March 2010 -While New Mexico’s fourth-largest city was originally home to Pueblo Indians more than 1,000 years ago, it was Spanish colonialists who gave Santa Fe its first design sensibilities in the 1580s, laying out the city on a radiating grid around its central Plaza based on strict rules and ordinances set forth by King Philip II. And few other U.S. cities today can match Santa Fe in adhering to building and planning guidelines that regulate everything from the exterior color of homes to architectural styles. The happy result—Santa Fe has achieved iconic status as the arbiter of Southwestern style, a town with a true sense of place. A long list of creative types, from artist Georgia O’Keefe to writers D.H. Lawrence and Cormac McCarthy, have sought inspiration here, basking in the rarified atmosphere—at 7,199 ft., Santa Fe boasts the highest altitude of any state capital—and taking in the surrounding natural beauty of the Santa Fe National Forest. Mix in the mild year-round climate and it is small wonder that Santa Fe perennially ranks as a favored locale for those seeking an outdoorsy, artsy lifestyle.
“When you put us alongside comparable destinations, say Aspen or Scottsdale or Sun Valley, there is really tremendous value in Santa Fe,” says Liz Cale, a fourth-generation Santa Fean and principal broker of Santa Fe Properties/Christie’s Great Estates. “Add in the rich cultural experience—the city is truly the hub of an international arts scene— and Santa Fe is a far more cosmopolitan place than its size might suggest.”
Median age of residents: 39.8 years
Range of luxury residential prices: Single-family homes in desirable Eastside neighborhoods, within easy distance of downtown, start at about $1 million and reach upward of $5 million.
Cost of living index: 101.1 (U.S. average 100)
Who your neighbors are: An eclectic mix of artists and writers, along with a healthy dose of film folks who come here to escape the L.A. spotlight and increasing numbers of foreign buyers, especially from Germany, France and Italy.
An ideal day: A breakfast burrito at Café Pasqual’s, then a downtown gallery stroll and lunch at The Shed. An afternoon hike, followed by pampering at Ten Thousand Waves Spa and dinner at Geronimo on Canyon Road
The dream home: A Contemporary Pueblo just outside of town (to take full advantage of 360-degree views) with spacious indoor-outdoor areas for year-round entertaining.