At 7:35 am on a recent Friday morning, Jon Altschuler emailed Bill Lindley, Highland Park’s town administrator. The resident of 14 years wanted to chat about better food service at the town pool. Nothing fancy, just burgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs, maybe a salad—typical “country-club fare,” as he put it.
Three hours later, Lindley emailed back, connecting Altschuler to Ronnie Brown, director of town services. Twenty-two minutes later, a meeting was on the books with Altschuler, Brown, and pool manager Dave Carter.
If you live in Dallas or, really, anywhere else, now’s the time to pick your mouth up off the floor.
Highland Park is always in the top 10 of our biannual survey of suburbs. But somehow, it’s never topped the list. Until this year. You may call it “The Bubble” and poke fun, but Highland Park is No. 1 for a reason. Many, actually.
First, let’s address the obvious characteristics: “Parkies” are generally wealthy and conservative. The average home sales price was more than $1.8 million last year. Mother Jones once called the town “the most enthusiastically Republican enclave in the country,” reporting that only four other zip codes nationwide donated more money to conservative candidates. It’s also very white: 94.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now to what Mother Jones didn’t mention. When Altschuler goes out of town with his family, he calls the police department, which does “house checks” for residents who are away for three to 30 days. Not to worry—they’ll still drive by if you’re gone for more or less time. That’s called a “watch in passing.”
“I talk to them for two minutes, tell them how long I’ll be gone,” Altschuler says. “They ask if they can pick up my paper while I’m gone.”
Living in Highland Park is like living with a concierge, Altschuler says. The pool is $60 per person, per season; for $40, you have access to one of the town’s eight tennis courts. You can call ahead to reserve a court, but neither the pools nor the courts are ever too busy, because so many residents belong to the Dallas Country Club.
“When we go out, our whole neighborhood goes out,” says Altschuler’s 11-year-old daughter, Evelyn. She and her three younger siblings know the checkers at Tom Thumb. Nobody blinks when her 3-year-old brother cruises barefoot through the town library, luxuriously appointed with dark wood bookshelves and a fireplace.
Altschuler and Janie Means Gilmore, a resident for 50 years, use the same word when talking about the Highland Park appeal: community. Gilmore remembers telling each of her four kids as they learned how to drive that they’d better watch it. If they ran a stop sign, a neighbor or police officer would let her know.
“You just feel like you’re being looked after,” she says.
Joel T. Williams, Highland Park’s mayor since 2012, moved to town 40 years ago. Not much has changed in that time, he says, and residents like it that way.
Yet this town, designed a century ago, fits in perfectly with today’s urban-planning trends. It’s walkable and self-contained, yet borders some of Dallas’ most vibrant neighborhoods—Knox-Henderson, Oak Lawn, SMU, even downtown. It makes the planners of the last century appear genius. — Dawn McMullan
- Median Age: 43.3
- Population Growth (2000-2013): 0.20%
- Population Density: 3,956 people per square mile
- Students Passing STARR K-11: 97%
- Average SAT Score: 1792
- Students Taking SAT/ACT: 96.00%
- Instruction Spending Per Student: $4,528
- Violent Crime Rate: 0.35 per 1,000 residents
- Non-Violent Crime Rate: 29.24 per 1,000 residents
- Average Price of Homes Sold (2013): $1,818,114
- Sales Price Change (2011-2013): 15.50%
- Owner-Occupied Homes: 82.10%
- Walkability (New York City is an 88): 62