Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kids Live in Urban Neighborhoods, Too

Yes, that's a kid. Children are, have been, and will continue to be, a part of life in Ward 10.

I was reading an article about Lyn-Lake ("Lyn-Lake? The New Uptown?" Not exactly breaking news, but that's another post...) and got sidetracked by a brief comment made about the area's demographics. "[Residents] tend to be highly educated, disposable income, no kids, young people," said Andrea Christenson of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. Well, sort of. Lyn-Lake does have a lot of young people, not as many kids as in many parts of the city, and as far as disposable income, well, that's a bit more debatable, but it's safe to say that the residents in the newer, more expensive developments probably do have a fair amount of disposable income. I'm not going to argue demographics here, and I'm not taking issue with the article itself or any of the people quoted in it. What I do want to discuss is the ongoing assumption held by so many people in Minneapolis that parents are expected to live a certain lifestyle. And, to many people, that lifestyle does not seem to fit with Uptown or Lyn-Lake.

Families are supposed to live in neighborhoods like Armatage. This view holds that new or expecting parents are supposed to buy a "starter" (oh, how I hate that term) home in a neighborhood like Kenny or Armatage, or, if they can afford it, somewhere like Linden Hills. While they're at it they might as well buy themselves a minivan, because real parents don't drive beat up old smaller cars, let alone ride the bus. They can buy a bike with a baby seat or one of those trailers for socially-acceptable family bike rides around Lake Harriet.

Parents don't go to bars or restaurants. According to the Lyn-Lake Small Area Plan's Market Study, "this general area of Minneapolis, including Uptown and Lyn-Lake, has long been popular among a younger generation due to its range of restaurants and bars, and proximity to downtown employment." (p.20-21) I'm sure that's true. That's part of the reason I like Uptown and Lyn-Lake. And, to be fair, I still count in the study's "younger generation," since I am under 35. Again, not quibbling with the idea that bars and restaurants appeal to young people (they appeal to all people), but in general there is an assumption that families don't want to live in bustling city neighborhoods with bars on the corners. Admittedly I have less time or money to visit restaurants or bars, but that doesn't mean I don't want them nearby. As most parents can attest, delivery or take-out is a fabulous thing.

Families only want to live in single family homes. This is probably true for many families. But, despite the assumption otherwise, not all kids grow up in freestanding, single family homes. There's nothing wrong with apartment living for families, and maybe in Uptown and Lyn-Lake we should be encouraging that option for those families that want to live in the neighborhood but can't afford to buy a house. I'm not immune to the appeal of home ownership; we're hoping to buy a place (ideally a duplex or maybe a triplex), too, but I'd take longterm renting in Uptown or Lyn-Lake any day over a house in Armatage. It's just not for me. Kids can and do live in more urban neighborhoods, so let's stop assuming that everyone wants to move to quiet, pleasant, but boring neighborhoods (or worse, move out to the 'burbs).

Families don't need to have 2,000 square feet of living space. I admit it; if I could afford one of the grand old homes in the neighborhood I'd be happy to live there. They are big and beautiful and filled with history and original woodwork. I don't mind having space to spread out. I doubt we'll be able to afford one of those houses, though, and I have no problem with living with a smaller floor plan.

I like city living. I don't want to have to drive places. I want to be able to walk to the grocery store, the library, retail stores, the doctor, parks, and other destinations. When I can't walk I want to be able to take the bus (or, ideally, light rail!). I want safe streets, but don't mind a little noise at night, and don't care about traffic. I want my son to grow up enjoying urban life, and when he's older, being able to easily walk, bike, or take the bus places on his own, too. Both Uptown and Lyn-Lake are great places to raise kids, and instead of reading article after article making it sound like everyone in the neighborhood is 25, rolling in money, and spending every waking minute at the bars I wish we could start fully embracing the various neighborhoods of Ward 10 as places where people of ALL ages can find a home. Even if that home involves shared walls or no car, let alone minivan.


  1. I thinks saying anything like that there are not many kids or there is a lot of disposable income completely ignores the Lyndale neighborhood, which one of the 4 Lyn-Lake corners encompasses. Especially North of 33rd street, the Lyndale neighborhood has many young families, a majority of which are black, Somali or Latino. They are poor working families who don't meet the demographics mentioned at all.

    More to your point, these families get over looked all the time as families who live in the more urban parts of Minneapolis. It is a very white centric view to say or believe that families don't live in or around Uptown, Stevens, or Downtown.

  2. So live in the city and ride the bus. Drive a beat up car. You might even raise chickens in your urban backyard. It's your choice. Many choose differently for reasons at least as logical, what's the problem?

  3. My problem isn't that others choose to live in different neighborhoods or have different lifestyles; it's the assumption held by many that there's one "right," or at least "normal," way to do things. Those assumptions often spill over into the ways people look at the neighborhood and its needs. Uptown and Lyn-Lake are home to more than just young hipsters and aging empty nesters. No, my frustration with people assuming I'm going to suddenly live a suburban lifestyle just because I have a kid isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I think there's a lot of parents out there who feel similarly frustrated. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, and I don't like being typecast simply because I have a child.

  4. Love this post. it sums up what my wife and I have been saying for awhile. We moved to carag after our child was born precisely because it was easy to walk places and get by with one car. Our money didn't stretch as far as it would in, say, Kenny or even Seward , but we are quite comfortable in our little 1910 house. The big surprise is how many other couples with kids or expecting who could afford linden hills or Edina are choosing uptown for the same reason.

  5. Great post! City living is great for raising kids-at least in my and many of my neighbors opinions (we're in Hamline-Midway in Saint Paul, but appreciate many of the same aspects of urbanity that you do!) And if you are interested check out the city living-family style section on the website and tell me what you think:

  6. Every time I drive to Edina to go to Edinborough Park, Chatterbox Cafe, Pediatric Dentist and Kid's Hair I wonder why my neighborhood in Uptown hates children. It's sad that we can't walk to a toy store to pick up a birthday present.

    I love raising a child in the heart of the city and my neighborhood is full of children, but Uptown is really lacking for families.