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Best Value Cities 2011:
10. Cincinnati, Ohio

This comeback city is creating jobs and redeveloping its downtown.

Cincinnati’s diverse economy, with ten Fortune 500 companies, including Kroger, Macy’s and Procter & Gamble, is making a strong comeback from the recession.

VIDEO: Take a virtual walking tour of Cincinnati.

The unemployment rate has already fallen to 8.5% from 9.4% a year ago. Plus, the city is benefiting from a $2.6 billion redevelopment of the downtown that began several years ago with the construction of the Great American Ball Park (home to the Reds) and Paul Brown Stadium (home to the Bengals). “The leadership of the region understands that you can’t have a healthy region without a healthy heart,” says Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber president Ellen van der Horst. “The urban core is the heart.”

Several months ago, the largest office tower in the region opened in downtown Cincinnati and is now mostly occupied. And the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood -- one of the nation’s largest historic districts, which has suffered from race riots and decades of neglect -- is getting a major infusion of public and private funding to lure residents and businesses back to the area.

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Among the beneficiaries of funding for Over-the-Rhine are small-business owners. Dan Korman received a matching grant that helped him open Park + Vine, an eco-friendly home-goods store that recently celebrated its fourth anniversary.

Small businesses also get support from entrepreneurial centers at the University of Cincinnati and nearby Northern Kentucky University, and from CincyTech, which provides managerial assistance and seed funding for start-up tech businesses.

Why It's Affordable

The cost of living is about 7% below the national average. Cincinnati is considered to be one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. And it has several distinct neighborhoods; even in the most desirable ones, you can find a four-bedroom home for about $300,000. The city’s public school system has nationally recognized magnet elementary schools, including Montessori schools, and students can choose from 16 public high schools, regardless of where they live in the city. Plus, Cincinnati has one of the oldest arts schools, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, that’s free for kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the public school system.

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Why It's Fun

Despite its small-town affordability, Cincinnati is rife with big-city amenities. There are a zoo, a children’s museum, two major sports teams and more than 5,000 acres of parks. There’s also free live music six days a week in May through September at Fountain Square, the nation’s largest Oktoberfest and numerous other festivals. “For a city this size, we have an extraordinary amount of offerings,” says Katie Syroney, who has lived here for 15 years and is the Cincinnati Opera’s director of marketing. Wendy Smith, owner of Redtree Gallery, says, “One of the greatest assets of Cincinnati is its appreciation for the arts.” In addition to the opera, the city has a symphony, ballet, art museums, theaters, two-time Tony-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and a 12-day Fringe Festival that draws artists and performers from across the nation. And if you love German food or chili, Cincinnati is the place for you.

SLIDE SHOW: See the Top 10 Best Value Cities