As the Zoo Interchange project progresses, the danger may exist for us to lose sight of why we complain about what is happening around us: we enjoy where we live and want to protect what we have. I was told by one neighbor to be careful not to master the art of complaining lest I forget the positives, so I want to write about some of those positives now and in future articles. Today, I want to generally describe why my family lives in the neighborhood.
My mom was an MPS teacher, so my family moved here from another Milwaukee neighborhood in 1991. We barely knew the neighborhood existed, preferring to look for houses near Mount Mary or way up near Vincent High School. The South Side was not an option because of commuting distances, but we decided this Cannon Park area had potential, even though it was mostly unknown. Over the past twenty years, however, it has become well known to me and I think I can give plenty of reasons why I bought the house from my parents.
We can afford it. Even though I don’t have to live in Milwaukee because I work for the city or anything, I choose to stay here because the housing is fairly affordable, at least compared to the best alternatives. When Lisa and I moved here from West Allis, she was teaching in Wauwatosa and I was in Menomonee Falls. We could not afford houses with as much space in those communities. We could find large houses in West Allis or the Northwest Side of Milwaukee, but I’d lived in Milwaukee long enough to know better.
The statistics suggest (trulia.com) the average house in our neighborhood costs $145,000 as opposed to $250,000 Ravenswood. Ravenswood acts as a buffer on one side of us, plus it’s nice to walk through. Even if all city employees are allowed to leave Milwaukee, this neighborhood is protected by Wauwatosa and its proximity to major employers and colleges as to protect property value. Basically, it’s an affordable and fairly safe investment.
Speaking of safety, the Cannon Park neighborhood, and specifically the area I live in north of Bluemound, is safe in regards to crime. I’ve looked at the map overlays provided by the MPD and other sources, and we consistently do well. This is impressive for several reasons:
it’s a mixed-use neighborhood, unlike residential-only, so you tend to expect some thefts
it’s a college neighborhood, with over 25% of the population enrolled full time as students, depending on the season
it’s a “starter home” neighborhood for use by college students or residents
we have a fairly high percentage of rental units
public transportation exists
the police presence is almost non-existent
Sure, some things have happened, but when I lived on 81st and Townsend thirty years ago, Mrs. Seif’s house got broken into three times in ten years and we dealt with constant vandalism in the alley.
In a wider view of safety, besides the sudden influx of huge trucks, the entire region is safe from earthquake, flooding, tornado, hurricane, and wildfire. I have appreciated this fact during my recent search for new employment. On top of that, I have absolutely refused to look at jobs anywhere with an impending water crisis.
The diversity of the neighbors in this neighborhood is good for our family and for those neighbors. I grew up in an area with a lot of young families AND retired individuals. That’s a great mix, even if most suburbs never start out that way. This neighborhood has a great mix of age, race, economic status, and education. You have to be a little careful what you say without having to be too careful about your surroundings. We’re not all hanging out on the front porches being rowdy or hiding in the seclusion of our wooded five-acre lots. In fact this neighborhood represents about as close to William Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia as you’d normally find in a city or suburb today, in that we all have space for a garden and to have a yard, but it’s not huge tracts of wasted land.
The walkability of our neighborhood ranks pretty well when compared to residential-only suburbs. Here is our walkability index provided by walkscore.com:
“53 - Somewhat Walkable
Some errands can be accomplished on foot.
42 Some Transit
A few nearby public transportation options.”
We have some walkability and some transit. Compare this to downtown:
“84 - Very Walkable
Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
71 - Excellent Transit
Transit is convenient for most trips.”
So downtown is better? That depends on if you like being right on top of everyone else. Most utopian views of the world do not include high-rise apartments. Most planned communities, like Seaside, CA or Celebration, Florida have some apartments and some single-family homes, and mixed use, like our area.
If you want to drive everywhere, then move to Delafield with my in-laws. Their neighborhood:
“1 - Car-Dependent
Almost all errands require a car.”
They’d also get a 0 - No public transit.
We can walk to a grocery store, several restaurants and small businesses, a major hospital, two colleges, two parks, and the zoo. Lisa even likes to walk to the village in Tosa nd State Fair Park. That’s pretty impressive. The Hank Aaron trail expands our range to the stadium and downtown on one end, and eventually Waukesha or further on the other end. That’s also impressive.
Yes, we can also drive, and driving downtown takes less than fifteen minutes. Other places that can be reached in twenty minutes or less include the lakefront, the festivals, Whitnall Park, the airport, five malls, and the list goes on, literally, and it’s because of living at the most-traveled interchange in the state. When the highway is working for us, it’s very convenient, and it can be seen as a great reason to live here. For example, when my family moved here, it shaved ten minutes off our trips to traveling to Fond du Lac and Watertown without being any closer to either location.
All in all, Lisa and I could have moved to other places when we were in the market, but the Cannon Park neighborhood I was familiar with was a good choice because we did not want to get saddled with unbearable mortgage payments in a newly-developed neighborhood with no trees and less personality. We didn’t want houses in 50 shades of tan with garages as their main feature, but we also didn’t want the hustle and bustle of being downtown or on the East Side. We wanted parking in front of our own house and places to walk to without worrying about who was walking into our house when we were away.
Again, the most important fact to remember in your complaining is that we are not complaining about something inevitable and unchanging, like those who live by the airport complaining about plane noise or people who build next to a farm complaining about the way cows smell. We also need to remember that complaining alone will not make changes unless we are willing to propose solutions. If you have ideas, let me know. I can publish your articles and others can take a look. Start a Facebook page or volunteer to help affect change in some way. Sometimes it works to ask the neighbor to stop parking the oil-leaking car in front of your house or to stop parking the Toyota in the front lawn, but sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe we can’t get every construction truck to use alternate routes, but we can ask, and the reason we ask is because we have set a standard for our neighborhood we want to maintain.