This verdant city 40 miles west of Detroit is one of the most pleasant and prosperous in Michigan. The University of Michigan dominates local life, with the school's 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students accounting for about one third of Ann Arbor's population. The city's night life and cultural attractions draw people from metropolitan Detroit.
In a state suffering from the decline of the auto industry and the loss of manufacturing jobs, Ann Arbor remains an economic and cultural oasis. The city has grown up around the university, which moved to Ann Arbor from Detroit in 1837, shortly after Ann Arbor was founded. A focus on research, technology, arts, and tourism has spared the local economy many of the hardships felt elsewhere in Michigan.
If you live here, it helps to be a Wolverines fan. The roar from Michigan Stadium—which seats more than 100,000 and is known as the Carnegie Hall of sports—resounds through town on football Saturdays in the fall. The games always sell out, drawing fans from around the country. If sports aren't your thing, there are still plenty of other activities, many associated with the university: several museums and galleries, an arboretum, an annual arts fair, an orchestra, and local opera and ballet companies.
The university employs about 16,000 people from all over the Detroit area, plus another 12,000 at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Private-sector employers add to a vibrant white-collar economy largely based on research and technology. Automakers like General Motors and Toyota account for some research jobs; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and companies like General Dynamics and Google provide others. Longtime local companies include Domino's Pizza and Borders.
Ann Arbor has cold, snowy winters, and moisture from nearby Lake Huron and Lake Erie contributes to a high proportion of cloudy days. But summers tend to be warm and comfortable, with highs in the low 70s and nighttime temps in the 50s or 60s. And Ann Arbor—known as "Tree Town"—is one of the greenest, most densely forested residential areas in America.
If you can tolerate cold winters and can afford the slightly above average cost of living, Ann Arbor is a dynamic retirement spot with year-round enticements. Detroit's metropolitan airport is about 40 miles away, with nonstop or one-stop jet service to most big cities, so grandkids can visit—or you can easily flee to the south in the winter.
Ann Arbor Schools
In addition to the University of Michigan, there are several smaller colleges nearby, including Cleary, Concordia, and Eastern Michigan. Big Ten rival Michigan State is about 65 miles away, in East Lansing.
Ann Arbor Health Care
The University of Michigan Medical Center is one of the top hospitals in the country. There's also a VA hospital in Ann Arbor, and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital is just a few miles away (with some facilities in Ann Arbor itself).
Ann Arbor Jobs
After the University of Michigan, the biggest employers are auto supplier Visteon, General Motors, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Eastern Michigan University, and Borders. Drug aker Pfizer has employed several thousand in the area but is closing its operation.
Ann Arbor Real Estate
The median home price in 2008 was about $206,000, higher than in many surrounding areas. But consider that a sign of a relatively healthy economy: Prices in 2008 fell by a modest 6 percent, a small decline compared with other areas. Much cheaper homes are available in surrounding communities, where builders binged during the housing boom.
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