Shorewood Hills offers small-town charm surrounded by a big city, and data show it's Madison's top suburb.
The village of 1,568 residents, nestled between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Hilldale Shopping Center, topped Madison Magazine's ratings for the second time.
The magazine surveyed residents of Dane County's suburbs, weighting issues based on responses. It then used data to determine how each community fared on each issue, such as public safety, property taxes, and schools.
"Overall, Shorewood Hills delivered," said Madison Magazine writer Mary Erpenbach, who looked at all the data. "Increasingly in communities, you can find more of what you need without going to Madison."
Shorewood Hills got high scores in its public safety funding, low property taxes, schools, and parks and recreation.
"It feels like a smaller neighborhood, a small-town feel within the bigger city of Madison," said Ellie Schmitt, who teaches kindergarteners and first-graders at Shorewood Elementary School. "The school is really diverse -- international families from all over the world come to this school."
Community swimming pools weren't included in the rankings this time because suburban residents didn't find them important, while municipalities got diversity grades this year for the first time, Erpenbach said.
Fitchburg, Dane County's most diverse community, benefited from the new category and its new city library to move into second place in the "Rating the Suburbs" project.
"When you think about how far we've come in the last 30 years, you can only imagine the possibilities in the next 30 years," said Michael Zimmerman, Fitchburg's economic development director.
Zimmerman said white-collar and blue-collar jobs were important to attract new residents to the city, and to combat crime.
He said projects like Promega Corporation's expansion, planned to open this fall and bring 100 new, high-paying jobs to Fitchburg, were important.
Two grocery store companies have expressed interest in building near the new U.S. Highway 14/Lacy Road interchange on Fitchburg's east side, Zimmerman said.
In hopes of attracting new businesses, the city will send representatives to a retailer show in Chicago this fall, he said.
Shorewood Hills, Mount Horeb, Middleton and Belleville have topped previous "Rating the Suburbs" lists, which started in 1999.
To become a suburb, a municipality must have 1,000 residents and either share a border with Madison or be economically intertwined with the city, Erpenbach said.
Dane, a village in northern Dane County, made the list for the first time this year.
Trends include fewer "bedroom" suburbs -- where residents leave for work in Madison and come home in the evening -- and more community events in surrounding municipalities, Erpenbach said.
"If people look out their windows and see just a little ways down the road, there are some incredibly great, remarkable, fun, wonderful communities out there," she said.
The June issue of Madison Magazine hits newsstands Thursday, and you can read it online here.