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Macklind Days - Macklind and Devonshire

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Cinco de Mayo - Cherokee Street

I wrote this column as a Guest Columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which appeared on April 30, 2015.  It is reprinted below, as my feelings have not changed.

       When my wife and I announced our plans to move into the city of St. Louis, the standard reaction was pretty much “Why would anyone want to live in the city?” Some thought we were crazy. For over 20 years, we had lived in the pleasant, suburban small town of Columbia, Ill. People move out of the city and into the suburbs, after all, not the other way around.

       Nearly three years have passed since we moved our family into our new (actually 75 year old) home in St. Louis. Do we still feel it was a good move?

       Well, for starters, for the first time in our lives, we live in a walkable neighborhood. Coffee shops, bakeries and delis are just a short walk away. When friends come over for an evening out, we walk together to a local restaurant. Imagine walking to get a haircut, or to your doctor, your dentist and your dog’s veterinarian. Imagine the convenience of dropping off your car for repair and just walking home. I do all these things.

       

       I live in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood, but the city is peppered with outstanding and emerging commercial districts like South Hampton, South Grand, the Hill, Cherokee Street, Central West End, Old North, the Grove, Soulard and others that make walking, for most city residents, a viable option for many goods and services. If you’ve never experienced it, and as a lifelong resident of suburbia I had not, it may be hard to understand the singular joy one feels of being free from complete automobile dependency, of being able to actually walk from your home to dine or shop without the need to climb into a car each and every time.

       We love the city’s architecture. Unless vinyl siding represents your concept of beauty, the city’s residential districts offer unlimited eye candy. St. Louis was built with brick in a day and age when craftsmanship mattered and buildings were built to last. The quality of those craftsmen and the durability of those materials endure today. In most cities, impressive brickwork patterns and elegant architectural detail exist in only its most expensive and exclusive mansion districts. But in St. Louis, these same features are found in nearly every neighborhood on nearly every street, in even its most modest homes and apartments. The city’s residential architecture, far too under-appreciated, should rightly be recognized as some of the finest in the nation.

       We enjoy all the fun stuff, all the best bands, festivals, sporting events and museums, much more than ever before because, first, they are so much closer, and second, we have more time to enjoy them. Thanks to less time driving around running errands, shorter commutes, and the need to maintain a large suburban lawn, we have more quality time to spend and enjoy. Even taking out the trash is easier! Like most city dwellers, we have an alley that contains separate Dumpsters for trash, recycling and yard waste. So there’s no more hassle with making sure to get the trash out to the curb for that weekly pickup; it just goes in the Dumpster and off your property immediately.

       In truth, the city has spoiled us. South St. Louis is a veritable Disneyland for eating out. Wonderful locally owned restaurants for every taste and budget exist everywhere. Dining out is much more fun now than it ever was in any chain restaurant. And when we do drive, it’s only about 10 minutes to just about anything we could ever need or want to do. Before we moved, it used to take me nearly 10 minutes just to get to the nearest strip mall. Now, because the city has spoiled me, if anything I’m doing requires more than a 10-minute drive, I get irritated.

       And thanks to all those negative perceptions, city housing is relatively inexpensive. This is no small thing. Obviously, life can be a whole lot more fun, and a lot less stressful, when less of your paycheck is going to your mortgage lender or landlord.

       The bottom line to all this, though, is that most of these characteristics simply can’t be found in other parts of the metropolitan region. Now we understand city living isn’t for everyone, but given the benefits, instead of asking “Why would anyone want to live in the city of St. Louis?”, the question we think more people should be asking, is “Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?”

Jay Unnerstall works as a senior manager of contracts at Intelligrated Systems, and is a former alderman in Columbia, Il.

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St. Louis Symphony - Forest Park - Art Hill