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Kelly Wickham is an assistant principal at a magnet school for technology in the Midwest. She authors Mocha Momma Has Something To Say for Babble and maintains a personal blog at Mocha Momma where she writes a lifestyle blog that includes personal stories about being a single mom, stories about race, and tales from her educational adventures. Originally from Chicago, Kelly lives in Springfield, IL with her boyfriend, The Cuban, and two of her four children.

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Would You Live Here?

By Kelly Wickham |

I have something to say about a slice of Americana: I want a piece. Before I get into that, let me assure you that I’m not unhappy with my home. In fact, it’s the nicest, most well laid-out home I have ever lived in, and I chose it specifically for that purpose. On my laundry list of things I wanted in a house I put things that were previously in opposition to something to either drove me crazy in another house or put things that I liked about places I’ve lived. The former was a much longer list. Here are a few of the things that I wanted:

  • a 2-story home with the washer and dryer on the second level (because who wants to drag all those dirty-then-clean clothes up flights of stairs when it could be close to where you actually get dressed)
  • a large kitchen where an open floor plan would accommodate the living space as well
  • a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom

 

As luck would have it, I found that perfect house and I enjoy it thoroughly. There were things that weren’t an absolute necessity like a Jacuzzi tub in the master bath that still made this choice that much better, but generally speaking I needed a bedroom that I would like spending time in and a living space that made family time comfortable. My neighborhood gets high marks for getting voted Best Neighborhood in our local independent newspaper, and we are close to all the things we want. Even our neighbors are lovely people. If I had one complaint that would make it more appealing I would want a close-knit community that made it possible to walk to restaurants for those lazy summer evenings where you can visit shops along the way. Basically, I would want a walking community.

Yesterday, I actually stumbled upon one while I was out on a drive with The Cuban. We determined that, with an empty house for once, we wanted to be out of it and go exploring. “Take me on an adventure!” I declared after our coffee together. So, he did. We ended up in Missouri, which is only about 90 miles away from home, and happened upon New Town, a community about 7 years old.

Talk about your slice of Americana! New Town, very near to St. Louis, is a planned community called “new urbanism” that is a revival of the lost art of walkable communities designed to envelope a plan with a variety of houses as well as businesses. And, yes, it’s just like the movie The Truman Show depicts. The new urbanism community in Seaside, Florida was the setting for that movie and New Town is based on that.

I’ll be honest: it was a hot, muggy day and I didn’t feel like walking around in a place that oddly seemed like a ghost town since very few residents were out and about. In fact, I remarked several times that it was a little “creepy” even though the few people we met were amiable. Naturally, The Cuban and I kept making jokes about similarities to The Truman Show, but in the end we visited the office and met with a sales agent who even showed us one of the open houses. But, let me be honest about this, too: we daydreamed about moving there and living in a community that was close-knit even if the houses were extremely close to one another. The business district was closed by the time we got around to it and there was a restaurant that had been repossessed by the bank and we dreamed aloud about buying it and opening up, well, something. Could it be a breakfast place or maybe we could serve tapas? Maybe it could be a sandwich shop for the locals needing some lunch? There were endless possibilities and we tried to come up with all of them on our walk through the town.

The biggest difference, it seemed, between Seaside and New Town is diversity. This is a deal breaker for us and when I searched the Seaside website it was all white. We asked the agent for the demographics of New Town even though we saw some diversity for ourselves. She said about 10% Asian and 10% were Black and we actually saw that in the few people who were roaming about yesterday. The perfect blend is going to be hard to define, but I do want a mixed population of ethnicity, religion, and age ranges in which to live. I suppose the perfect community wouldn’t have a majority anything. We didn’t see any Buddhist or Jewish temples or even a B’hai faith presence and those are things that I grew up with that I still want as part of my community. In fact, we only saw 2 churches and having no other kinds of faith buildings concerns me as much as other kinds of diversity.

Would you want to live in a place like this? Does it seem weird to want a slice of that Americana that once existed in the United States? Or am I just too deep into this pipe dream to see it?

Check out the slideshow below to view some of the pictures we took.

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Just Like the Truman Show

Perfect Americana

One of the lovely homes we saw. There were lots of wraparound porches and they all seemed to welcome us.

