We've lived in Uptown Memphis for almost two years, after thirteen years in Cooper-Young. Uptown was conceived by a couple of visionary developers who are essentially responsible for the rebirth of Downtown Memphis. The few acres upon which our neighborhood was built used to be the site of one of the starkest examples of a horrible housing project. Without detailing the entire history of what happened (because it's already done here and here and here), let me just say that my neighbors are a mix of market-rate homebuyers (mostly first-time homeowners), Hope VI grant homebuyers (in which the federal government assisted with up to 30% of the purchase price of the home for lower-middle income folks), and public housing clients.
When I first learned about Uptown, I was immediately attracted to the development for a few reasons. First, I had always wanted to live downtown, and this would be only a few blocks from the downtown core. Most Downtown Memphis real estate was not a good fit for our family; it fell into apartment/condo/loft-type properties that were perfect for singles or double-income-no-kids, but not kid friendly, or it was a river-view house that was three to ten times the price we could afford. The Uptown homes were more modest but very family-friendly, and were exactly in our price range. All the houses were to be built to Eco-Build specifications, which meant less energy use and, therefore, lower utility bills. The planned economic diversity in the neighborhood also attracted me. As a person who lives in Memphis and is very committed to my chosen hometown, and as a parent who wants my children to grow up to be community-minded leaders, exposure to a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds is important to me.
So, in a nutshell, we got our dream house for a price we could afford, with a park right outside our front door and Downtown Memphis just a few blocks away. What more could we want?
How about some great neighbors? I didn't expect to find our neighbors to be so friendly and fun. While we're not sitting around braiding each other's hair (yet), we do keep in touch on the internet as well as when we walk our dogs through the alley. In nice weather, we congregate in a back yard with lawn chairs and wine. A few of us have competed as a team in a trivia competition at a nearby bar. When a neighbor couple got married, we neighbors occupied two pews in the church and two tables at the reception (and I won't even talk about the wedding showers, or the baby showers we'll be hosting quite soon!). And a few weeks later, we got together in the park for a chili cook-off. Susie will learn the ropes of babysitting by hanging out with a young mom and her two small kids as a mother's helper this summer.
One thing that's facilitated our neighborhood's success is the support we've received from the developer. The internet message board was their idea and they designed it and pay for the hosting. One of the developers judged the chili cook-off. And this week, we got word that they were going to plant trees in our yards if we wanted them.
Which means, when I get home, there will be a baby dogwood tree in my backyard. And if the weather is nice, I'll drink some wine with my neighbors in its shade for years to come.