Thursday, December 16, 2004

These Evil Suburbs

What is it about a suburb that drives certain city-dwelling personalities to distraction?

Mitch, at Shot in the Dark, responded to a particularly unhinged example today (And did an excellent job I might add. For a city-dweller anyway).

Let’s be clear what we mean by “city,” here. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are fine cities. Nice neighborhoods. Plenty of trees. Accessible and interesting downtown areas. However, the idea of “urban living” in Minneapolis would sound positively agrarian to a life-long Manhattan resident. To me this is a good thing. One of the reasons I like living here is that we have very little acrage devoted to the gray desolation one finds in cities such as New York City, Chicago, or L. A.

There really isn’t a sharp dividing line where city ends and suburb begins here. I happen to know, because I live in exotic Fridley – a suburb Minneapolitans frequently speak about like it’s half way to Duluth, but in actuality my house is about 61 blocks from downtown. Travel from my house down University Avenue, and you’ll pass through Columbia Heights and Nordeast Minneapolis. Without the signs telling you where one ended and the other began, you’d not be able to tell. The houses slowly begin to be spaced closer together, and yards become a bit smaller. Travel the other way and things get more spread out. “Exurban,” in trendy parleance I suppose. A rather convenient situation in which one can find accomodation in a population density most suiting one’s preference.

Of course, population density is only one factor. People choose where to live not in some city versus suburb dichotomy. That would be absurd. They factor in all sorts of things - convenience, aesthetics, crime, schools, taxes, cost of living to name only a few. It’s the same equation you’d put in when choosing which neighborhood to live in within city limits.

I know I have seen a couple of places in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul where I wouldn’t mind living. But considering my current job, and the age of my kids, they’d be decidedly inferior to where I live now (to say nothing of the property tax comparison). Why this decision drives some people into sputtering rage baffles me. But I’m pretty sure it bespeaks some rather unsavory characteristics on the part of the ragers far more than it says anything about “suburbanites.”


Blogger R-Five said...

I remember my father, a downtown small business owner, telling me of the shock waves that rippled through Minneapolis when General Mills announced it was moving to the suburbs, which it did in 1958. Many others have followed over the years. Mostly I think it's economic, given the high cost of expanding downtown. But my dad's grapevine also said Minneapolis's many "extra" laws were a significant factor, too.

In any case, the distracted city-dwellers are no doubt thinking about the latter, that we have escaped their control. A trusted source of mine said the whole reason the "MTC" took over the bus system was that they were cutting city service and adding inter-surburban routes. The downtown-centric model has to be preserved!
Even now, you'll never see a Light Rail line or "transit corridor" even proposed that doesn't go to either downtown St. Paul or Mpls.

There is so much to like about our core cities. But as long as they refuse to fix the schools, arrest the gangs, or even plow the streets in a reasonable time, they're not going to be competitive.

5:30 PM  

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