With their porch swings and bountiful front-yard gardens, the homes of the city’s Old West Side—just a short walk from downtown—welcome passersby to the heart of the Bach Elementary area, which boasts 13 historic districts within its borders. Most homes are small Victorians originally built by 19th-century German workmen. Many have been painstakingly restored. In exchange for some of the highest prices per square foot in the city, buyers get shady streets, houses with character, and a fabulous location.

Also served by Bach School (Ann Arborites say “Bah”) are the neighborhoods around downtown and the U-M campus, including the Old Fourth Ward Historic District. Increasingly gentrified, with rehabbed single-family homes as well as new homes and a rapidly growing collection of luxury condominiums, the area is also home to well-worn student rentals.

North of Miller, homes are set close to the sidewalk on narrow lots, with porch sitters, bike riders, and kids playing on the sidewalk. Long economically and racially mixed, this neighborhood has become less diverse as prices rise, but rentals remain available. Nestled in a valley between Huron and Miller, West Park offers a band shell and baseball diamond.

Farther south, single-family bungalows, small ranches, and a few story-and-a-halfs (most built after World War II) thread outward from Allmendinger Park, with its softball diamonds, playground, tennis and basketball courts, and picnic facilities. Lilacs line its perimeter.

To the east, Bach extends through the downtown all the way to the U-M Diag. The red-brick buildings of the 207-unit Nob Hill apartment complex, the old-timer among the area’s apartment complexes, fit comfortably into the neighborhood’s southern edge.

Downtown student apartments are well represented here and are steadily creeping west, with the 99-unit Z West on William and Sterling, 411 Lofts at Washington and Division, the 96-unit Varsity next door, the 210-unit Foundry Lofts and the 124-unit Hub north of Huron, and the Yard at S. Main and Mosley. The 155-unit Ann Arbor City Club Apartments at Washington and First, the 164 units at 618 S. Main across from the Yard, and the smaller Montgomery Houze at 212 S. Fourth Ave. are unusual in marketing their luxury units to a broader demographic.

At 26 stories, the Tower Plaza condominium on William and Maynard is Ann Arbor’s tallest building—and seems certain to remain so, since the city has height limits for new construction. But smaller buildings abound. On Liberty west of downtown, a former car wash has been turned into the Mark, luxury condos with prices starting upwards of $550,000. To the north, a still-growing cluster of infill condos includes 121 Kingsley West, 218 W. Kingsley, and 410 N. First. The mid-rise Kingsley Condominiums Downtown has a growing set of luxury condos, and an under-construction building at 309 N. Ashley is coming online this year. Some larger units in the area have topped $1 million. Bach School also serves the triangle bounded by South Main, Eisenhower, and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. Residents of the 306-unit Woodland Mews flats and townhouses (which include both owner-occupied condos and rental units) can walk to Busch’s supermarket and Whole Foods—or to a game at U-M’s new soccer stadium.

Most Bach kids go on to Slauson, but some on the northern edge of the district can choose Forsythe. Bach kids who live north of Huron attend Skyline High, while all the rest go to Pioneer.

Bike lanes: The city’s new protected bike lane on William connects the west side with the university. On the west side, Liberty has a bike lane, Seventh has one northbound (the Bach side), and wide Washington is a suggested route.

Walking: Bach School’s walk score is 85 (walkscore.com), and that’s probably one of the lower scores in the neighborhood. Downtown residents are just a few minutes’ walk from the Farmers Market, the People’s Food Co-op, Zingerman’s Deli, and Kerrytown Market & Shops, and almost every corner of this neighborhood has retail nearby.