Sunday, January 18, 2009

Is Uptown Diverse?

Uptown boosters like to tout Uptown as a "diverse" place, but is that true? The answer, depending on your interpretation of the term, could be "yes," "no," or - most accurately, in my view - "sort of, sometimes, and in some areas."

Uptown is filled with people who pride themselves on their openness to new people and ideas. They love the idea of a neighborhood filled with people of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds; the Mexican family on the corner, a black couple living next door, the gay Asian guy in the duplex across the street. Wishful thinking doesn't necessarily translate to reality. Uptown is still a pretty white place. That's that not surprising, since Minnesota in general remains whiter than many states. Still, it would be nice to see a broader range of faces on the streets and to hear more languages at the local parks.

Diversity doesn't just have to be ethnic or racial. Uptown is, and continues to be, very open to the so-called "non-traditional" families. There are plenty of gay and lesbian couples, with and without kids, and I assume that other non-traditional nuclear husband-wife-kids families are equally comfortable here.

When talking about diversity we should also remember to look at diversity of age. According to recent neighborhood studies, Uptown is an aging area. The Baby Boomers are getting older, while younger people (and their children) are not moving in. I would assume that part of this is due to simple economics; people might live here while they're young, single, or at least without children, but once they have a family and want to buy a house, or even rent an apartment with multiple bedrooms, they move to more affordable neighborhoods. It's an issue many other neighborhoods across the country are facing, and I hope that Uptown will manage to offer a full range of housing options for singles, couples, families with children, empty nesters, old people, and anyone else who wants to call this neighborhood home. Uptown is lucky in that there seems to be a wide variety of housing options - freestanding houses, duplexes, apartment buildings, luxury condos, etc. - with the developers all eager to fill in any empty holes.

The 2010 census numbers will give us a better sense of Uptown's official diversity, but in the meantime I think it's safe to say that Uptown is far from being truly "diverse." On the plus side, Uptown is, for the most part, a neighborhood that truly values the benefits that come from having people of all backgrounds living together as neighbors, so perhaps one day in the future the neighborhood will be able to truly live up to this wishful description.

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