On Suburban Grit

One of the goals of our website is to promote attractive urban design for new proposals.  In contrast, the older areas of the inner city already have charm, even in the back alleys and neglected infrastructure (frequently captured by former Indianapolis blogger Matt Heidelberger.)  Urban Indy wouldn’t exist as a site without a shared love for the new and the old.

But what about the in-between, the inner-ring suburban grit?  Can it be beautiful?  I believe it really depends on your definition of beauty.  From an exterior design aspect, older suburban areas will always be fighting an uphill battle.  They’re likely going to be set back from the street, fronted by asphalt,  framed by utility poles and wires.  Fortunately, the setbacks aren’t as generous as provided by the Big Box stores, and places such as 30th and Lafayette can still seem somewhat urban and walkable in character.

Then there is the other, more personal beauty.  The beauty provided by the people who have left their homelands and started a restaurant to provide for their families, connected to a market filled to the brim with items from their country.  The beauty of taking over an abandoned Taco Bell and cooking inexpensive food with an obvious pride.   The most likely place for this type of beauty to occur is in an inner-ring suburban area.

We can’t build this type of beauty, yet it is happening all around the city.  The beauty that has to be felt instead of seen.   I need to remember this the next time I grumble about all that asphalt.

Comments 4

  • Thanks for this thoughtful little post. I feel exactly the same way. The kind of determination seen in the Lafayette/38th area and in parts of Pendleton Pike make me believe in Capra-esque notions of the American dream. There are people living really amazing lives, with bold ideas of who they can be, and transforming areas to create new beauty.

  • It can be inspiring to see people gutting a living out in these areas with apparently less to work with from an investment stand point. It would be nice to see some policy changes put in place to help improve these places. After all, retaining and nurturing your population, leads to more people wanting to become part of that population!

  • One of the nice things about driving on local streets is going at a slow enough speed to actually notice the different styles of homes and imagining the businesses that once occupied the brick buildings on the corners. Very little is obvious to those who take the Interstate downtown.

  • I find myself adventuring out to these places for great, cheap and honest food quite a bit. It put’s things in perspective of a true American Dream actually lived out by many people vs. the ‘idyllic american dream’ that has left many Americans in a state of confusion during this time of de/recession. All I can think is ‘Poetic Justice’ maybe?

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