06 February 2012
Why I Love My Hood
One of the things that is so important to me about my daily life is that we live somewhere that is walkable. That is the one overriding characteristic that I believe makes the best kind of neighborhood. And not that we can just walk the dog, but that we can walk to all sorts of amenities.
Here are the things I love about my neighborhood that I think all good neighborhoods should have:
1) A coffeehouse/restaurant. One of the things I love the most is having a place with food and drink where I can also regularly run into my neighbors. That last part is really key. It's important to be able to have a place where you know people. Even better is when the place has good breakfast tacos. And cinnamon rolls. Yum.
2) An elementary school. There is nothing more Norman Rockwell-esque than kids and parents walking or biking to school together in the morning. I love seeing it. Our neighborhood has a ton of new kids, which makes their convergence in the morning very palpable. The elementary school also serves as a community hub. We have neighborhood meetings there. Also good for: bake sales, art shows, cake walks, basketball hoops and playgrounds. For parents, school is an instant community builder.
3) A dry cleaner. This is a luxury that I only recently discovered. Being able to drop off clothes to have them laundered and ironed is a really nice thing. Even better if you can pick up and drop off on a walk. Even better is when they learn your name. Priceless.
4) A park or green space. I need nature. Period. And I think most people do. Any park will do, but I like living near somewhere that's a bit on the wild side that people gather to take care of, through trash clean ups or planting parties. The trade off is that the greenspace isn't perfect or often its easy to get angry that the city isn't taking more responsibility, but there is nothing like a good project to bring people together. Mainly, I think it's important to have some small space where we can connect with the wild. Even in dense urban neighborhoods, find the space that's a bit wild. Nature grows through the cracks, yo.
5) A food mart. For me, it's important to have a place to buy good wine and beer and quality chocolate. But you might rather have Mellow Yellow and Cheetos. Whatever. It doesn't matter. It's just good to have a store to run or walk when you need something fast. Mmm. Cheetos.
Now, the best neighborhoods have multiples of all of the above, to be sure, but it's critical to have at least one of each. If you find yourself in walking distance to a movie theater, or a full grocery store, or a train station, or even a collection of different kinds of restaurants...you win. But, at minimum, if you find yourself in walking distance of one of each of the above, I think you're golden.
If you want to assess the walkability of your hood, check out WalkScore.com. My hood scored a very bad 52 out of 100, even though I have access to all of these wonderful things. I imagine it's because we have an incomplete sidewalk system (hello, Austin!). It could also be that everyone still drives to everything, even two blocks way (hello, Texas!). But whatevs. Tests are for sissies.