“Downtowns are dying out,” wrote one journalist. A day or two later I read, “Downtown populations are growing quickly, far outpacing more rural areas.” Well which is it, and should we care?
While I love the outdoors and the calm serenity of country life, I am a city girl at heart. There are two main reasons, and they are interconnected – walkability and amenities. I walk to work, to bars and restaurants, along the river trail for exercise and stress relief, to the corner store or farmer’s market for a few grocery items. I can walk almost anywhere for my typical daily needs. My city has museums, sports teams, parks, theaters, festivals and other amenities that keep life fun and interesting. You really could find something to do within walking distance to keep you occupied each weekend.
(Photo: Harrisburg, PA Source – Wikimedia)
You can’t say that about suburbia. There, if you don’t have a car, you’re stuck watching TV as your main form of entertainment, unless you can access public transportation, which let’s face it, in this country is subpar. Suburbanites (and I was one when I first moved to this area, not to mention for most of my life… not knowing which neighborhoods in the city were safe and which ones weren’t) tend to eat at chain restaurants and shop at big box retailers. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that – after all I am a fan of Target – but I just think the suburban way of life is somewhat limiting.
Living in the city, especially if that’s also where you work, is very environmentally-friendly. My carbon footprint is pretty small – not only do I drive very infrequently, using little gasoline, but city residences, like mine, tend to be on the smaller side so I use less electricity to heat, cool and illuminate my place. I have no lawn, so I don’t use any gasoline to maintain my back “yard” (really a brick patio with native plants along the outside). Sure I have to sacrifice my desire for a bit more land to grow a veggie garden (although I know plenty of people who do so in raised beds and containers, or rent community garden plots) but that’s something I’m willing to give up for all the benefits of city living.
More people, especially the younger generations, are seeing cities in a new light. They like the convenience and culture of it. Plus in many developing nations, cities are the only place where there are jobs and a potential way out of poverty, so people flock there en mass. So cities worldwide are growing, even if some of the ones here in the U.S. are showing a decline – think Detroit, for starters. But even in Detroit, where the vacant land seems to outnumber the number of occupied houses in many neighborhoods, large companies are moving back and promising a better future for the Motor City.
(Photo: Detroit, Source – CNN)
What keeps people in the U.S. from considering a move downtown? I can think of many reasons related to my own city… higher property taxes, poor schools, the perception of crime, the desire to have huge houses with sprawling lawns, etc. and I’m sure they’re the same for a majority of cities in the U.S. And many of those reasons are valid. Yes, my taxes are higher than most of my suburban counterparts but I save a lot of money on gas, parking fees, and other commuting costs, making it a wash. The public schools in cities do tend to underperform their more rural counterparts, but there are options for those living in the city with kids. There is crime everywhere, including the suburbs, so I don’t hold that as a valid excuse. I’ve lived in this city nine years and yes, my apartment was broken into once, but the house I grew up in, in the suburbs, was burglarized also, so again it’s a wash for me. Of course anywhere you have more people the chances of crime happening increase, so it’s a numbers game more than a location game, in my opinion.
Ok, that’s enough ranting about how much I enjoy living in a city and why I think you should too. I’m not asking you to up and move tomorrow, but if ever you find yourself really sick of your commute, or you’re relocating for a new job or to be closer to your grandkids, consider city living. I think you’ll like it.