In 2008 the City Pages voted the Riverview Café as Best Place to Meet Other Parents. That very year the Minneapolis Public Schools elected to close Howe, an elementary school located one block away. How tone-deaf, I thought at the time. The school board should have read the City Pages and they’d have chosen to leave it open, perhaps even forecast the potential of great neighborhood amenities nearby to result in future enrollment.
The good news is Howe has since reopened due to rising enrollment in this part of the district, but it gets at that chicken and egg question about what makes a great neighborhood. (Here’s a joke: the chicken and egg were lying in bed smoking a cigarette and the chicken said, “well, I guess that answers that question.”) Are young parents attracted to schools first or other amenities? Does having one lead to the other or vice-versa? Let’s just say it is nice when both exist, which is not only why the Kingfield neighborhood wins this year’s Streets.mn 2013 Best Neighborhood for Young Families but also why the competition from other neighborhoods is so good in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Think about it. Nokomis, Longfellow (home of the Riverview Café), Kingfield, Linden Hills, Hamline/Midway, Mac-Groveland (St. Paul’s winner) and Highland all have some combination of schools, open space, coffee shops, restaurants, famers markets, walkability, bikeability, transit access and proximity to downtown that draw parents seeking a good urban life. I live in Standish/Ericsson, and while I’m quite biased (and demand a recount!), I also understand the attraction to all of these wonderful neighborhoods (note: our very own Lake Hiawatha Playground was voted best playground) for many different reasons. Visit restaurants in any of these neighborhoods and you’ll find a shortage of high chairs. This is a very healthy competition, and one not just restricted to the neighborhoods I’ve mentioned.
So Kingfield. What better way to better understand why Kingfield attracts young families than do a little exploring. I started with a wonderful burger and beer at the Lowbrow – show up early, evidence of a high chair shortage. I have not yet been to the Kingfield Farmers Market, but it’s on the list. My seven-year-old son is taking a day-long class at Leonardo’s Basement where he’ll learn how to build more things out of Legos (is there any better contributor to his quality of life? No.). Anodyne and Butter rival the Riverview Café and many other city coffee shops/cafes for family-friendly urban gathering spots. Don’t forget longstanding restaurant favorite Curran’s. You see, the list is too long – just visit Kingfield and see for yourself.
A city without children is dying. The excellent news in all of this is the city of Minneapolis (and its twin, St. Paul) has plenty of neighborhoods that are great for young families. But we must keep our eye on the ball. Ideally, schools in popular neighborhoods will stay open and continue to provide a great education for urbanites. Even with good school choices, not all parents will stay. Let’s hope most do, and continue to bring their kids to farmers markets, coffee shops, out drinkin’, to the playground and do so not entirely dependent on un upgrade to a minivan. Here’s to Kingfield and all the other great neighborhoods in our city.
Funny, my wife and I were on the house hunt for the better part of this past year, and we both absolutely love the Kingfield neighborhood. Oddly enough though, after giving pretty much every neighborhood in south and southwest Mpls (plus some of Highland StP, Fern Hill SLP, and a few others) we eventually ruled out Kingfield as a place to raise kids.
1. A huge portion of the neighborhood is within 500 meters of 35W. Anybody who has studied the effects of airborne fine particulate matter from highways on the respiratory development (and furthermore, cognitive development) of children wouldn’t want to live that close to a 10 lane super highway.
2. No decent parks. MLK Jr is the only park in Kingfield, and you have to cross Nicollet to get to it, and isn’t exactly a banner park in the Mpls Park system. Plus it’s proximity to 35W doesn’t help. I know we’re spoiled in Minneapolis, and in any other city, there would be nothing wrong with this park situation.
3. The schools are pretty good, but not the best in the city.
The Kingfield Farmers Market is one of the best in the city for sure, and very kid friendly. Lowbrow and others are very good restaurants. But we just couldn’t find ourselves living there with children.
Much of the family growth and family friendly amenities in the city has been accelerated by those of us on the Bought High, Need To Wait For Market Rebound housing philosophy in place since 2007.
I believe there will be a decline in the number of families looking to raise kids in the city once the housing markets fully rebound. Being young and hip in the city is different than trying to raise a family in 1100 square feet and one bathroom. It simply may make a lot of familial sense for many to move out of the city as their nest has grown beyond what the city can support and keep family affordable.
Watching my neighborhood, Buy High Wait for Rebound is in full effect and another year or two may finally encourage those of originally a couple, but now a family of four caught by the housing crash to migrate out to larger, or more convenient, housing and better school districts.
On the flip side, if those families can be convinced to stay, their “strength in family” has made the city a more family friendly place to live and to receive education and will probably continue to do so…..
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