I have been thinking a lot about regional government and getting things done for our local areas – well – locally, instead of going through federal and state programs. Meeting LVEJO in Chicago really inspired me – they were so active in getting their neighborhood clean and beautiful and what they did really worked. It’s different in Chicago…they have Aldermans. Aldermen? I don’t know.
Anyway, I got to thinking about my neighborhood, Alger Heights, and how the planters on Eastern and Alger are mostly empty. That little strip has roughly 20 businesses operating along the 400 foot stretch, but its streetscape is nothing to look at.
Then it dawned on me. With some simple Googling, I found the Alger Heights Neighborhood Association. They have community meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm. Duh. Why didn’t this hit me before? I should totally be participating in this. I’ve been preaching local action for six months and I have yet to attend a neighborhood meeting, which my mom has probably told me about, too.
It takes me awhile to catch on to things.
Well, I’m living in the suburbs again. Well, on the edge of suburbs. No more downtown-smalltown. I’m actually loving it. My area is really walkable–we live in a neighborhood of Grand Rapids called Alger Heights, with a main-street-esque area where you can enter the stores/restaurants from the front. There is a great ice cream place, too. The store owners on Eastern and Alger take care of their stores. It’s too bad the grocery store couldn’t stay afloat.
I just took a walk around the residential streets. I do this a lot–I run most days but I like to walk in the evenings. I actually avoid the Alger Heights main street when I walk. I don’t like taking walks in commercial areas. I like walking by houses and saying hello to other walkers, watching kids play. I also go through the cemetery and the nearby park sometimes. All these areas are preferable to a commercial district. Too many cars, I guess.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with not wanting to stroll through commercial areas. I think my preference is shared my many and is also telling. Suburbs aren’t a bad thing. But they’ve gone too far. When developments have all new houses, no trees, and no sidewalks, there’s a problem. Residential streets should be near commercial streets in a structured pattern, not going on forever and ever. Places lose identity this way. My neighborhood is Alger Heights because of the Eastern and Alger commercial district. If that weren’t there, we’d just be southeast Grand Rapids. Not a place where people want to be.
That’s what it’s about–creating places people want to be.