A lot of the most interesting things in life are unlikely pairs: peanut butter and jelly, apples and cheese, pretzels dipped in chocolate…well, most of the ones I can think of are food, but one that isn’t food is Springfield, Missouri. The city of Springfield has many nicknames, a popular one being “The Northern Most Southern City in the US”, another, “Cultural Center of the Ozarks”. It sports all the comforts and amenities of city life smack in the middle of rural interior America. Springfield came of age in the railroad era, when the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad (now part of BNSF) built its headquarters there and sparked a population boom. Nowadays, Springfield is a regional center for commerce, shopping and tourism. These things make it very rental-friendly, which is good for you, dear renter. Let’s have a look…
Luckily, for all the culture within, Springfield is often touted as having a low cost of living. In a city where almost half the population rents, housing can run pretty cheap on the whole, and you get a decent amount for what you pay.
The average price range is about $350 - $1200 in the city, but for any ol’ average place you’re probably looking at about $500 - 600 a month, give or take. Rental homes are abundant, as well as apartment buildings of the larger variety. Two or three-flat buildings, mobile homes and duplexes are also an easy find, so rest assured that you have a lot of options to choose from. As a general rule, dwellings closer to the center of the city will be smaller, newer (or newly restored and renovated) and possibly more expensive, whereas further out will feel a lot more rural. Historic and vintage digs can be found, but most places are newer construction (1970s and onward) so they will be well equipped with appliances and amenities for your modern life.
One Stop Shopping
A unique feature to Springfield living is the utility system. All utilities (including electricity, natural gas, water, cable/phone/internet, and even public transit) are provided by one company: City Utilities of Springfield. Despite the arguable convenience, it’s not terribly difficult to bypass it altogether and find a place with all or many utilities included in the rent…except for public transit.
Now that we’ve established the “who” and the “what,” let’s get to the “where” and the “how.” By far, the most popular ways to find rentals in Springfield are through the Springfield News-Leader (the local newspaper) and online apartment hunting resources, like this website. Interestingly enough, there are also a few unlikely places you’ll find rental listings. Springfield has both official and unofficial city neighborhoods, many of which have their own neighborhood association website. Quite a few of these sites either have listings or contact information for realtors that specialize in that particular area. Of course, the hitch here is that you have to work with a realtor (which may be more trouble than it’s worth for a rental), and it’s essential to know what part of the city you’re interested in. We can’t really fix that first part, so let’s focus on the second one by getting you familiar with Springfield’s neighborhoods.
A Dip Into the Spring(field)
There are about 30 official city neighborhoods, so we’re going to focus in particular on a few rental-friendly areas to get you started…
Downtown: We’ll begin with the obvious. The lively and historic downtown Springfield is currently making a comeback. Old buildings have been restored and turned into retail, trendy boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and, abundantly, into cheap new loft apartments and housing (key word here is cheap!). Historic theatres, venues and businesses in the area are getting a facelift and a second chance, being supported by local events and festivals that bring in the crowds. Living downtown is a great option for those who like to be smack in the middle of everything.
West Central: Just west of Downtown’s hustle and bustle, West Central is a mix of owners and renters filled with beautiful historic (and cheap!) houses. Rentals are denser on the eastern border with Downtown. Many neighborhood parks make for great biking and recreation, and access to downtown and nearby expressways makes for a short commute.
Grant Beach: Still considered an urban neighborhood due to its proximity to downtown, Grant Beach is an area of older rental houses, duplexes, and 2-flat buildings. Rents are higher than downtown, but by all means still affordable…we’re talking in the 400s, on average. (grantbeachneighborhood.org)
Ravenwood: Hey, not everybody wants to get caught up in the rush of the city; some of us desire a little rural flavor, or a more suburban existence. For the renter who knows what I’m talking about (You know who you are), you might want to check out Ravenwood. Rents are a little higher here, but much of the housing is newer. For that rural flavor we were just talking about, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center is just Southwest of this cozy community.
Phelps Grove: Tree lined streets are a common sight here, filled with bungalows and dotted with parks. It’s a little more expensive than other areas of the city, but finding a cheap place isn’t a stretch (phelpsneighborhood.org)
The Savvy Citizen
Here are a couple more scrumptious informational tidbits to keep in mind when considering making Springfield your home base.
One thing you’re likely to hear a lot about Springfield living is the weather. It’s been dubbed “the city with the most varied weather in the United States” by Forbes magazine’s 2007 list of America’s Wildest Weather Cities. While this can easily mean it has four distinct seasons (hey, that’s varied, right?) its location on the Springfield Plateau of the Ozarks makes for many windy days.
The City Utilities of Springfield runs a small public bus system with about 14 daily routes and 4 night/evening routes to popular destinations. They don’t run 24/7, but are offered year-round every weekday, most on Saturdays, and some on Sundays. In closer-knit and urban sections of the city, such as downtown, walking or biking is common, but Springfield is definitely not a city for ditching your car. The overwhelming majority of citizens drive or carpool on a daily basis.
While it may not be the groundbreaking American metropolis that most of us come to imagine when we hear the words “big city”, Springfield is still a very prominent fixture in Southwestern Missouri. It serves as a central hub for hundreds of thousands of friendly folk, bringing shopping, culture, and urban life to the traditional American heartland. An interesting combination of flavors, indeed. Now get out there and find some sweet Springfield digs, the Queen City of the Ozarks is a’waitin’!