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A runner crosses the new Park Union Bridge Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, between America the Beautiful Park and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum with downtown Colorado Springs in the background. U.S. News & World Report on Monday ranked the Springs as the No. 2 city in the country in its annual list of Best Places to Live. The ranking for 2022-23, which analyzed 150 metro areas, moved Colorado Springs to second place from sixth place last year. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado Springs, whose lifestyle and economy have garnered accolades in recent years from national publications and organizations, has another trophy to put on its mantel.

U.S. News & World Report on Monday ranked the Springs as No. 2 in the nation in its annual list of Best Places to Live. The rankings for 2022-23, based on an analysis of 150 metro areas, elevated Colorado Springs to second place from No. 6 last year.

"We’ve become pretty accustomed to ranking among the best places to live in the nation — now in our fifth year of ranking in the top six of 150 cities ranked and highest in desirability for four straight years," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said via email. "These consistently high rankings are testament to the resilience and staying power of our city."

Among other recent rankings, the Milken Institute, a California think tank, rated Colorado Springs in March as ninth in the nation for economic performance; in late 2020, the city was named the 15th best place of technology workers by a tech industry trade association.

For its latest rankings, U.S. News used data from sources such as the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor and the FBI to measure the strength of each metro area's job market, housing affordability, net migration (whether people have moved into a city) and quality of life.

Quality of life, in turn, examined factors such as an area's crime rate, quality of education, health care quality and availability, commuting times and air quality.

In another element of its Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News surveyed about 3,500 people nationwide and asked them to name the metro area where they'd most like to live.

That survey produced a top score of 10 for Colorado Springs; as a result, it will retain its No. 1 ranking in U.S. News' separate Most Desirable Places to Live rankings, which the city has held for four consecutive years.

"As circumstances change, and trends change, one thing has remained the same; people want to live in Colorado Springs," Suthers said in his email. "That’s evident by our perfect score and No. 1 ranking in the 'desirability' category which we’ve held for four straight years."

Only one city beat out Colorado Springs this year for the top spot in U.S. News' Best Places to Live list.

That No. 1 ranking went to Huntsville, Ala., which moved up from No. 3 last year.

Huntsville is Colorado Springs' chief rival to become the permanent home of U.S. Space Command, the coveted military installation that will bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in defense spending to its home city.

In the U.S. News analysis, Huntsville scored higher than Colorado Springs when it came to housing affordability (8.5 on a 10-point scale, compared with the Springs' 5.7); jobs (7.2 vs. the Springs' 6.1); quality of life (6.8 vs. the Springs' 6.4) and net migration (6.9 vs. the Springs' 6).

Colorado Springs' perfect 10 as a desirable place to live, however, doubled up Huntsville's score of 4.9.

"U.S. News & World Report was clear in the ranking that Huntsville’s desirability was very low, while houses in Huntsville are inexpensive," Suthers said. "This isn’t surprising. Cities that are not considered desirable places to live have lower real estate prices, due to simple supply and demand.

"Here in Colorado Springs we are a place that more people want to move, and more people want to buy a home," he said. "We are seeing growth — population growth, job growth and also housing growth. We’ve made great progress in our affordable housing efforts, and that’s important when you have a city like ours that continually draws new residents.”

For now, Space Command is housed at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs and will continue to operate there until at least 2026.

Former President Donald Trump, however, announced in January 2021 that Space Command would move to Huntsville — a decision the former president later said he made unilaterally and one that local civic and business leaders, state officials and members of Colorado's Congressional delegation are challenging.

Last week, a report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General that was obtained by The Gazette showed that a decision document briefed to Trump last year named Colorado Springs as the first choice for Space Command's permanent headquarters.

Despite U.S. News' kudos for Huntsville's lower housing costs and other factors, national security should be the priority when it comes to a decision on Space Command's permanent home, Suthers said, echoing concerns highlighted in a recent Government Accounting Office report. 

"No amount of magazine (U.S. News & World Report) recognition will change the fact that uprooting a vital command and delaying its ability to reach full operational capacity would be dangerous and irresponsible," Suthers said of moving Space Command to Huntsville from Colorado Springs.

Elsewhere in U.S. News' Best Places to Live rankings, Boulder slipped to No. 4 after ranking No. 1 last year; Denver plunged to No. 55 from No. 14; and Fort Collins also fell to No. 54 from No. 17.

The three areas have experienced "catastrophic wildfire seasons," U.S. News said in a news release, outlining why rankings dropped for some cities.

"All (Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins) fell from their previous rankings, as each of them had among the 15 lowest air quality scores out of the 150 metro areas on the list," according to U.S. News.

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