12 November 2008

I'm not Anti-Downtown, I'm Pro-Urban-Neighborhood

I guess that's what you call the Hyde Park triangle (Edwards, Madison, Observatory). It's not quite city life the way downtown-proper or OTR is, but it's also nothing at all like suburban Delhi where I grew up.

I like that walkability isn't just a theoretical concept...people actually do it. We walk to the bank, post office, video store, liquor store, dentist, orthodontist, and playground. We walk 5 blocks to church, and have half a dozen places to eat brunch on the way back, after buying a paper from the street-vendor on the square. The kids walk to the bus, work, Graeter's for ice cream, GameStop, LaRosa's, Busken's, or just walk up to the square to hang out with friends.

I like that our firemen grill out in front of the firehouse and chat with passers-by. They always put out a bowl full of water, and buy dog treats to hand out. They aren't supposed to let kids sit in the trucks (wink). Pets and kids are everywhere. Couples walk their dogs hand in hand, families take turns pushing the stroller, and joggers go by 24/7. When we moved here in the late 80's our pastor used to quip that he did a dozen baptisms a year and almost a hundred funerals. Today those numbers are reversed.

I like that our shops can't be found anywhere else. I like our gas-lit streets, huge trees, and turn-of-the-century houses with stained glass and fireplaces, and that no two look alike. I like that everybody plants things out front, and that people wave to each other and say "Hi", whether they already know each other or not. I like that our street has it's own email list and "citizens on patrol", all run by concerned neighbors; and that every few years we block off the street and have a neighborhood cookout just to get acquainted with the newcomers. I like that Rookwood shopping center has a fireworks display at dusk on Friday after Thanksgiving to kickoff the shopping season.

I like that about half the houses display political signs during election season, and that none of them are messed with. We had roughly even numbers of Obama and McCain signs, indiating a healthy diversity of opinions, and nobody has any hard feelings over it.

I like that our location makes the greater Cincinnati area as drivable as our neighborhood is walkable. The most distant spot in the I-275 beltway is only 30 minutes away, most of our trips take between 10 and 20 minutes because we're only 3 traffic lights from 4 interstate ramps. My wife's hospital job is 10 minutes away by car, my office is a 15 minute drive (20 minutes in rush hour) and the kids pickup the Metro to school at the end of our street.

Downtown and OTR are already that convenient, and are now heading toward the same social status, becoming more friendly to families, couples and singles, and less friendly to those who mooch off of or prey upon them. I'm looking forward to the same variety of entertainment and fellowship in OTR that we currently have in Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt Lookout, Mt Adams and Clifton.

Cities are more expensive, busier, noisier, and less predictable when it comes to the kind of people you wind up bumping into. But that's what makes them such a rush to live in. And why we couldn't imagine living anywhere else.


Randy Simes said...

One of the best Neighborhood Business Districts in Cincinnati...not the best, but it's right up there. The neighborhood is great as well. I could see myself retreating to a neighborhood like this when I'm ready to settle down.

bsherm said...

I miss the walkability of Mount Lookout. We were right off the square and could walk to Ruthai's, Zips and Bracke's (when it was there). Being only 'OTR-Near' (when will folks start using that like 'Hyde Park-Near') we suffer on the walkability factor.

Are you finding many families around you? We were involved in a non-profit startup over a decade ago, and did the research to discover that families with kids under about 2 were over-represented in the area, and over that were way under-represented. The decade we lived in Mt. Lookout we saw the flow of singles and young couples come in, and young families head east.

DP said...

I've always felt like a little bit of a spy commenting on this blog, since I live in Mt. Lookout, rather than one of the more "downtown" neighborhoods in the city. I always figured that the Downtown/OTR/Clifton folks would consider HP/MtL as essentially suburban. So I'm happy to see that Mark has been included to represent neighborhoods like ours.

Mark - completely agree with your assessment.

bsherm - In my limited experience (2 years), I've definitely seen a little of the "move east when the kids hit school age" trend - particularly amongst the non-catholics who get a little freaked out about sending the kids to Cincy Public. Admittedly my wife and I were mildly skeptical when we were looking to buy our house as well. Before we did, we took the tour at Kilgour (then in its temp HP location). And while we got a little ribbing ("oh, you're one of those...") when we showed up for the tour with our 6 month old, by the end of the tour, we were totally convinced that this was a wonderful school and 3 months later bought a house within walking distance to the school's permanent location. Unfortunately, I think that many of the "move east-ers" aren't willing to even look.

bsherm said...

@dp, actually I was always amused at definitions of boundaries. The Old Kilgour is in Mount Lookout. Even Clark Montessori is in Mount Lookout if I remember correctly. But Hyde Park has such currency that it's definition spreads. I think some of the coolest house are in Mount Lookout, especially around Alms.

We have a hard time deciding a short answer to what we live. We are in Mount Auburn, so my new answer is OTR-Near :-).

Quimbob said...

I like Hyde Park. A lot of what you say about HP is true in Northside, too, but you can also buy dope and hookers and get mugged more easily in Northside as well. During the primaries, the Paul signs probably outnumbered any of the other Republicans and quite a few stayed up through the rest of the campaigns. :-)
"I like that our shops can't be found anywhere else."
This is really important for the city and it's neighborhoods. Nobody is going to get anywhere having the "best" Wendy's.
From what I have heard, you guys have a really good farmer's market, too.

bsherm said...

@quim "Nobody is going to get anywhere having the "best" Wendy's."

True only to a point. I will drive to Oakley for Skyline, because they have the best soft drinks. They serve Coke as well as the P-word. I imagine b/c they are down the street from the Coke bottling plant.

No... I am NOT obsessive!