Submitted by: Kris Owens, ONS Resident
Just in the last few months it seems that throughout the neighborhood you can see, hear, and feel (that jarring from the interstate!) a lot of new construction projects taking place. Obviously the North Split project is the bulk of the work, but there are new townhomes going in at 16th and College, recently built townhomes adjacent to the soccer park, new single family homes on many blocks, and a large apartment project on Pennsylvania.
I was recently talking with neighbors who were on a stroll to see the progress of one of these projects. I was lamenting the noise and the trucks and detours, but we all agreed that this was the price for progress. And then I started thinking about what this means for my children to grow up in this neighborhood, and for future neighbors who will enjoy all of these yet-to-be-finished projects.
When my wife Amy and I moved into Chatham Arch in 2009, we had just married and were renting a townhome at 10th and Central. We didn’t have children and our free time was mostly spent walking our three dogs through the neighborhood and visiting local shops and restaurants. There weren’t many families with children, but a lot with dogs, so we had playdates with other dogs and their humans at the speakeasy dog park at East and 9th Streets, now a block of condos.
When we bought our Old Northside home in 2012, things in the neighborhood were a lot different. The old building on the southwest corner of 16th and College had just been torn down. There was no Tinker Street. There was no Foundry. Where Sultana and Leviathan now reside was a building that was close to collapsing, and none of the underpasses had artwork; at least none that was commissioned.
That same summer we had one of the worst droughts in city history, and much of my new landscaping died and all the grass turned brown. Then there’s the mulberry tree which thrived and surprised us by coming out as a mulberry tree that June (I thought it was an elm). It dropped tons of berries all over our sidewalks and deck, and made a mess in our home after being tracked in by our dogs who also enjoyed rolling around in them. I digress.
The point is that things were different. When we moved, we didn’t give much consideration to what life would be like for any future children of ours. We bought a home that fit our needs at that time--a garage, a yard for the dogs, entertaining space, walkable to Mass Ave, etc. There were a few issues with our home we wanted to fix or change. And while we loved the Old Northside, there were also things we thought needed to be addressed here as well.
But it wasn’t until the birth of our first child that we noticed old issues in the ONS that presented new problems for us. Sidewalks that were completely broken, shifted by tree roots, or that simply ended abruptly were now barriers for our baby stroller. (I tell my son when reading Shel Silverstein’s book that I know where the sidewalk ends--at 15th and Carrollton.) Not having a playground nearby meant no noise, but after having a child, accessing a playground meant having to navigate several blocks into the neighborhood to find a swing set or slide to play on. And getting that stroller across College to Shawn Grove Park without a crosswalk or flashing lights became a real-life Frogger game.
Now there are thriving businesses in all those old, dilapidated buildings, new residences, and the mulberry tree has been removed after part of it collapsed onto our garage. Two of our three dogs have passed, and we now have two human children. Those sidewalks are being fixed, slowly but surely. A playground and sprayground are set for O’Bannon Park, also slowly, but hopefully surely. And it looks like a crosswalk is going in at College and 13th Street as part of the Monon extension work.
So, just in our relatively short nine years in the ONS, things have changed dramatically. We constantly move forward, building on the decades of work and patience by ONSers that have come before us. Like all progress, things take time. And patience. And money. These are the pains of growing. Things are dusty, and noisy, and sometimes stressful to deal with. Sometimes we wonder when it will be in the shape we want it in. And not unlike raising a child, in the end, it will all be worth it. And while we may not enjoy all the construction in the moment, and it might be taking a little longer than we’d like for that playground, we can, no doubt, look back a decade from now and reminisce about how things used to be different.
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