Tips for New Urbanites
So you’re looking to move downtown? Sounds like a plan, Stan. You couldn’t pick a better downtown to move to, (a recent list fromLivability seems to agree) and there are several steps that you can take to enrich your experience. If this is your first time living in an urban setting, please consider the following tips toward fully engaging in your new community. We’re just giving you four . . . can’t be too hard, right? 1) Know your neighborhood It’s easy to think of downtown Indianapolis as just one big “place”. After all, you can walk and bike most of downtown in a reasonable amount of time, so there must not be too much that’s different, right? Sure, but do you want your over-generalizations to be the start of another turf war between Fountain Square and Herron-Morton Place?* Indianapolis’ downtown neighborhoods have their own unique personalities, even when separated by just a few blocks. And the businesses, organizations, and clubs that make up the economic landscape of your new neighborhood can make the location of your home feel more like your community. Look into the history, makeup, and residency of your neighborhood to get a better feel for how it functions. Additionally, know who your elected representatives are. There will be times when important decisions will need to be made about your little corner of town, and it’s helpful to know who is making those decisions. 2) Introduce your friends to the area There’s a lot to be said for being a good host(ess). Your mother has probably given you plenty of reasons to do so. Sometimes, though, especially when you live alone, it can be awkward to invite people over to your home or apartment. “I don’t have enough furniture,” you’ll say. Or, “My place isn’t very big.” OK, have it your way, dude(tte). You don’t even have to bring them to your house, but having dinner with friends at a restaurant in your neighborhood or bringing them to a local shop is another option that introduces them to your community and broadens their view. The point isn’t for your pals to come and rate your homemaking skills, but to introduce them to an area they may not be familiar with. Hopefully, after visiting with you, they’ll come back on their own and bring more people with them. Good hospitality can have a ripple effect, and the more waves you send out, the more goodwill comes back in. Be an ambassador!
3) Meet your new neighbors This is the Midwest, so maybe your new neighbors will be bringing you Jell-O molds. (Or the hipster equivalent of Jell-O molds. Out-of-print LPs? Post-ironic newspaper advertisements from 1956?) But if they don’t, take the initiative and go to them. Find out what they’re involved in, where they work, and their social security numbers. (HAHA JK YOU GUYS) More involvement with your nearby neighbors will not only strengthen your community, it will make your new neighborhood feel more like home. Moreover, take the time to connect your new neighbors to others you know in the area. We’ve already determined that you might not like to have guests over, but you can help organize volunteer days or community groups that will make that network of neighbors tighter. A close community is a strong community, and a strong community is a safe community.
4) Get involved It’s easy to spend some money at a local cafe or store and think, “I’m helping my community!” You are, no doubt about it, and that pat on the back is earned. Still, how you spend your time is just as important as how you spend your money. The strength of a neighborhood is dependent on the involvement of its residents, and there are dozens of ways to involve yourself with the organizations and committees that need your support. You don’t have to give a ton of your time - there are plenty of organizations that just need volunteers once a month or for one-off events. What is important is to make yourself aware of the opportunities for involvement in your neighborhood and, in turn, make them aware of you. Take the time to show up at town council meetings or forums. Speaking up to the folks who make your decisions is important, too.
There’s plenty more that you can do to knit yourself in, but these are just a start. If you have more ideas, or you’d like to share some tips with new and fellow residents, feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know. We’re always looking for ways to help people find their place in urban Indy!
*I jest. Those two neighborhoods have never had a turf war, unless you count the 1876 “topcoat feud” when Silas P. Abernathy accused Hiram Oberlund’s garden of “lacking the care of a well-rounded overseer.” The lamplighters were burning the midnight oil after that one, I tell you.