Whenever I go to a different city I always try to find some visual sign of the ARTS. A few weeks ago I was in Topeka, Kansas. I am fairly familiar with Topeka, the amazing mural, sculpture and architectural work at the Capital building. Have met a few of the local artists involved with the Great Mural Project and attended a number of meetings while a Kansas ART Commissioner before our Governor decided that the ARTS aren’t important any more – but we won’t go there. Anyway, I have heard a great deal about the NOTO District, an ART district in an older and less revered area of North Topeka.
Heading north on Kansas from downtown you cross over the river and at the first stop light you have the option of turning right to Little Russia and a visit to Porsbky’s Deli and Tavern or left to the NOTO District. Since it was Saturday I knew Porsbky’s was closed so it was left to the NOTO District. Another left on Kansas takes you into the heart of NOTO. It was around 0800 hrs on Saturday so there wasn’t a lot of street action but there was a popular Cafe, a Flea Market and a Carnival shop preparing for the business day.
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Thought I would share my view of my neighborhood. Like most urban neighborhoods that have been around for a 100 years or more there is a lot of variation in housing stock and a mix of residential and commercial zoning. We have properties that have constantly been maintained one generation to the next and properties that have seen better days due to neglect. Rental properties, a few abandoned houses, houses tied up in estate battles, a few deteriorating buildings and some just waiting for the right owner to give it new life.
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There are a lot of reasons and ideas about what makes a neighborhood sustainable. Amenities – grocery stores, retail shops, good schools, entertainment venues and places of faith. Bike paths, parks, public safety, neighborhood associations, coffee shops, good government and even free lunches. Many of the things just mentioned can make a neighborhood a great place to live but do they make them sustainable?
If that is true then that means that all of those things have to be in place all of the time. That means that things don’t change but based on my own experience change is the only constant in these urban neighborhoods. New highways spring up all of the time, sometimes cutting neighborhoods in half, dividing communities and separating neighbors. Strip malls spring up hoping to lure highway traffic but they often take business away from neighborhood stores or become a rotating assortment of failed storefronts. So new construction isn’t always the answer.
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