We celebrate our favorite neighborhoods — and neighbors — in our annual Family Favorite Neighborhood contest
When real estate agents talk about location, location, location, they mean tony zip codes, waterfront property, and high-ranking school districts. The rest of us focus on different things: the neighbor who snowblows the whole block, the older kids who take the younger ones under their wing, the dad who brings a whole thermos of coffee to the bus stop in the morning. Those are the things that truly drive up property values — at least, the value we put on our own homes and our own neighborhoods.
We got more than 50 nominations this year in our Family Favorite Neighborhood contest and nearly every one of them had a story to tell about people going out of their way to help. That adds up to a whole lot of great places to live and great neighbors.
Como Park, St. Paul
2008 Family Favorite Neighborhood
Elizabeth Arnstein has a particularly harrowing tale of how her neighborhood was put to the test. Last August, a straight-line windstorm blew across Como Lake and knocked down trees for many blocks. Power was out for several days.
“As soon as the sun was out, my husband and I got up and went outside,” she remembers, “and there were already neighbors congregated in the middle of the street talking about who had trees down. Within an hour and a half, everyone was helping take care of things. A neighbor with a chain saw was cutting up trees in the street. Someone else had massive damage to his roof and one neighbor lent tarps. Three people got up on the roof to attach them. Someone on another block who had electricity walked around pouring coffee for everyone.
“It still brings tears to my eyes to think how caring and how helpful everyone was to everyone else.”
Even before the storm blew through, Arnstein and her family knew they loved their neighborhood. They moved here six years ago from Minneapolis on the suggestion of an old friend, who is now a neighbor, and have never looked back. The active family fell hard for the 400-acre park just minutes from their front door. They walk, jog, bike, skate, sled, and ski together.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park is a particular draw. “We all love the conservatory,” Arnstein says. “On those cold, gray February days, it’s such a great place to go. There’s color and humidity and green and warmth in the middle of the cold.”
But sometimes even a walk around the block is enough to remind the Arnsteins why they love their neighborhood. “My husband and I still joke about the fact that it’s .8 miles around our whole block, but it takes 40 minutes to walk,” Elizabeth says. “Not because we’re slow walkers but because there are so many people to see. Even on the block up from us and down from us. It’s very social and very neighborly.”
When Sarah Krake’s family moved to her husband’s hometown of Minnetonka six years ago, they knew their move would mean good schools, quick access to shopping, and plenty of parks. But those aren’t the things Krake mentions today when talking about where she lives. “The people are the heart of our neighborhood,” says Krake. “I cherish and depend on the sense of community we have.” It is truly a community like no other: the school bus stop is a meeting place where neighbors catch up and kids play, seasonal parties are hosted at different houses throughout the year, and there’s even a neighborly book club that meets monthly. “Last year, we built a skating rink to have a winter gathering place,” explains Krake. “It’s one more place to build community as we sit around a bonfire in between turns on the ice.” A neighbor also takes charge of the annual Boy and Girl Scout sales by dividing the blocks into territories to eliminate competition. Even simple things, like a parent stepping in when Krake has scheduling conflicts or carpooling, are easy to come by here. “Whenever I get the urge to look for the house of my dreams, I remind myself that I can change my house, but never in my wildest dreams could I find another neighborhood like this.”
In August of 2007 the unthinkable happened to Andrea Blomberg and her three children, ages 7, 5, and 2: The sheriff came to the door with news that her husband had passed away. At the time, the Blombergs had been living in the small town of Morristown, just outside of Faribault, for less than two years — but that didn’t stop her new neighbors from taking action. “My neighbor across the street came right over and took my kids to his house, no questions asked,” says Blomberg. And it didn’t end there. All winter, Blomberg’s sidewalk was shoveled, several neighbors went door-to-door soliciting donations for the family, and offers of food and babysitting were endless. “There are people I barely knew and had not gotten to know yet,” explains Blomberg of the many Morristown residents that came to her aid. “Without such wonderful people surrounding me and my children, life would have been so much harder. I’m proud to live in a neighborhood that looks after each other.”