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Lifestyle Guides

Urban Living

Downtown Ferndale

Paper Source in downtown Birmingham

DROUGHT raw juices, made in Plymouth

Metropolitan Detroit offers a wide range of options for urban and suburban living. Whatever kind of lifestyle you're looking for - family-friendly, community-oriented, geared towards young professionals, culturally-diverse - the communities of metro Detroit accommodate. Take a look at this overview at some of the most popular urban neighborhoods and suburban communities and decide which one best suits you! 

As metro Detroit's most progressive community, Ferndale – an inner ring suburban city sandwiched between Detroit and trendy Royal Oak – is known for being a safe, clean, family-friendly, LGBT-friendly city filled with independently-owned businesses like boutiques, bars and restaurants. Ferndale is also very supportive of metro Detroit's arts and culture heritage, with outdoor art sculptures scattered throughout the city, a fantastic fringe theatre, an improv comedy theatre, and popular annual art fairs. The downtown Ferndale core at 9 Mile and Woodward is very walkable, and this is where you'll find some of metro Detroit's best bars and restaurants. In many ways Ferndale offers the best of both worlds: the vibrancy and eccentricity of city life combined with the safety and security of suburbia. There are few apartment units, but many well-tended homes (built in 1920s-'50s) for sale and flats available to rent.
Royal Oak
Royal Oak used to be Ferndale. Now it is almost Birmingham, but perhaps for a younger and slightly-less-moneyed set. The housing stock is more expensive than neighboring Ferndale, as are the taxes, but Royal Oak is also a very safe and walkable community particularly popular with young families and young business professionals. Most of Royal Oak is very suburban, but downtown Royal Oak is still very much a hive of activity and a destination for people from all over metro Detroit with its vast variety of shopping, dining, and drinking options. Though not quite as decidedly indie as Ferndale, Royal Oak has a mass appeal and is one of metro Detroit's most popular communities. Young professionals populate the new glass-faced loft developments that have sprouted up downtown over the last decade, and the city offers a kind of living for every lifestyle.
Birmingham is the shiniest city of all, and also the wealthiest. Housing includes luxury apartments and sprawling mansions, and you definitely get what you pay for: Birmingham's safety and city services are second to none. Their downtown area is filled with a mix of national (though not garish) chains and independently-owned galleries and boutiques, similar to Royal Oak but higher-end. In Birmingham you are in the seat of Oakland County, not too far away from Royal Oak and Ferndale when you want to mix things up with shopping and nightlife, but also not far from Oakland County's more scenic and secluded wooded areas and natural lakes that start just west of Birmingham in even-wealthier Bloomfield Hills and beyond.
Because of its proximity to nothing (Ann Arbor to the far west and Novi to the far northeast), the not-so-sleepy suburban enclave of Plymouth has flown under the radar for years. But some new businesses and major annual events are finally attracting the attention of outsiders who are discovering Plymouth is absolutely adorable and there's a LOT going on there. Downtown Plymouth is filled with charming independently-owned shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, and the beautiful (and huge) historic homes are impeccably maintained. It's like Pleasantville, if Pleasantville weren't also kind of creepy and unnerving. Plymouth is also home to the oldest and largest free ice sculpture festival in the country, and the second-largest art fair in the state. As a suburban community, Plymouth is coming into its own and becoming a popular destination for people all over metro Detroit.
Dearborn is fantastically diverse, more so than even the city of Detroit itself (where the ethnic diversity is still very segregated). Dearborn is home to the largest ethnic Arab population outside of the Middle East, but there is also a strong presence of African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians in the area. The Ford headquarters and University of Michigan-Dearborn campus have brought with them additional diversity and an elevated level of education. While Dearborn isn't exactly a sexy city – the downtowns (there are two of them, east and west) are busy but small and don't exactly have that quaint Main Street America downtown charm – the culturally diverse stores and restaurants located throughout the city and the very present feeling that this place isn't like the others make this ideal for those who wish to immerse themselves in a community that is anything but homogenous.
Lafayette Park
Lafayette Park offers the kind of urban living most desired by young families and young professionals who desire a little bit of peace and quiet. Mies van der Rohe-designed townhomes and highrises are dotted around the sprawling Lafayette Plaisance, a large, well-tended park with lots of shady trees and places for kids to play. There is also an elementary school and a grocery store all located within steps of your front door, and living in Lafayette Park also means you are situated with fast and easy access to Eastern Market (just walk across the park and cross Gratiot), the Detroit Riverwalk, and downtown Detroit – including Greektown, Campus Martius Park, the stadiums, the bars, and many of the theatres. You want walkability in a safe, friendly, picturesque neighborhood? Look no further than Lafayette Park. And design nerds/lovers of mid-century modern architecture will find no place more amenable to their aesthetic sensibilities.
As Detroit's oldest neighborhood, Corktown is filled with historic charm. The residential homes of the Corktown Historic District are a mix of one- and two-story Victorian townhouses with Italiante, Gothic, and Queen Anne features and mid-19th-century Federal-style detached homes and rowhouses. Corktown, originally established in the 1840s by Irish immigrants from the County Cork feeling the Great Irish Potato Famine, has recently been the focus of many enthusiastic young professionals buying historic homes and restoring them. The neighbors are also exceptionally friendly, and at no time is this more evident than the annual Corktown parade, when roving groups of revelers bounce from house to house and homeowners/friends-of-friends-of-friends are more than happy to share their food, beer and whiskey – in the true Irish way. The housing stock here is arguably the best in the city, which is precisely why it's also now the hardest to come by. Contact O'Connor Realty Group for leads on available rental units and houses for sale.
If you want to be at the center of it all, look no further than Detroit's educational, medical, and cultural center. Midtown boasts the highest population density in the city of Detroit, full of students, artists, and working professionals. Midtown is the intellectual hub of Detroit, with both Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies located in the neighborhood, as well as multiple nationally-regarded hospitals and research facilities. Midtown is also home to the city's most extraordinary cultural institutions – including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Max M. Fisher Music Center, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Michigan Science Center, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. From sprawling multi-bedroom historic homes to luxury condos, student housing, and designer lofts, Midtown offers a wide range of housing options for those who want to live in the heart of Detroit.
If it's downtown city life you seek, then downtown is where you must go. A recent flurry of skyscraper developments have significantly increased the number of apartments, condos and lofts available (including the Broderick Tower), with more on the way as the David Whitney Building is renovated over the next year and rumors abound regarding other vacant properties. Living downtown puts you right in the center of it all: the historic skyscrapers and daily hustle of the business district, the liveliness of game day at Comerica Park and Ford Field, almost-nightly performances at the Fox Theatre and the Fillmore, the exceptional urban park Campus Martius and urban garden Lafayette Greens, innumerable bars and restaurants and lounges, the retail development of Woodward Avenue, and so much more. This is big city action at its finest, and nowhere else in Detroit will life feel as flashy and fast-paced. 

For more information and stories about cities in Oakland County, check out Oakland County Prosper
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