Bloomington, Indiana


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What's it like to live in Bloomington?

Possible relocation to Bloomington, thoughts?

We have a pretty active Bloomington subreddit. The housing market is more California-esque, but I imagine you'll have a lower income outside of California (It's ~250-300 for a fairly small home in town that isn't renovated) because everything could theoretically become an income property in this town. It's quite liberal for Indiana; Democrats seem to run unopposed in the government. That being said, the rural areas and rural population are quite conservative so there is a dichotomy. A fair amount of libertarians as well. I like the weather here, particularly compared to northern Indiana. I have no children but do plan to raise a family here and from what I understand the schools are good.

Crime is ridiculously low, particularly compared to other places I've lived and I feel quite safe walking everywhere alone besides perhaps S College Ave in parts. There is a substantial homeless population and thus petty crimes of breaking into unlocked cars, stealing bicycles. The homeless population asks for money a lot, particularly on the main university street, but generally are pretty friendly/safe.

Mental health and addictions access is weak here. Healthcare is decent in a sense, but provider turnover is high. It takes a long time to get employed by IU if that's what you're going for in your profession.

Possible relocation to Bloomington, thoughts?

I grew up in a small town in rustbelt Indiana, attended IU in the 80s-90s, went away (in the Great Lakes) to make my fortune, and returned a few years ago to retire early in this wonderful town. Most of what gingered said is true IME. This is a blue town in a vast sea of red, politically. I'm a center-leftist who loves the fact that this town tends toward leftism / progressivism , but is surrounded by a large number of right-leaning libertarians. We have always tolerated each other quite well given the circumstances.

The whole "campus / townie" (see: Breaking Away, it's still relevant) dichotomy is still a thing these days, but it's more a "town / county" thing now. The city is about to annex a ton of real estate on the periphery that have benefited from city services without paying for them, so of course this is a huge political issue. If you're buying near the edge of town be aware that you might be annexed. It means about an additional 1-2% in taxes.

This is an expensive place to live considering you're an hour south of Indy in Indiana - mostly because of university-influenced real estate and our restaurant scene. Houses here are about 35% more expensive than they should be, AOTBE for Indiana. Housing values are directly related to the proximity to IU campus, so if you're not part of IU and/or don't need to be on campus every day you can save a LOT moving just another mile or two beyond.

This is a stupidly safe place to live overall. (I've lived in Evansville downtown, Chicago burbs, Indy, Columbus Ohio, as well). The "safest" places to live are also the most expensive: Vinegar Hill (directly south of campus) and SE (Sycamore Knolls, Covenanter, Sherwood Oaks, etc). That said, the whole town is profoundly safe except for campus crimes such as drunken assault after 12am downtown, vandalism after 12am downtown, and petty theft (of crap left unguarded outside near downtown after---- 12am). Most of the other minor crimes are related to either proximity to downtown or proximity to campus. The "sketchy" areas are mostly about income issues. In spite of the numbers you will get from web sites telling you this a dangerous town, the actual experienced numbers are not anywhere near that. It's very localized and very student / drunk oriented.

Our bus service works very well for a town this small. Look into the bus routes of Bloomington Transit to see how they serve your address. I can catch a bus 300ft from my house on the hour and be downtown in 10 minutes. It makes pub crawls ridiculously easy. Same on the return.

Downtown Bloomington is LA. The campus area is San Jose. The county overall is Sacramento. And the rest of the region is Bakersfield….. or Alabama.

Positives and Negatives about Bloomington

I've been wanting to ask this for a while. So I've been living in Bloomington for nearly five years as a doctoral student. While I was indifferent about the city at first, its novelty started to wear off three years ago. I'm in my late 20s and when I tell people how I feel, I received anger, insults, and resentment despite holding a nuisance view about the city. So I'll list what I like/admire and dislike about the city and am interested in what others think.

What I like/admire about Bloomington:

It is a small, hip college town. I'll admit, it is a pretty cool town to go to college since it caters to the students and social life revolves around the university.

It is unique compared to other cities in the region and state. I've been through other small towns in Indiana by bus and Bloomington certainly stands out remarkably.

It has sufficient public transportation. The bus system work effectively and there a multiple ways to travel outside of the city at low cost to the airport, downtown Indy, IUPUI, and Chicago.

