Some of the finer privileges of life in Topeka include:
You can build up your bankroll: A popular residential destination for Kansans who aren’t too keen about bucking up for the frequently pricey lodgings in nearby Lawrence or Kansas City, Topeka is a veritable Cloud Nine for budget-conscious renters. The cost of living in the city is 15 percentage points lower than the national average, while 1BR and even 2BR units rarely cost more than 600-700 bucks. You can spend your money on more important things, like securing your new apartment to the ground so that it doesn’t get blown away in a tornado and land atop the Wicked Witch of the East (unless, of course, you dig that sort of thing).
Capital security: Unlike neighboring cities who must constantly be wary of local businesses packing up shop and heading for supposedly sunnier pastures, Topekans may rest assured that their biggest employer – the State of Kansas capital building – is here for good. Factor in a trio of well-established healthcare facilities and four school districts that combine to employ 22 percent of the population, and Topeka stands as one of the Midwest’s more economically stable communities.
Say goodbye to gridlock: Topeka residents spend on average a mere 18 minutes trekking to and from work each day and enjoy one of the state’s more reliable public transportation systems. The Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority may seem meager (at best) to outsiders, but compared to neighboring cities’ bus services, it’s practically the Chicago L. With 15 stops throughout the area and charging as little as $22 for a monthly pass, the Topeka Metro has become an increasingly savvy choice for cost-conscious commuters.
And say hello to a safer Topeka: Crime in Topeka has plummeted drastically in recent years (down 18 percent since 2008), earning the city national recognition and sparking a revitalization of both downtown and Historic North Topeka. For years a ghost town after 5 p.m., the downtown area is now home to some of the city’s most spacious lofts and apartments. Local officials also continue to revitalize the ‘hoods along the Kansas River, which runs directly through Topeka, resulting in a more modern and safety-minded landscape.
Topeka: The Not-So-Good
Because you, dearest leaser, hold such a special place in our hearts (awww… aren’t we sweet!), we have to warn you that not every aspect of life in Topeka glitters like gold. Some caveats to consider before you make the leap to T-Town:
No hoot for the night owls: For those who prefer their fun in the sun, Topeka serves up plenty of parks, lakes, museums, a motor sports complex, and a pretty cool zoo. The nightlife scene, though, is practically nonexistent, and young, single tenants are better off heading to Lawrence (25-30 miles east) to get their kicks once the sun goes down.
Foot soldiers beware: Like much of Kansas, Topeka is far from a pedestrian’s paradise, and many parts of town don’t have sidewalks or bike lanes. If you want to bum around town with any guarantee of not getting run over (we assume that’s important to you, right?), you either have to have your own set of wheels or utilize only those areas of town that the TMTA services.
A Jayhawk Jest: There’s an old joke in Kansas that goes like this: How is Topeka different than yogurt? The answer: Unlike Topeka, yogurt has active culture. To be fair, Topeka is home to a couple colleges (including Washburn University), a symphony orchestra, performing arts center, and a smattering of modern art museums. But, let’s be honest: Many outsiders will be underwhelmed by Topeka’s cultural offerings. If you’re hell-bent on living the life of an urban sophisticate, you might want to consider Lawrence or KC, MO instead.
Some Tidbits for Tenants
If you’re still reading, it means you’ve probably decided Topeka’s charms outweigh its warts (good call!) and you’re ready to find yourself a killer pad. A few pointers to help make your apartment hunting experience silky-smooth:
Be a bargain shopper: The types of renting specials you’ll come across are pretty much unheard-of in other parts of the Midwest, as even 3 BR units in Topeka are available in the $800 range. Studios rarely go for over $400 and quality 1BR and 2 BR units rarely exceed $600-$700. And because the number of rental properties outnumbers the number of renters by far, you’ll come across no shortage of leasing options. Don’t settle on anything until you’re sure it’s the perfect fit for you.
Don’t waste away on waiting lists: Topeka isn’t the kind of city that sees a large turnover of residents, so if (in the very rare case) you have to get on a waiting list before moving into a place, just shrug it off and walk away. A ton of other landlords will practically beg you to move in immediately.
Consider the alternatives: Apartments aren’t your only renting options in Topeka. If you’re concerned about noisy neighbors or would rather have four walls to (sort of) call your own, why not look into leasing a single-family detached home, instead? Plenty are available, and the cost for a multi-BR home is often comparable to that of an apartment.
Arm yourself with credentials… it’s worth it: You’ll need (obvious statement alert!) proper I.D. to rent a place in Topeka, as well as proof of income and (sometimes) proof of rental history. What you’ll get in exchange for this minor inconvenience is, among other things, plenty of room to kick your feet up. Topeka is a spacious, spread out city, and its apartments are no different: Most multi-BR units are at least 1200 square feet, and even studio units typically offer 600-plus square feet of living space.
The Lay of the Land
Generally, the further west/southwest you travel in Topeka, the more family-friendly and semi-affluent the neighborhoods get (these areas are where you’ll find the bulk of the city’s shopping centers, banks, and eateries), while the more urban-minded domiciles are centered closer to downtown. Many parts of town are hit-and-miss in terms of curb appeal and overall ambiance, so be sure to scout out not only your potential nesting place but also your overall neighborhood before relocating to Topeka. If you want to live in the greater metro area just outside city limits, districts like Jefferson West, Seaman, and Auburn-Washburn offer viable rental options as well, although they come at a slightly more elevated price (usually closer to a grand).
Some Completely Irrelevant Information
In the Kansa Native American tongue, Topeka means “a place to grow good potatoes.” So take that, Idaho!
The city unofficially renamed itself “Google, Kansas” for a month in 2010 in an attempt to sway the technology giant to choose Topeka as the site for a massive fiber optics experiment. Sadly, Google picked neighboring Kansas City, Kansas instead. Gee, thanks, Google.
Finally, Topeka is a frequent player in Stephen King novels (but is not as nearly as creepy as the author makes it sound).
Need-to-know information? Of course not! We just thought you’d like to have something to chat about while driving from Topeka to Lawrence one Saturday night to enjoy some nightlife!
In any case, welcome to Topeka and happy hunting!
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