(The Center Square) – Evans, a suburban neighborhood near Augusta, was named the best place in America to live recently by Money, mainly for its low cost of living, good schools and employment rate.
Longtime resident Suzanne Lilly Honeymichael said the best thing about the city, however, is its social fabric.
“I think just the fact that it is a very diverse community and that there is a sense of community within everyone,” Honeymichael said. “That’s really as what makes it nice.”
Evans ranked second out of nearly 2,000 places to live on Money’s diversity scale. Evans’ population is majority white non-Hispanic, but to determine a city’s diversity, Money examined segregation by looking at race and income data block-by-block.
“I think with today’s climate, it’s super refreshing,” Honeymichael said.
Some Black residents told Money magazine, the town held peaceful protests during the national civil unrest that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day.
Looking at diverse places with a population of at least 25,000 people, Money also measured the economy, housing affordability, health and safety, education, lifestyle and amenities. It excluded places with more than double the national crime risk and a median income level lower than 85%.
Honeymichael spent her childhood 10 minutes away in Augusta, but she and her husband moved to the Evans 30 years ago to find a quieter place with good schools to start a family. She since has raised six children, who range from 30 years old to 19 years old. Now she is awaiting the day she can play with her grandchildren near the Savannah River or at the town center park.
With 11 hospitals, a public medical school and the U.S. Army’s Fort Gordon in the area, Evans has a median household income of $101,000 and it has kept a good employment record even during the pandemic.
According to Moody’s Analytics, Evans has seen a 17% increase in its employed population over the past five years. That number is expected to increase by another 9% in the next five years. Evans’ employment rate in June was 2.4 percentage points below the state level at 5.6%.
Honeymichael said since the COVID-19 outbreak, sales at her home improvement store, Hardwood Floors & More, have skyrocketed. There has been a greater demand for home renovation and modification as people spend more time at home to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
“We’re seeing a change in the style of homes that people want,” said Honeymichael, whose husband is a real estate agent. “Even if people don’t want to move, they’re trying to have a nice little area for their Zoom calls.”
With low interest rates and the median price of homes at $241,000 – below the national median of $266,000 – real estate is booming. Evans offers a view of the Savannah River, where residents can buy their dream lake house or indulge in their favorite water sport or outdoor activity.
Honeymichael spent this past weekend in South Carolina, which is two hours east of Evans. Atlanta is two hours west.
About 10 years ago, Columbia County and Evans started the development of Evans Towne Center Park, which has a splash pad, playground, dog park and entertainment pavilion for concerts and other events. The development plans include apartments, coffee shops and tapas, which Honeymichael said has been a hit among millennials.
Honeymichael’s favorite thing to do in Evans is dining out, socializing with friends at New Orleans-inspired French Market Grille West or watching a game while enjoying a steak at TBonz Steakhouse.
“It’s kind of a hometown America,” Honeymichael said.
Woodstock finished 17th on Money’s list.
Photo: Photo courtesy of ExploreGeorgia.org.