When The Dallas Morning News announced three months ago that it would be rolling out the most definitive ranking of the area's neighborhoods in history, I put my money on Frisco. Not real money, mind you; if I had that, I could afford to commute from Frisco. But I was pretty sure, a certainty that was only strengthened as, week after week, the Collin County exurb hovered at the top of the paper's ratings of schools and safety and the like.
Turns out, I was wrong.
Frisco -- the part east of Preston Road, of course -- ranks a paltry third on the News' list, which was finally unveiled on Sunday. No. 1 was Southlake.
In retrospect, that revelation shouldn't have been terribly surprising. Frisco, after a decade or two of explosive growth, has begun to wear around the edges, just a little. It's hardly enough to notice, certainly not enough to dull the shine, but it's plenty to displace it as the exurban utopia du jour.
And that's more or less what the Morning News list is after: those places new enough and far enough out to have so far avoided the stink of the city. Take a look:
1. Southlake 2. Eastern Colleyville 3. Frisco (east of Preston) 4. University Park 5. Prestonwood 6. Frisco (north of Eldorado) 7. Nesbitt Park area (McKinney) 8. Denton/Lake Ray Roberts 9. Sunnyvale 10. Flower Mound (Grapevine Lake to Flower Mound Road)
It's a thoroughly remarkable list. Only one of the best neighborhoods, Prestonwood, is actually inside Dallas, and it's pretty much in Addison. Sunnyvale is the only place south of Interstate 30, and that's only because the freeway doglegs north in Mesquite. And the paper demonstrates its strong commitment to urbanism by including one representative from inside the loop: University Park.
These neighborhoods just so happen to share a common thread: economic and racial homogeneity.
Southlake, for example, is 88.9 percent white according to U.S. Census figures. Colleyville is 88.3. Both have median household incomes above $150,000 and poverty rates below 3 percent. Sunnyvale is the least white (68.4 percent, 20.4 percent Asian) but boasts a 0.8 percent poverty rate. A better title for the piece would probably be "Best neighborhoods for rich, white suburbanites."
This isn't to say that the Morning News set out to find the whitest, richest neighborhoods it could. But it does provide a fascinating glimpse at the priorities of the people who run the paper, or at least those who developed the algorithm. They put an enormous amount of emphasis on safety and education, which are important but overwhelmingly favor the suburbs while giving urban attributes -- diversity, walkability, nightlife, the arts -- short shrift.
We're sure Southlake is a wonderful place. Its tidy, master-planned town square and leaping horses are great if that's the lifestyle you're after. We're just saying that, when University Park has the highest poverty rate aside from Denton on your best-of list, it's probably time to rejigger that algorithm.