It shouldn't be too surprising that Middleton, Wis., topped Money magazine's 2007 list of the 100 best places to live in the United States: In addition to its abundant natural charms, two decades ago the city, just west of state capital Madison, adopted a new urbanist approach to development. (The Middleton Hills neighborhood, north of downtown, is the only project in Wisconsin designed by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.)

The result is a city that still feels manageable and friendly even as it spreads outward. “The city planning department is excellent to work with,” comments Melissa Destree, president of Madison-based Destree Design Architects. “They promote density and progressive design solutions.”

But, in recent days, the Good Neighbor City has been struggling a bit to stay true to its motto in the face of big developments like T. Wall Properties' proposed $250 million, 28-acre mixed-use Tribeca Village project—scheduled to begin in 2009—that, until recently, was slated to include a Wal-Mart. At press time, public opposition had turned away the big-box retailer.

Still, Van Nutt, executive director of the Middleton Chamber of Commerce, is hopeful for Middleton's legacy and says he'd like to look back someday and be able to say, “ ‘The community used its remaining land resources well, maintaining balance between commercial growth, residential growth, and green space.' ” But, he adds, “It will take ongoing strong leadership and cooperation to make this a reality.”


The current population of 17,000 is growing 1 percent annually; job growth is 1.3 percent per year.

Office Market

Vacancy for Class A offices is under 5 percent; asking rate: $15/s.f.–$17.50/s.f., triple net.

Residential Market

Median home sales price in 2007: $261,000.

Market Strengths

  • Parks and open spaces
  • Excellent school system
  • Reasonable taxes

Market Concerns

  • Threat of suburban sprawl
  • Housing affordability
  • Limited-growth areas


“The current planners appreciate the vision put in place over two decades ago to create a vibrant and centered community,” says Ed Linville, principal of Madison's Linville Architects. “I see more emphasis on smart growth and a newfound interest in green design and protection of natural resources. I see footprints that are more concentrated.”