We’ve been living out in the suburbia of Sandy for almost 5 years now. During that time, I always thought that we had a pretty good thing going, an affordable house on a relatively large lot with a short drive to work, the grocery store, and anywhere else we needed to go on a routine basis. As I was driving home through the war zone that is 700 E (which, I might add, is part of a coordinated “tear up every major road at the same time” strategy that has persisted during our entire time here), something in me snapped. Part of the road construction included putting up decorative concrete sound walls, walls that stretch on for hundreds of feet separating neighborhoods from everything else. Something nasty happened: I realized that this kind of suburban sprawl was exactly what I left behind in the eviction process in Las Vegas. When comparing that with the walking-friendly neighborhood of Brookline, MA, I’m not entirely sure that I want to continue living in the suburbs.
Granted, there are some benefits to living here. We’re within a close drive of work, school, and a major shopping area. We have a very large yard and the neighborhood is quiet. But all the same, it’s starting to feel somewhat soulless, a collection of strip malls and cloned homes with very little personality. (Seriously, around half of the homes within a one mile radius use the same floor plan as ours.) When I go to downtown Salt Lake City, it feels alive. The Downtown Farmers Market draws in people of all stripes. There’s independent shops and restaurants. Everything is within a short walk of everything else with prolific bus and train service for anything further. This is the kind of experience we had in Brookline; the hospital, restaurants, grocery store, and train station were all within a half mile of us.
Something about that just felt right. Despite the isolated efforts of Hamlet Homes and Daybreak, the suburbs have a distinct cookie-cutter approach to town building that is unnatural and forces you to drive everywhere. I think it may be time to give Salt Lake City or its surrounding areas a second look.