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urban life

I sometimes joke that we live in the urban suburb. i love our neighborhood. we can walk to groceries, the bus, restaurants, our local bookstore, coffee shop and movie theatre.

However, it is not dense. Not dense in a chicago or new york way. but it’s city living as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve also been joking about writing a manifesto lately. things to guide us as “feature-creep” takes hold. things like, we will never buy a minivan. ride your bike as much as possible. the location of any future residence must be no more than:

  • 2 blocks from a bus/train line (currently, 2)
  • 4 blocks from the grocery store (currently, 6)
  • 8 blocks from a library (16)
  • 4 blocks from a couple different restaurants (5)
  • 2 blocks from a coffee shop (5)

Just as it seems that it is becoming easier and easier to live “in the city”, with a family, and have these things that I consider important, it also seems that most of our friends have moved out to the suburbs.

In a future job, I would like to utilize my considerable SimCity skills. So I read a lot of articles on urban planning, transit, etc.

This one recently caught my attention, Trading Places:

This is the generation that grew up watching “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “Sex and the City,” mostly from the comfort of suburban sofas. We have gone from a sitcom world defined by “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” to one that offers a whole range of urban experiences and enticements. I do not claim that a handful of TV shows has somehow produced a new urbanist generation, but it is striking how pervasive the pro-city sensibility is within this generation, particularly among its elite. In recent years, teaching undergraduates at the University of Richmond, the majority of them from affluent suburban backgrounds, I made a point of asking where they would prefer to live in 15 years–in a suburb or in a neighborhood close to the center of the city. Few ever voted for suburban life.

So, I don’t know. How about it, friends? Those of you who grew up in the suburbs, flirted with the city and headed back? How about those who’ve made the jump one way or the other and are not going back?

Sonja and I often discuss where we might live next, and the discussion generally comes down to:

“You can’t have a family in that place…”

“They do it in Chicago and New York.”

So, hence the manifesto. How do you want to live? How do you match your lifestyle with your living space.

Categories: Random Thoughts.

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7 Responses

  1. Interesting. I would like to live with only one vehicle and within walking distance of everything I need on a daily basis, but that isn’t possible where I live (Houston, TX). We don’t like Houston, but my husband has his dream job and we will probably be here for a while. It’s the ultimate urban sprawl gone wild and while I would LOVE to walk to the grocery store, it’s hard to do that with a heat index of 108. It’s natural to want your children to grow up with a lot of room to run around, but I look at Chicago and see that as a very livable city for a family. It does require a big commitment from city government, though, and I don’t really see that in Texas. Austin might be the exception, but isn’t it always?

  2. So while I would hardly call where we live the “suburbs” – we’re like a suburb of the Highlands Ranch suburb which is the far end of Denver, (I’d call our neighborhood BFE more than suburb), we are within a 10 min walk to a grocery store, two coffee shops, five restaurants (chinese, mexican, deli, italian, and pizza, oh and a sonic but that’s hardly a restaurant), gas station, dry cleaners, and a library, with the elementary school just a tad further on. It’s all in one little shopping center that services probably only about ten neighborhoods but has everything you need. Oh I forgot, and dentist, chiropractor. So while we are within walking distance of all this, we’re also within 5 miles from a state park and a river with good fishing, and bike trails. We didn’t buy the house because of the walking distance to all the above, (but we did want to be close to fishing and wildlife), but the convenience to shopping sure is nice.

    Codi8/8/2008 @ 5:47 pm
  3. This is an interesting question. I love our rural neighborhood. It’s awesome to have our favorite outdoor activities at our fingertips (we can see x-c skiing/snowshoeing/hiking trails from our living room and are 10 minutes from the beach). I enjoy having lots of space, privacy, and beautiful stars at night. We do have to drive to many things (which is a minus), but most people here drive fuel-efficient vehicles. We can drive directly to farm stands, wharf-side fish markets, pick-your-own berry fields, and orchards, which is pretty awesome (or just pick wild blueberries in our yard). If we want the amenities of the “city,” we can get there, but we don’t EVER have to deal with traffic, there’s virtually no crime, and we’re smog-free. Another interesting aspect of a small town is that we have some very progressive legislation (which, I imagine, is easier to pass in a small community). For example, selling food in a non-recyclable foam container is illegal, as is idling your car engine if you’re not moving. The town next to us outlawed drive-thru windows at food establishments (to help combat obesity). Our state just passed a law that it’s illegal to smoke in a car if there’s someone under the age of 16 in the car with you, and we have a program where every kid in the state enrolled in public school gets a laptop. I do miss some of the city amenities (public transportation, a wide array of ethnic food), but I love the rural lifestyle.