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About Kelly Wickham

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Kelly Wickham

Kelly Wickham is an assistant principal at a magnet school for technology in the Midwest. She authors Mocha Momma Has Something To Say for Babble and maintains a personal blog, Mocha Momma, that includes personal stories about being a single mom, stories about race, and tales from her educational adventures. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelly's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Would You Live Here?

  1. ClumberKim says:

    We have a neighborhood a little like this in Pittsburgh, http://summersetatfrickpark.com/ Friends who live there love it, and the final phase is under construction. We considered it, but realized we needed a larger lot for our dogs.

    While I love the porches, I rarely see anyone on them when I drive through. I don’t see a lot of people outside at all. Maybe it’s just bad timing on my part.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I live in New Town and have since 2005. The reason it reminds you so much of Seaside is because it was designed by the same group. I’ve actually had the privilege to meet the design team that helped Whittaker Homes. I really appreciate your thoughts on NT and am curious of non-residents or st. Charles people’s view of the neighborhood, especially since I’ve lived for most of the town’s existence.
    I have to tell you, probably the reason you didn’t see many residence hanging out outside was because it as the hottest week of the year at 110 degree tempurates. Tonight however was swarming with kids riding bike, volleyball games, people walking their dogs, etc…
    The diversity question always comes up… You’re far from the first person to question it. First, what needs to be addressed is this town has only been around for. 7 years. At first it wasn’t even a town, it has grown as people have moved in. No city became big overnight. It’s impossible to believe that a developer could build a church of every denomonation under the idea “if they will it, they will come”. Residence and neighboring developments have to have an interest as well. STL had one of the highest Jewish populations in the US, mo one is going to build a Jewish temple without a congregation. NT does have a nondenominational church that is used for many different services. Also, you may have been looking only at race and religion. There are a lot of same sex families here who have moved from the city to raise their families, people from different economical backgrounds, different states, different political views. Some of the businesses have closed, but take a walk down any main street and the story remains the same.

    What I’m trying to say is, diverse communities became that way over decades, not single digit years. We welcome new people here and hope that it will lead to a bigger and better community.

  3. Jaelithe says:

    The biggest problem with trying to find diversity in New Town is that it’s in St. Charles. St. Charles is a pretty little historic river town that these days has swelled to a sprawling suburb largely made up of white people who fled my part of town — North St. Louis County — to escape diversity.

    What I would love is if some of those people investing in building Pleasantvilles on the fringe of suburban sprawl would instead think about making communities like the one I live in more liveable by putting in sidewalks and community cafes. Hell, in Hazelwood, we’d settle for a grocery store.

    Still I’ll admit I’ve been tempted by New Town, too. I read an article once about so me of the community there coming together to create community food gardens in some of the empty green spaces between homes and it just seemed so . . . pleasant.

  4. [...] like to see what we’re doing at Summer Camp. And go over to my Babble Voices page and check out the creepy little town that The Cuban and I found over the weekend. Cute, but [...]

  5. Nicole P. says:

    I love the idea of walkable communities. But I don’t think building new neighborhoods in the new urbanism model is the way to go. It just adds to sprawl. I’d like to see a re-zoning of current neighborhoods to allow for sidewalks and businesses alongside residential areas. Multi-family housing would be another good addition and a way to ensure diversity, at least with SES.

    All that said, New Town is cute!

  6. Deb Rox says:

    Neighborhood design fascinates me. We have many such designs in Florida, but unfortunately they all seem to miss the central point of community living that you’ll see in some of the more progressive neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest that are more connected to Scandinavian experiments in community design. My friends who have bought in to the one in Tallahassee were all disappointed here, and Seaside is actually heartbreaking in it’s facade/there’s no there there-ness. The homes look great and the concept is stellar. But if the builders are buyers are more enamored with the control/gated feel of their hood than the community life-sharing aspects, the neighborhood ends up feeling like a movie set that tamps down true diverse life. Is the neighborhood group more concerned with controlling what color porch furniture you buy or how to foster community interactions might be the questions a buyer wants to ask, you know?

  7. This thread of comments has been my favorite to read and the ones on my Facebook post of the link to this article have, too. Everyone else seems to be getting the point of, as Deb Rox put it, “there’s no there there-ness” and that community isn’t manufactured. That said, I will be looking into the Scandinavian community design. I’d love to see one that actually works, but also one that isn’t what Jaelithe described, too: one in which people are actually escaping diversity.

    Thank you all for giving me such great things to ponder.

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