We bought our current house as sort of a compromise. I worked in a city to the south, and my partner had her own business in a city to the north, and we decided to split the difference that we would need to drive and buy a house in between.
The town that we bought in was sort of run of the mill, but it had a river running through it, and our backyard borders that river (although we are about 150 feet above it – raft guides are aware of the power of floods). Our neighborhood is quaint and blue collar and well-established, with our house being built in 1929 (as are the houses of most of our neighbors). At the time we moved in, the next-newest family had been there seven years, so the neighborhood was obviously stable as well. Still, nothing here hinted at the sort of energy of living in a large city that we both enjoy.
Why this history? Because our town has sort of suddenly become a bit hipsterish…
We also have lots and lots of young folks, eating out, playing and listening to music, kayaking on a river that has had its dams removed, and in general staying out past the 8:30 bedtime of old folks like myself.
It’s all pretty awesome.
The reasons are complicated and varied, of course, but part of what attracted businesses was the older structures that were available for renovation. The welding shop that became an ad agency’s story is told here, and the agency itself has an interesting story and a commitment to inhabiting a reclaimed space.
Another attraction is the previously-mentioned open street. I was not a fan of this – I like walking, and pedestrian spaces, and was sort of annoyed by the idea that a place where folks could walk without fear of cars would disappear.
This summer has proven me wrong, and I hope that it continues. On our walk last night, we saw tons of people enjoying the beautiful evening, and every place we stopped for a sophisticated adult beverage was packed. There are now food trucks (young people have it so easy now – we got to enjoy Denny’s and/or White Castle for late night runs back in the day) and cool art shops and fountains and all the other stuff that makes our small town feel increasingly like a real city.
Is the lesson here that opening up avenues of all sorts is *the* way to enliven your town? I don’t know – the jury is still out. But the combination of ways that our city is now easier to travel in has clearly had a positive impact on the energy that feeds it, and the energy has been an unqualified boon.
I guess that we have traveled while at home, inhabiting this space long enough to see it time (and humans) change it in a way that we like, a lot. And as it continues this dynamic, we will hopefully continue the embrace…