From London to Fountain Square: Walkability Matters
photo credit: Melissa Williams
When Ann Pumphrey and her husband Adrian found out they were expecting their second child almost five years ago, they were faced with a decision. At the time, they lived in a rented two-bedroom flat in London with their toddler. Everything they needed was located within a 10-block radius of their apartment: jobs, friends, church, parks, shops and farmers' markets. With a second little one on the way, however, they were outgrowing their 500-square-foot apartment and desperately needed more space. Housing prices in London have skyrocketed over the past decade, rising more than any major city in the world. Overseas investors buy up luxury apartments, which leads to inflated housing prices for both sales and rents and makes housing unaffordable for most people. The Pumphreys couldn't stay in their neighborhood if they wanted more space; they could either afford to buy a one-bedroom flat further towards the outskirts of London, about 45 minutes away, or they could move somewhere else entirely. So they decided to look into the cost of living in the States.
Ann grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, and the desire to live closer to her parents was a factor in narrowing down U.S. cities; they visited Chicago and Indianapolis during the summer of 2011 to get a feel for both places. Adrian (originally from Birmingham, England) remembers that during the visit, he immediately got the impression that in spite of its smaller size, there was a lot going on in Indianapolis. It felt like a place where new and interesting things were starting up all the time, and it seemed like it would be easy to get plugged in and find community. And of course, Indy's affordability was a big draw compared with Chicago. After their summer trip to the States, Adrian got a job offer from Herron High School to teach mathematics, which sealed their decision to move to Indy. In July 2012, Ann and Adrian moved into the King Park area with their two year old son and one-month-old baby boy. Ann said, "I was leaving a close-knit group of friends in London... Anticipating making new friends felt so overwhelming, but I was thankful to meet so many new friends through MOPS -- women living downtown in a similar stage of life who included me in playdates and a book club." She also remembers being invited to a supper club in Fountain Square the first week after they arrived; they were deeply impressed by a feeling that this was a uniquely welcoming community, with neighbors of all ages and from many different backgrounds, some longtime neighborhood residents, and some new-to-Indy transplants. They felt a sense of vibrancy, creativity and community spirit in the neighborhood.
photo credit: Melissa Williams
The Pumphreys lived in the King Park and Holy Cross neighborhoods for a couple of years before they settled in Fountain Square, buying an 1870 Victorian home with 4 bedrooms and 2,850 square feet. The house came with a detached garage and a backyard with enough space for Adrian to build a playset for the boys and later a chicken coop for the family's three chickens. As a portrait photographer, Ann is looking forward to being able to spend more time on her photography business after a recent hiatus; the couple welcomed their third child, a baby girl, in the spring. The extra space inside their house has allowed the Pumphreys to host international students who are part of a foreign exchange program at IUPUI. Adrian & Ann also enjoy hearing the history of their neighborhood from the couple across the street, who have lived there almost all their lives and witnessed many changes to the community over the past 75 years. The Pumphreys have seen their corner of Fountain Square changing quite a bit just in the past two years: nine houses on their block have been rehabbed, and many new families with kids have moved in.
I asked Ann & Adrian what they liked most about living in Fountain Square. Their answer? Walkability. "This is a place where if you don't want a car, you really don't have to have one," says Ann. Adrian had never owned a car before moving to the States four years ago, and Ann had been living without a vehicle for 10 years in New York and London: they both enjoy walking, biking and using public transit. Most other neighborhoods in Indianapolis are still fairly car-dependent, but with the recent growth in Fountain Square's business district, the Pumphreys can easily walk to parks and playgrounds, groceries, a farmers' market, restaurants, coffeehouses, doughnut shops and even an Italian gelato cafe. "My favorite things in London were walking to parks and farmers' markets and things like that... we can do all that here too," Ann added. They also walk to church, and many neighbor kids walk to school. Adrian noted that the Cultural Trail connects them to many other places across downtown; they can bike to the zoo and White River State Park, to the canal, or over to Garfield Park, which is about five minutes away. In settling into their new neighborhood, the Pumphreys have found the best of both worlds: an affordable home with more space, along with a walkable lifestyle and connected neighborhood.