buckets: economic health (No. 7) and affordability (No. 7). In specific categories, Southlake ranked first for lowest housing costs, second for highest share of the population with at least a high school diploma, and fourth for lowest share of the population experiencing poverty.

Personal finance website SmartAsset points out that Southlake provides “one of the best education systems in the state.”

In the three other general buckets, Southlake didn’t fare as well in the WalletHub ranking:

  • Safety, No. 229
  • Education and health, No. 475
  • Quality of life, No. 554

It's hard to imagine why "quality of life" would rate so low, with family-friendly events like Oktoberfest to Art in the Square that attract thousands; a bustling shopping scene at Southlake Town Square and other shiny complexes that stay busy; a vibrant restaurant lineup that welcomes new spots all the time; and the only location of a Central Market gourmet grocery in Northeast Tarrant County.

Whatever its drawbacks may be, Niche.com, a provider of quality-of-life data, describes Southlake as offering a “rural feel” in one of the best places to live in Texas. This desirable setting has drawn thousands of new residents in recent years. As of July 2018, Southlake’s estimated population stood at 32,269, up 21.4 percent from April 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To the south, Cedar Park has seen an even larger population boom. In July 2018, the Census Bureau counted 76,999 residents in the Williamson County suburb, up 39.7 percent from April 2010. It’s now the third largest city in the Austin metro area.

Cedar Park’s economic health (ranked No. 3 by WalletHub) and affordability (ranked No. 49) are its two biggest calling cards. However, it falls short in safety (No. 284), education and health (No. 369), and quality of life (No. 393).

2019 survey of 440 Cedar Park households found that compared with hundreds of cities nationwide, the suburb ranked 68th for overall quality of life and 36th for being a good place to raise children. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed rated Cedar Park’s quality of life as good or excellent, while 96 percent lauded the city as a good place to raise children.

RealPage, a provider of real estate software and data analytics, notes that Cedar Park “boasts plentiful park systems, prime shopping destinations, and top-ranked public schools.”