    Jean8/12/2008 @ 9:29 am
  4. Your thoughts really resonate with me. I have a bit of a “romantic” notion of what it would be like to raise my family in or near the city (Mpls). I currently live in a southern suburb that is still intermingling with farmland. It took a good deal of cajoling from my husband for me to even consider moving the dreaded 30 minutes SE of Crosstown. I’ve had to admit that the community resources are excellent, ethnic diverstity is surprisingly high and housing prices are a bit more reasonable. …I suspect I will continue to be the person (family) flirting with the city on weekends and then heading home.

    Lopez8/13/2008 @ 8:16 am
  5. we used to live in Uptown – in a 900 sq ft condo. when house hunting, the only thing that we could afford in “the city” was not much bigger than our condo (gaining a garage and a basement). our realtor thought we were crazy, I’m sure, as one week we’d be looking at teeny ramblers in SW Mpls, the next week slightly bigger ramblers with lawns in Mtka. as hard as it was for me to concede to move to the “burbs”, I absolutely love it now but I don’t really consider my neighborhood true suburbia — I can still walk to a library, grocery store, shopping mall, restaurants, coffe shops, bus stop as well as tons of trails to explore. I know I would not have been as happy to move to the ‘burbs if I didn’t have easy walking/biking access to these things. I miss the city for sure — but if you search long enough, I think you end up finding just what you want/need to be happy in the stage of life you are moving into. Certainly I envy my friends who still live in the city — and I do hope to move back someday. But for now, I can bike into the city on the trails if I need to & even to drive, it’s not that far away. My lifestyle living out in Mtka has not changed all that much in respect to walking to the places I go on a regular basis.

  6. In the Twin Cities, I’d definitely choose to live in the city. Probably urban suburban style, like you. The Selby/Dale area has always seemed appealing for reasons similar to the lifestyle perks you listed. Access to restaurants, museums, coffee shops, bus line, etc. but also green spaces and a real sense of community.

    In Seattle, it’s a little harder to own a place right in the city, which is why we’re still rental mentals. But I wouldn’t trade the center-of-the-city convenience and liveliness for anything right now (OK, maybe I’d trade closing-time-at-the-bar noise six floors below us for a quiet night of slumber every once in a while). But while it wouldn’t be impossible to own here (prices aren’t quite as high as NYC or San Francisco), we’d certainly have to keep it small. Like, 700 square feet small. Like, get your elbow out of my cereal bowl small. That’s my impression, anyway.

    I walk ten blocks to work every morning, and I dread the day I have to give that up. I get to awaken my senses and get the blood flowing while the city around me does the same.

    So, does this mean I get the label “new urbanist”? Sounds too cool. I think you get one, too.

    Can I sign your manifesto when it’s complete?

    McAmy8/21/2008 @ 10:30 pm
  7. thought this was a interesting topic. i live in savannah, ga., which has a easily walkable and navigable (and beautiful) downtown. i grew up in a small town in n. ga that was walkable as a kid, but not likely as an adult. then i lived in atlanta – a city that is mired in sprawl and clogged with car dependent commuters, some who drive as far as 90 miles one-way. even though i only live five miles away from the downtown center in savannah, i would say that my walkability is very low. i used a site called walkscore.com to check it (the organization i work for did a blog about this site a little while back: http://blog.thecreativecoast.org/can-i-walk-in-your-neighborhood/2008/04/18) and only scored an 18 AKA car-dependent. wish it weren’t so, but affordable housing for (poor) first time buyers (like me and the man) is not really feasible in-town.

    leigh8/25/2008 @ 11:00 pm



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