Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wrong Side of the Tracks?

Whenever you move to a new city, one of the first decisions you have to make is where to live. If you do your homework (visit a bunch, try to talk to people who live there, consult real estate and other demographic info) you can hopefully narrow down the list of possible neighborhoods. As with any city--Minneapolis included--one assumes that there is most likely a full range of neighborhoods across the economic spectrum, from the ritzy (the Chauffeurs and Pools set) to the not-so-ritzy (the Street Corner Drug Trade set). Every city has its poor and rich areas, and new residents are usually on the lookout to avoid the former (and occasionally achieve the latter).

In moving to Minneapolis, I was certainly no exception to this pattern: I researched a variety of neighborhoods, and ended up selecting a place very close to downtown. In the course of my research, I kept on hearing about how the north side of the city is particularly down-and-out. At the time, this didn't strike me as notable--I assumed that Minneapolis, like any city, has its poor & dangerous neighborhoods. I took it as conventional wisdom that I should be on the lookout.

A recent discussion on the issue, however, made me stop and think about it. Why do some neighborhoods get a reputation for being dangerous? Is it really just a function of FBI crime statistics, or is the perception of a neighborhoods perhaps a more complex social and political phenomenon? Is North Minneapolis really so sketchy? Many of the comment-ers on the aforementioned thread live in N. Mpls and are very happy there. They admit that the neighborhood has problems, but are pleased to list many of the reasons they like it.

I'm glad that I came across that thread, because it helps newcomers like me remember that the perception, and reputation, of neighborhoods is more complex. To live, or not to live, in a particular neighborhood cannot be determined solely on the basis of its popularized media image.


Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

Steve, My property management skills were honed in the Hawthorne neighborhood of north Minneapolis (south of Lowry and Lyndale). Thirteen years ago that neighborhood was 95% rental with absentee landlords. It was tough then because there was no one who took ownership of the area. No one to fight away the druggies and people with guns. They now have a new contact person who moved from St. Paul to Hawthorne to turn the area around. Most neighborhoods lose their grip because people don't care about the neighborhood. They don't want the crime, but are not committed to the fight!

12:04 PM  

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