Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Raise Your Hand If You Hate Uptown

My hand is down. I love Uptown. Not everything about it, of course, but I love that it does offer safe, interesting, attractive urban living in Minneapolis. Besides, I grew up here; I'd probably love it even if it was crumbling down around my ears. There are plenty of others out there who don't share the love. For every person out there who claims to love Uptown, there's another, equally vocal person who proudly announces his or her hatred of the neighborhood. It's an area that seems to incite strong opinions, such as some of those expressed in this relatively recent Yelp conversation. You just don't hear this kind of passion about many local neighborhoods.

For the purpose of this discussion I'm going to ignore those who hate Uptown because they don't like cities, hate traffic of any kind (although I really don't see driving to Uptown as any worse than braving a mall parking lot), or just overall would hate Uptown regardless of who lived or did not live here. Instead, let's take a look at why in some circles it seems to have become the in thing to hate Uptown.

1. Hating Uptown makes you cool. Sneering at Uptown for "selling out," being too "white," too "yuppie," or filled with too many chain stores highlights your own superior taste in neighborhoods.

Well, I guess it's a short list. That pretty much sums it up right there.

On to some other observations on Uptown and its supporters and detractors:

  • Expectations are unrealistically high. I think it's reasonable to believe that Uptown can and should be an interesting and successful city neighborhood. I don't think it's realistic to think that it can be all things to all people. I wouldn't care what the rest of the Twin Cities thinks about Uptown, other than the fact that the neighborhood needs to continue to draw on outside dollars to support local businesses. I have no need to live in a trendy neighborhood. I just want to live in a walkable, safe, non-car dependent neighborhood filled with local businesses and interesting people. People who have high expectations about how it "should" be filled exclusively with musicians and artists (and not investment bankers and lawyers and doctors or other potential yuppies) are going to be disappointed. Personally, I'd like to see it strike the right balance of both. Diversity of all sorts is a good thing.
  • People who hate Uptown mostly don't live there. They may or may not have enough experience with the real neighborhood to make an informed judgement call. Some people lived there once and were disillusioned, while others only come in once in awhile to go to the stores, restaurants, or theaters. Still others lived here briefly at one stage in life, and then moved elsewhere. Not to get too pop-psychological here, but maybe those people look back at those years as being a period of younger, more immature (but perhaps fun) behavior, and extend those feelings out to the neighborhood as a whole.
  • Uptown does change. It should be obvious, but things don't stand still. Favorite places go out of business, new places move in. Sometimes the change is good, sometimes it's bad. Rather than complain excessively about the bad let's get proactive and do something about it. Realize, too, that Uptown will continue to evolve. Every decade has a different flavor, and we all have the opportunity to help shape the direction of the future, whether through political involvement, community service, or simply choosing to live a lifestyle that supports the neighborhood.
  • Uptown does not answer to anyone. Or at least not to any single person. Uptown is not a person. It's a neighborhood made up of residents, businesses, and visitors. It can't "sell out." Many changes in the neighborhood are a result of changing demographics and larger city patterns, as well as just simple evolution and changes over time, and there are no laws on the book saying that only people of the "right kind" (aka the cool people) can live here.
  • There are plenty of other options out there. I love Uptown, but I love other Minneapolis neighborhoods, too. We all have options. People who can afford to live in Uptown have other choices available. For those who do live elsewhere (who tend to be the Uptown haters, anyway) why focus so much energy on hating this neighborhood? Why not concentrate on why you love your own choice of community? Perhaps it's partially due to jealousy - Uptown does get a lot of media attention, and is a top trendy destination. But really, do the people who bash Uptown for attracting "uncool" wealthy suburbanites really want their own neighborhoods to become the new location of Chino Latino? Wouldn't that simply recreate what it is that they say they dislike so much about Uptown?

I spend plenty of time on this blog complaining about things. I don't like everything about Uptown, but I do love the neighborhood and think that it has a lot to offer. I also respect the fact that other people don't have to love Uptown. They can choose to hate it if they want. But do they have to be so damn annoying about it? It would be obnoxious of me to write that they're just jealous. So I won't. I'll just think it instead.

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