Circle the wagons!
Welcome to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the historic starting point for many of America’s westward expansion caravans, including the Mormon and Oregon Trails. So, apparently, your new city is a great place to leave! Also known for its famed Red Light district, Council Bluffs has called many a such in its colorful and varied pedigree.
In a Huff About the Bluff
Council Bluffs is located just across the Missouri River from the much larger urban center of Omaha, Nebraska. If you want to meet a group of people who hate your new city, head into downtown Omaha and ask anyone on the street what they think of Council Bluffs.
New industry—including a boom in technology caused by the construction of a Google server center—means that Council Bluffs is coming into its own - just Yahoo it. Though much of the better shopping centers and cultural activities are located in Omaha, many parts of Council Bluffs have great family-friendly neighborhoods without the hassle of living in a large metropolitan area.
Much of the revenue generated by Council Bluffs’ casinos has been invested in downtown renewal projects. New offices, shops, and dining establishments have recently been opened. However, housing in downtown CB remains less than desirable, as there’s still not many rentals beyond low-income housing projects with bad drug and safety reputations.
There are a variety of great neighborhoods located just east of downtown Council Bluffs, and many of the city’s diverse and desirable housing is located in this region. The eastern historic district has several older homes and rentals located close to several reconstructed and preserved sites of historical import. Further south into the scenic Loess Hills, you’ll find more suburban-feeling developments, with safety and comfort amenities, such as gated security and recreation and fitness centers. Two bedrooms on the east side generally range from $800-1000.
The west side of Council Bluffs is more varied in reputation. Located along the riverfront, west CB has the dubious distinction of being a short commute from downtown Omaha, with easy access to Interstate 480. Because of this proximity to Omaha, however, many Bluffers consider the area to be big city spill over with lower income and higher crime rates. Many of the area’s larger contested casinos are also on the west side along the riverfront—which can be good or bad. There’s a lot of security around the casinos, but also a reputation of unsavory behavior (gotta love casinos)! Additionally there is a high concentration of run-down, housing voucher rental complexes in this area. When settling on the west side, choose your neighborhood carefully. Two bedrooms in this area generally go for $700-900.
North and South
The north and south sides of Council Bluffs tend to be less polarizing than other regions. Northern and southern neighborhoods are both pretty hit or miss, in the middle ground between the rundown west side and the posh suburban face of Loess Hills. Generally, the south side is considered to be a solidly working class family neighborhood, with long-term residents living in small, single-family homes. Rentals here can be a bit older than on the east side, however many of them are frequently quite safe and well maintained. As with many cities, the farther from the urban center you go, the less dense (ostensibly safer) the neighborhoods become. Two bedrooms on the north and south sides range from $750-1000.
Despite Council Bluffs’ size, it’s a pretty expensive city, especially when it comes to rentals. Some of the nicer rental properties will require extensive credit and background checks and deposits, orchestrated through management companies. Be prepared to pay $30-50 for fees, and up to two months rent as a deposit.
You can find many desirable rentals in Council Bluffs without the aid of a real estate agent, particularly in the eastern portion of town. However, if you’re looking in the less solidly nice neighborhoods, a professional realtor may be able to help you get a better idea of where and where not to settle down.
Because of the wide variety of jobs available in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, commuting can be kind of a crapshoot. Many CBers do commute into Omaha, so you can experience slight delays on Interstate 480 during rush hour. However, new road construction projects have made the commute more convenient for most residents.
Omaha Metro public transportation provides two bus routes from downtown Omaha into downtown Council Bluffs. Additionally, the Yellow and Blue Lines can get you to eastern and southern portions of town, including Iowa Western Community College and the Mall of the Bluffs.