Like many American cities, Flagstaff has seen its share of ups and downs. Thriving in the 1950s, economically downturned in the 1970s, revitalized in the 1990s—the timeline is familiar. However, Flagstaff’s unique and scenic location make it an interesting city full of contradictions.
Flagstaff has frequently described in recent years as a city of “poverty with a view.” The very things that make Flagstaff great—its natural beauty, its proximity to national parks, and its laid back vibe—have caused a population increase that drove up real estate prices while drastically reducing salaries. The result is a large income gap, a dramatic increase in petty theft, and a city with a disappearing middle class. It might be wise to come to Flagstaff with a job lined up. Many large employers exist within city limits, but jobs are competitive due to the high rates of unemployment.
If you have employment and the economic means, however, Flagstaff can be a great town. Located at about 7,200 feet above sea level amongst some of the highest mountains in Arizona, the city is close to various outdoor attractions, including ski resorts and the Grand Canyon National Park. The city is also home to Northern Arizona University and the Lowell Observatory, which means that the city has a thriving cultural and intellectual scene.
As far as population goes, the city is fairly mixed. Though Flagstaff has a distinctly “hippie” reputation, there are a lot of wealthy families and rural poverty that make up the some of the city’s more conservative residents. Still, the city was one of the first “International Dark-Sky” cities, due to regulation of light pollution. Flagstaff also has a notably large Native American population, with many residents coming from nearby Navajo and Hopi reservations.
You can’t talk about Flagstaff without talking about the weather. The city is home to some of the highest snowfalls during the winter, as well as some of the highest number of sunny days in the country. Summers tend to be pleasantly mild.
Downtown and University Heights
Most of central Flagstaff’s desirable real estate is located in and around the main attractions of the urban center. The historic downtown area is home to many of the city’s businesses and has some rentals available in some older homes or above storefronts.
University Heights is east of downtown and located close to Northern Arizona’s campus, but just far enough to discourage booze-soaked students from rambling around the area during the snowy winters. Here there are many older rental homes and newer apartments available for families and singles. Rents in the downtown and University Heights area generally range from $1000-1250 for a two bedroom.
The east side remains maligned to many Flagstaff residents, who frequently describe the area as “working class,” when they’re being generous. In truth, certain parts of the east side, particularly around Sunnyside are more run down and prone to petty crime than other parts of the city. However, neighborhoods in the farther eastern regions, such as Greenlawn and the area surrounding Coconino Community College, remain nice, quiet, and above all safe, family-friendly areas. There are plenty of apartments in this area, so rents here tend to be the cheapest, with two bedrooms generally ranging from $800-1000.
Outside of the urban areas of Flagstaff, you will see a greater concentration of suburban wealth and newer development. Particularly, the area around the Continental Country Club remains one of the premier destinations for upper class renters looking for ritzy townhouses in a scenic locale. This area also benefits from being in close proximity to the Flagstaff Mall. The CCC area is one of the most expensive in the city, with two bedrooms going for $1200-1400.
North of the city, along Highway 180, there are also several nice, suburban developments that frequently have rentals available for prices similar to the downtown and University Heights areas. These areas are more isolated than the Continental Country Club neighborhood, so residents have to drive further for shopping and other amenities, which may be a pain during the snowy season.
Because desirable apartments can be hard to come by—particularly if you’re looking in specific neighborhoods—enlisting a real estate agent may be helpful with your search. Apartments in urban areas, like the downtown and University Heights can frequently be found on online apartment sites. Be prepared to pay $30 for a background and credit check, as well as one-month deposit to secure most Flagstaff rentals.
Perhaps due to its reputation as a hippie town, Flagstaff is incredibly friendly to walkers and bikers, with plenty of off-road bike paths and scenic walking trails. Enjoy those mild summer months by taking advantage of these!
Traffic in and around Flagstaff isn’t generally too much of a problem, until the winter season hits and dumps tons of snowfall on the city. Though Flagstaff is equipped to handle this annual blight, traffic slows during rush hour on snowy morning and evening commutes.
The Mountain Line bus system also provides local and express bus service throughout many of Flagstaff’s urban neighborhoods, as well as to the university and several of the city’s attractions.
So, welcome to Flagstaff! Settle in and find out with this varied city has to offer you!