And suddenly, I feel the need to leave the 'burbs

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.

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5 Responses

  1. M says:

    Just remember if you make the move, there is a certain “grass is greener” mentality that sets in. Also, the model home deception. You fall in love with an image or presentation of what something is, but there is never the perfect community. You’ll do what is right for you and your family, but sometimes I have to remind myself when I have one of these whims that it may just be a moment of frustration.

    That said, I share your sentiment of suburbia manicuring to the point of losing personality. I really like the idea of a walking community. But what makes it appealing is the COMMUNITY part. It’s like the difference between just a house and a home. It will be fun to see where your whim takes you.

  2. Sara says:

    I LOOOOOVE Brookline! I used to spend tons of time there, sitting on this one stone wall…that’s another story, but I do love Brookline. I also love the Salt Lake farmer’s market. I could see wanting to live in either place.

  3. W says:

    I don’t want to dump too much on the burbs. In Utah they can have some great things to offer, if they’re things you want (closeness to the mountains and the consequent outdoor rec access) and you find the right enclave of people on your wavelength to enjoy as nearby neighbors. Plus, you know, your kids can have friends in walking distance.

    But Sandy… yeah. I often feel like it’s got the usual suburban problems you mention turned up above the average volume. And *your* part of Sandy is actually less cookie cutter and more convenient than some.

    Meanwhile, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate how much Salt Lake itself has to offer. I really didn’t expect it to come out favorably when I went on my wandering tour of half the US a few years back, but I was surprised. I’m sure some of it is just appreciating my home and I probably know more about the positive things that go on there just because I know people there. But I really think there’s some good, vibrant community there. If I were living in the Salt Lake valley, I’d try to get close in myself.

  4. Jesse says:

    I can’t buy into Sandy’s vision of good either. Given that the residents have been sending the same mayor back for two decades, one who measures the quality of life in sales tax revenues, I don’t see that changing either. The dynamics of living in a county-controlled enclave (and one that hates Sandy to boot), I don’t see a lot of options for subversive change.

  5. bbart76 says:

    I agree with one of the other comments, the grass is always greener on the other side. While I love living in SLC and many things are very close, we still drive. This might be because I grew up in WVC and driving is a way of life. I do need to bike more. As long as I live in along the Wasatch Front – I will only live in SLC

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