12 September 2004
Sunday spottings (for once more)
Someone once asked why I would go to the trouble of visiting parts of town that are generally considered, um, less desirable. It's simple: I don't want to get into the habit of thinking about a 600-square-mile city in terms of the few blocks that surround my house. Things happen all over town, and given the priorities of the press, which enjoys harping on tragedies even more than boasting about some dubious manifestation of "progress," I'd just as soon see for myself.
So I was near Linwood and Blackwelder today, where small firms under the general heading of "light industrial" vie for curb space with homes built around the time of World War I. And every other block, there's a church, and this being Sunday, those churches were busy. (I caught sight of an old-fashioned revival tent on a double lot.) A few black faces, but mostly brown; kids on bicycles, men unloading trucks, women in their Sunday best.
Now the roads through there aren't great, and I suspect the rest of the city's infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming "Blight!" and calling for intervention. And indeed, there's room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from "How can we make this area better?" to "How can we get these people out of here?" I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it's not pretty.Posted at 2:48 PM to City Scene