A Line or Two: Tell Us About Your Microneighborhood
Last week's story
by Julie Kendrick about the lively and neighborly goings-on on the 5300 block of Emerson Avenue South in Minneapolis "spiked," as we say in the web-metrics vernacular. I'm not surprised that a lot of readers checked out the story--our towns are probably the most neighborhood-conscious in the country, and our neighborhoods are among the best organized, with councils, economic development boards, crimewatch bodies, and other entities doing excellent work.
But a big part of the story's appeal, I expect, had to do with the informality, the small scale, and the light-hearted orientation of this particular spontaneous organization--a single block generating fun and neighborliness without an issue to solve.
The microneighborhood--the single block, the alleyway running between streets or among a handful of houses, the corner--isn't so much an official entity as a space waiting to be enlivened by individual initiative. There are block clubs galore here, of course, but they're usually set up with an anti-crime focus. The 5300 block of Emerson Avenue South has self-organized for joy.
The Pleasures of Col-Pont
A few days after the story ran, Julie alerted me that one reader who had enjoyed the story got in touch with her. Tammy Burns Woodhouse, an account supervisor at the marketing firm Hanley Wood
, is a partisan of another South Minneapolis micronabe, and this one even has a name. Here's an excerpt from Tammy's message to me about it:
"I'm delighted to live on the 5600 block of Dupont Avenue South. The alley community formed between the houses on the west side of Colfax Avenue South and houses on the east side of Dupont Avenue South is something I think is worth bragging about--if good Midwesterners are allowed to brag. The residents lovingly refer to the zone as 'Col-Pont.'
"We have the requisite social events that any good block might have--progressive dinner, New Year's Eve party, fall chili cook-off, and a Halloween party complete with a haunted garage. But, in my humble opinion, the reason Col-pont rocks is that it's a great place to be a kid. There are 22 kids under the age of 18 on this stretch of the alley. After school and summertime feels like a convergence of several roving play dates for knots of kids about the same age. The running game of after-school street hockey regularly morphs into a father-son game which just might morph into a fire and barbecue on a Friday night.
"And then there's the sauna. A neighbor on the Dupont side, Glenn Auerbach, is a sauna enthusiast. You might have seen a piece about his mobile sauna
in the Southwest Journal
some time ago. In addition to the mobile unit, Glenn has a wood-fired sauna in his story-and-a-half garage, which he generously opens to the neighborhood guys.
"It's taken me a while to convince my rural Iowa farmer father that even though his grandchildren live in a major metro area, they are growing up in a small town. The kids still ride bikes everywhere, walk to school and baseball practice, and people know your name."
So Tell Us About Your Microneighborhood
Tammy's heartfelt advocacy of Col-Pont got both Julie and me thinking: there must be other great and unusual microneighborhoods out there, and The Line should hear about them. If you live in one in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, or know of one, tell us, at email@example.com
. We'll feature our favorites in an upcoming article, with full credit to you.
(We're looking for the unusual, like an alley with a sauna or a Friday happy hour involving plastic flamingoes. And we're looking for neighborliness, fun, ingenuity, and interesting people too.)
We may even make one of those Top Three or Top Four lists so beloved of magazine journalists.
Photo by Bill Kelley