Has a lot of culture. It's not very diverse, but the food options are pretty great, especially the ethnic restaurants downtown.

Low crime. It's a pretty safe community. Never once have I felt endangered.

University does time to time bring in prominent people. I've seen some pretty famous people give talks here as well as perform. It's not much, but what towns in Southern Indiana gets the same thing?

What I dislike about Bloomington:

This is really just personal preferences: Too remote, too small, and too sprawl. I've lived in metropolitan area my entire life and at times I feel that I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere since there really isn't much outside of the city. I don't have a car, so I cannot get to the lakes, but still at the end of the day I'm a city person. If it was equivalent of what Davis, CA and Chapel Hill, NC is to other cities, it wouldn't bother me. But many Midwestern college towns are remote.

There are things to do, but not much. Nightlife is limited to college students. When I walk into places frequently by local residents, I get odd looks. Outside of downtown there really isn't much. The east side of town shuts down at 10pm.

No anonymity. Having graded students papers, I often avoid nightlife where undergraduates hang out to avoid any awkward moment. It's also odd seeing your professors causally around town.

Difficult to network because of it remoteness (but students do get jobs around the country)

Town dies when students leave. Bruh…town is dead. Some people like it, but it feels too empty for me. Businesses close early and the streets clear out after 6pm.

Population is inherently transient.

Poverty. It is quite shocking how much poverty exist among local residents. The average students won't see much but on my commute to campus I see transient people who stay in motels frequently. Trailer parks are spread out throughout the city. Although being poor here is probably better than other small towns in Indiana, some campus events cost so much it is out of reach for the poorest residents.

Cost of Living (someone else pointed this out). When I first moved here it was a very affordable place to live, but with the rise of apartment buildings it is getting more expensive. And it's not like people who get pushed out have somewhere to go.

In conclusion: There's a strong difference in going to school here and living here. In all honesty, if I met someone was interested in going to school here I would highly recommend it. Outside of IU, Bloomington is a small town. I was quite surprised to learn that there are professors who commute from Indianapolis and some who even live in Chicago and have second homes here.

Moving from Boston to Bloomington - was told "don't live anywhere but Bloomington." Why not?

The lower west side is increasingly popular with students / young working professionals--there's a lot of more upscale subdivisions going up over there that still rely on college kids so prices are pushed down. There are lots of newer places over by the hospital worth looking into. Anything along 2nd street should still be on the city bus route so you can live further out west and still have a clean commute into downtown.

The Near West Side Neighborhood is directly to the west of downtown / Rogers St between 3rd St and like 6th St-ish. It's a really nice intimate part of town that not a lot of people consider when they're renting, but I lived in a really nice older house there with good management at a great rental rate, and would recommend it. Plus it's basically in downtown, Bloomingfoods is right around the corner, the courthouse square is right up the street—it's just not considered downtown so prices are a lot lower.

If you can stand living among all the students, getting a cheaper apartment near campus like Maxwell Place is a decent option. Over by College Mall there are a lot of older (built early 2000s) complexes that are reasonable places to live, but research the landlords and stay away from Elon Management, they're notoriously shitty. Also Campus Cribs or anything with "Campus" in the title, generally.)

The reason you were warned away from the rural outlying areas apart from Bloomington is that Btown is a serious liberal hotbed in an otherwise extremely conservative rural demographic. 15 minutes north of Bloomington is Martinsville, which has a well-documented history of being an extremely racist sundown town. It's still one of the most racist small towns in the entire country, and it's not alone--here's an IDS article describing extreme racism at basketball games in Martinsville (15 mins north) and Bedford (30 mins south) of Bloomington–the two largest towns nearby. When I went to IU I had friends who refused to even drive through Martinsville. (Plus I notice that references to Martinsville being a sundown town are getting deleted off its Wikipedia page as being "inappropriate". Stay classy, assholes.)

Elletsville is a nice small town, with its own credit union and weirdly its own internet provider, but you'll be that much further away from everything Bloomington has to offer, and unnecessarily so.

Disclosure: I lived in Bloomington for 12 years including my time as a student there. I last lived there in 2012, so some of this info may be out of date, but as a town, it barely changed at all during the decade I was there so YMMV.

The Bloomington Experience