At first I wasn’t sure what to say about downtown living that you wouldn’t already know. After all, unlike some parts of the city, you probably drive through my ‘hood on a daily or weekly basis. And yes, living in the heart of the city has its perks. Lots of them. But like any neighborhood, life as an urban dweller also comes with unexpected – and sometimes unwanted – realities.
After more than four years of calling the 46802 home, I think I’ve gotten a taste of it all – good, bad, awesome and otherwise. In some cases, the biggest benefits also come with unexpected bummers. If you’re considering moving to the middle of it all, here’s what I love (and don’t) about downtown living.
1. You can walk or bike to your favorite watering holes. (And to restaurants, coffee shops, yoga classes, juice bars, a movie theater and everywhere else.)
Feeling like a late nightcap? Walk a few minutes to your favorite pub. Want to catch the latest indie film? Cinema Center is right around the corner. Out of coffee? Run down the way for a double latté. As for dinner, the options are endless. When you don’t feel like cooking, you can grab carryout and sip an apéritif while you wait. If you live downtown, you’ll be on a first-name basis with your favorite bartenders and bar rail “regulars.” And if you end up a wee bit over served, no worries. You’ll have to pay the tab, but you won’t have to pay for an Uber (or a lawyer).
2. You’ll never need to search or pay for parking.
There’s long list of events that beckon people downtown. Baseball games. Wedding receptions. Concerts. Comedy shows. Races. Festivals. As the poor suburbanites feed the meter and circle the block 12 times to find a spot, you will be blissfully strolling by on the sidewalk. Even on foot, you’re almost guaranteed to get there faster – and you’ll get a little fresh air and exercise in the process.
3. You can get (almost) anywhere in 15 minutes or less.
Since I moved downtown, I’ve worked in five different Allen County zip codes. But no matter what, I’ve always been able to get to work in 10-20 minutes. Sure, the 6 p.m. rush hour sometimes slows down the commute home. But in my mind, creeping down a city street is better than braving the suburban insanity of I-69.
4. You’re likely to be perennially renting. But you’ll enjoy the benefits of low-maintenance living.
Downtown real estate options are growing, but so are the price tags. You’ll see an occasional “For Sale” sign, but single-family homes and condos are a rare (and expensive) commodity. If you’re willing to move into a less gentrified block, you can find a turn-of-the-century fixer-upper. But if you want something move-in-ready on a modest budget, you’ve gotta rent. Luckily, renting downtown offers lower utility bills and low-maintenance living.
West Central is full of duplexes, triplexes and carriage houses. Craigslist is always a good resource, and there are a few sweet spaces above downtown businesses. There’s also Three Rivers Apartments, Sheridan Court and several buildings owned by Midtowne Realty. If your income qualifies, Randall Lofts is an option – and if you’re willing to wait, several buildings are currently under construction. But no matter what, you’ve gotta start early, act fast, or poach from a friend who’s about to move out. The good places get a signed lease on the same day they are listed, and some don’t get listed at all.
5. You can buy fresh produce from the farmer’s market almost every weekend.
From May to September, the YLNI Barr Street Market IS my grocery store. From October to April, the Fort Wayne Winter Farmer’s Market – held on the first and third Saturdays of the month, inside the Parkview Field event center – keeps me stocked on staples. On the second and fourth Saturdays, the YLNI Winter Market happens inside Wunderkammer. Which means I have to drive to another zip code… a whole five minutes away.
6. You will get to know your neighbors intimately. Even if you’ve never spoken to them.
Ah yes, one of the joys of apartment life. You’ll know what the lady down the hall had for dinner. You’ll know how late the neighbor across the hall stumbled in last night (and who he stumbled in with). You’ll know what time the guy next door usually hops in the shower and how long he hits snooze on his alarm. You’ll even know when he and his girlfriend aren’t getting along (and when they, um… are.) If “TMI moments” make you gag a little, downtown living might be hard to stomach. But if you’re not afraid of sharing a laundry room (and a little dirty laundry) there’s nothing like urban life to remind you that we’re all human, experiencing the same daily joys, struggles and stresses in our own way.
7. During the summer, there’s always a festival in your backyard.
When you live downtown, you don’t need to make plans on Saturdays. You can just walk outside and run into someone you know. There’s something every weekend in the summer, including Greek Fest, Germanfest, the Three Rivers Festival, Buskerfest, the West Central ArtsFest and Taste of the Arts. In spring, fall and winter the stream of activities slows down. But there are still beer tents and activities for almost every major holiday, including St. Patty’s Day, Fright Night, the HolidayFest and Holly Trolley.
8. You automatically have a great view for the TRF and Fourth of July fireworks.
There’s nothing like a pyrotechnic display on top of a 27-story building to bring out a huge crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I like fireworks. But if I didn’t live downtown, I don’t think I’d brave the traffic for a prime seat. As it stands now, I don’t even need to leave my apartment to get a killer view. It’s a beautiful thing.
9. In addition to Rivergreenway paths, you have plenty of sidewalks and bike trails. But beware – and be aware!
If you want to squeeze in a few quick running or biking miles before work or before bed, there are plenty of nicely maintained sidewalks and paths. But for safety’s sake, I still don’t make a habit of running in the dark or taking the trail alone. It’s also important to hit the streets with one ear and both eyes open. As suburban drivers roll through downtown, they aren’t always aware of crosswalks, pedestrian right-of-ways or bike lanes. This is especially true when crossing in front of someone turning left on green or right on red. To live downtown (literally) as a pedestrian or cyclist, you’ve gotta make eye contact with every driver – and then cross with confidence.
10. Your ears get to experience city life all day (and all night).
Urban life is a carnival for the senses. (Don’t even get me started on the smells wafting through apartment hallways.) But the most frequent sensory experience gives new meaning to the phrase “sleeping soundly.” Get ready for wailing sirens, slamming garage bins, humming street sweepers, beeping trucks, TinCaps fireworks, and cars and skateboards racing down streets and up parking garages. Not to mention that your neighbor is a wannabe DJ/rapper whose day begins at 2 p.m. But as a child of the city, life is your lullaby. Embrace it, baby. (And keep a stash of earplugs by your bed.)