In Praise of Neighborhoods

My husband, Jim, and I spent last weekend with friends in New Orleans, which we consider not only to be a city of incredible restaurants and festivals but also a city of neighborhoods that absolutely pulsate with life.

New Orleans' Iberville Projects

Inspired by the new HBO series Treme, we set off to visit the community which is said to have given birth to some of our country’s finest jazz and blues musicians. Our first discovery,  just west of Treme, was the Iberville Projects. While their ongoing presence on what many locals consider some prime real estate is the subject of not a little controversy, the well-kept dwellings are some of the finest Depression-era multi-family architecture we had ever seen:  clay tile roofs, handsome iron balconies, six-over-six windows and set-backs that made the large buildings feel less imposing.

Treme itself turned out to be much less gritty than we expected. As the country’s oldest African American neighborhood, it seems to have fared far better than Montgomery’s own landmark African American community, Centennial Hill, where the rich stock of shotguns and bungalows is pock-marked by derelict properties controlled but ignored by absentee owners.

The excursion got me to thinking about Montgomery’s wonderful neighborhoods and how we often take them — and what they have accomplished — for granted. Cottage Hill has fought valiantly and frequently won battles against uncaring owners and demolition by neglect.  Both Capitol Heights and the South Hull District have, without skipping a beat, become richly multi-racial and multi-cultural. The Garden District worked with public officials some years ago to create Bellinger Hill Park, which has of late become a favorite haunt for dog-lovers from all over Midtown.

Old Cloverdale, with its biannual tour of homes, Christmas tree lighting in the park, and ferocious dog-with-a-bone willingness to take on any entity that threatens the character of its historic district, provides a model for neighborhood leaders all over the city. And Greater McGehee Estates has just unveiled a new web site worthy of any commercial business.

The City is certainly doing its part by providing professional guidance to residents of King Hill, Five Points and the West Fairview areas so that they — the residents and not the professionals — can articulate their visions for what they want their somewhat beleaguered neighborhoods can become. The plans can be viewed on the City of Montgomery’s web site. It will be absolutely fabulous to watch the dreams of those residents become a reality!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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