11 November 2008

I'm not anti-Suburb, I'm pro-City

I thought of this topic looking at the latest "I'm a Mac" commercial. I've always found them somewhat entertaining (John Hodgman is brilliant) but was curious about the tenor of the campaign. What I mean by this is that (in my opinion) the Mac character reinforces the negative stereotypes that I would think Apple would want to leave behind. Am I the only one that wants to smack the Mac-guy upside the head? I imagine he plays well to the Mac faithful, but isn't the purpose of advertising to expand the audience, rather than pander to the converted?

This made me wonder about city-fans. Do we come off as smarmy as the Mac guy? In all honesty, I think we do. We can go on pandering to the faithful, or we can step out and try to communicate why anyone in their right mind would want to live and raise a family in the city. Comparisons are important, but my goal on this blog will be to give the positive reasons for the city, not the negative for the 'burbs.

For me, the three advantages to city-life are the three L's of Real Estate: location, location, location. I love living in the urban center of the area. It helps that my wife works downtown, and while I work from home, most of my client meetings occur downtown. But even when I have projects that take me out of the core, I get the advantage of going against traffic.

OK, so we learned I am lazy. How is this a family benefit? Our son's childcare is downtown (a couple blocks from my wife's work). He is a 5 minute commute from home (kid + lots of stuff makes the 20-minute walk less tenable). I know folks from the 'burbs that drop their kids off, then have a 45-minute to 1 hour commute. That gives us a minimum of an extra hour and twenty a day with our son. That is pretty priceless for us.

Since we are at the center of things, it also makes most places convenient. Besides all the great opportunities here, we are positioned to easily go to Montoya's on Buttermilk, Vincenzo's on Chester or back to Ruthai's in Mount Lookout if we want to. And it is really convenient to a number of kid-friendly venues like the Zoo, Museum Center, and Newport Aquarium.

Now it certainly depends on the family. We have good friends who live out in Loveland. Now to us that seems the ends of the earth. But since work for them is in Mason, as much as we would like to lure them down here, they are where it is most convenient for them. So I know the location thing won't work for everyone, but it works great for us.

What about you? Why do you live in the city, if you do?


Anonymous said...

Over the past dozen years, we've lived everywhere from downtown (in cincy) to close 'burbs, to distant 'burbs, to podunk-half-an-hour-to-anywhere (in multiple states, around many cities). What we found is that downtown is the place that feels like home for us. It's the "home" that we missed when we moved away. We've now lived downtown 3+ years of our daughter's life and she likes being a citykid a lot - walking to the library, taking the bus to findlay market or the museum, going days without going anywhere in the car... Sure it's a "trip" to get groceries - but it was not really any better in the 'burbs except the locations where we lucked into walking distance from groceries :)

Andrew said...

the suburbs feel lifeless to me. zero atmosphere. every suburb is basically the same no matter where you are.

i live in clifton gaslight, half a block from ludlow... i love being able to walk to everything i need... grocery, drug store, coffee shop, movies, etc. there is only one clifton gaslight and one ludlow ave in the world, which i love.

Radarman said...

An early and profound encounter with Naples (the real one - not the insipid Florida one) left me with a taste for city life and an appreciation for the accidental scenarios engendered by density and problems. I know. It's perverse. But that's how it is.

Quimbob said...

The "I'm a Mac" campaign is more of an appeal to youth. It kinda uses the tried and true strategy of P&G to "get 'em while they're young and they'll stick with you for life".
Similarly, the downtown lifestyle seems to be marketed primarily to the young hip "Macster" type. While a great market for Macs is the tech-ignorant older folks, Apple isn't bothering. Similarly, downtown doesn't seem to be angling for the huge impending market of aging, retired, empty nester Boomers who would benefit from a car free, yard free lifestyle in proximity to all the amenities you mention as well as the medical enclaves of Clifton.

bsherm said...

@corrinesan, I have always wondered about the "no grocery store" opinion of the city. So I have to drive the grocery, I don't see a lot of walkers in the 'burbs grocery shopping. Plus I've got Findlay. Now if you live in the city with no convenient parking, that could be a pain.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I agree with a lot of what has been said already.
I've also lived in both the suburbs and downtown and I can tell you that I'll never go back to a strictly suburban spot. The most suburban I'd ever want to be would be Clifton gaslight or Northside for the reasons mentioned above (they are both unique and convienent in many ways).
The thing I find most fascinating about living downtown is that all of the assumptions I made about living downtown before moving here were completely wrong. For instance, I used to think it would be impossible or at least very inconvienent to have my 2 large dogs downtown. That turned out to be completely wrong. We have had them downtown for 6 months now and its great and not a problem at all. They love taking walks all over the city with us (findlay market, fountain square, sawyer point..)
Second I used to think it would be noisy and dangerous. Both of these turned out to be untrue also. I've never had issues with the noise. Dangerous? Only if you go walking around by yourself at 3am looking to buy drugs or something stupid like that.
Third, I used to think that it would be difficult to find a place to park. We are always able to easily find a spot on the street every night.
Again with the groceries, we always had to drive to get groceries in the suburbs and its no different downtown. However, downtown we also have the convienence of walking to Findlay Market or to Avril-Bleh's or Shadeau Breads etc, etc.
We can walk to pretty much everything (coffee, restaurants, friend's places, sporting events, etc, etc.) The best part is that I can even ride my bike to work (I work in Clifton). Its a bit of a work out everyday, but its good for me so its worth the effort.

I would have never imagined that living downtown would be so nice and comfortable. I used to have all the excuses in the world that so many other suburban dwellers would have against downtown. Once I finally moved in I realized that I was wrong on just about everything I thought would be a problem. People really need to just give it a chance. You'll love it, trust me!
Plus, once the streetcars go in and more and more people and businesses move in its only going to keep getting better! Can you imagine taking a streetcar to the Banks to buy groceries instead of driving somewhere? I have high hopes for the future of Cincinnati's downtown.

Julie said...

I have lived in the Western suburbs, Covington, and Mariemont. I now live in OTR and can't imagine anywhere else. I can walk all over, I drive against traffic to work (I work in Mason, which I know is counterintuitive, but it works for me). My social life is centered downtown. I'm at a central location, period. I get to interact with people ever day. What's not to like?

5chw4r7z said...

The problem is we are always preaching to the choir because the instant I say anything city related at work, I get cut off with, "You'll be shot!" So I tend to be off the cuff and knee-jerk with my 'burb comments.