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Spreadsheets vs. Intuition: How to Choose a Neighborhood

How do you choose a neighborhood to move to? Ian and Tim took very different approaches. Did they both end up in places they like? Listen in on their discussion, moderated by Sherry Johnson!

Episode chapters & links

00:00 | Intro
01:37 | Tell us about your move
06:22 | What drew you to that neighborhood?
09:42 | How do you move car-free?
Ian moving a couch by bike trailer
14:10 | Spending time with friends and family
18:57 | What are you most enjoying in your new place?
The Warm Showers episode that Ian’s Mailwaukee Ave neighbor was on
21:41 | Parklet
Roman Mars TED Talk about flag design
CGP Grey grades state flags
Minnesota sticker with the new flag oriented vertically
Lazer loon lives on
30:12 | Any regrets?
35:21 | How has this move changed your life?
39:47 | What advice would you give?
Ian’s spreadsheet
50:59 | Pitch for your neighborhood
52:15 | Outro


Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was produced and transcribed by Sherry Johnson, and was edited by Jeremy Winter. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.


Ian: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am your host, Ian R Buck. Today we’re going to talk about moving within the Twin Cities. This is a follow up to our episode on June 30th about how moving to the Twin Cities went with Sarah Johnson from Car Free Midwest. Our host for today is not going to be me. It’s Sherry Johnson, who’s just joined our team after writing a few pieces for the website, Sherry is joining us from the Summit Hill neighborhood in St. Paul to moderate a lively discussion between myself and longtime Streets.mn Editor Tim Marino. Tim and I have recently swapped places in the Twin Cities. I moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis. Tim moved from Brooklyn Center to St. Paul. I thought this would be kind of a fun conversation about how we how we decided to do that.

Sherry: [00:01:05] Indeed. Hey, it’s Sherry, and hey, how are you doing tonight?

Ian: [00:01:10] Doing well.

Tim: [00:01:11] Good. I’m good. I had a beautiful bike ride from West Bank. I did not realize that on a 20th Avenue coming towards like Franklin, they have that little protected spot. And then it goes behind one of the bus stops, the–

Ian: [00:01:24] The two-way bike lane?

Tim: [00:01:25] Yeah! I haven’t seen that since I’ve been over there last. Maybe it just was there, and I just missed it or something. But it was just cool. Like every time I’m in Minneapolis, I see new protected bike infrastructure, and I love it.

Sherry: [00:01:37] Yeah, I had a similar feeling rolling over here from St. Paul as well. So okay: The two of you have both moved in the last year. You’ve moved within the Twin Cities. Give us the basics. 1) Which neighborhood did you move from and to? What prompted this move?

Tim: [00:01:53] I came from Brooklyn Center near the transit center over there. Which is nice, because I had a couple different BRT lines and other stuff there. And before that, I was in Minneapolis for a decent amount of time. But really, what prompted the move, honestly, was just rent raising. And I’m like: Do I really want to pay more for this spot I already have complaints about? I probably could have been fine if they kept it stable, but I’m just like, Okay, we’re getting ridiculous here.

Ian: [00:02:21] So were your complaints with that spot like the location or the building that you were in, specifically?

Tim: [00:02:28] I think there definitely was some spots about the location, but there was also a lot with the building. We did not get the worst of it in our spot, but there were neighbors who–like, the sewage pipe from the basement flooded through the hallway and went all the way into their unit.

Ian: [00:02:44] That’s never good.

Tim: [00:02:44] Yeah, I don’t want to know what the smell was like in there for the next week or two.

Sherry: [00:02:49] I am really sorry to hear that.

Tim: [00:02:50] Yeah, and I was like: That didn’t happen yet to us, but there were also a whole other different situations like that. And I’m just like, We’re just playing with time here, and you want more money for this, and you can’t even do the maintenance. There was a notice on the front of our building for three months from Brooklyn Center, that was like, This place is not authorized to rent anymore…Something like that…And the building was like, Oh no, it’s fine. We just had to do an inspection. They kept sending inspectors over there, and it just stayed there. And I’m like, So are we gonna get evicted, or what’s gonna happen? So I was like, Yeah, I’m kind of ready to move from there. And so I ended up moving to Dayton’s Bluff in St. Paul.

Sherry: [00:03:31] My alma mater neighborhood.

Tim: [00:03:34] Yeah, right up the hill from downtown–emphasis on up the hill, as I’m biking up that hill! Many times.

Sherry: [00:03:39] Yes. Mm-hmm,

Tim: [00:03:41] But yeah, pretty much right at the top of the hill.

Sherry: [00:03:43] Yeah. And, Ian, how about you?

Ian: [00:03:45] Well, I think that’s a great place to start my story, because I grew up in Dayton’s Bluff, and when I graduated from college, I moved into my parents’ second house that they still have not been able to sell yet. (Thanks, housing market crash of 2007 or whatever.) Anyway, so, I was living up on the East Side, and the first move that I did within the Twin Cities was in 2017, moving from Dayton’s Bluff to Frogtown. And the main reason for that was because the East Side of St. Paul is a great place to be, but it’s really hard to get anywhere else from there. Whether you’re biking, there’s only four routes to get between Dayton’s Bluff and any other neighborhood. If you’re taking transit, you are looking at one of two half-an-hour frequency bus routes to get into downtown and then a long transfer to any other route to get to any other part of town. So fleeing that restriction was the initial reason for moving away from the East Side. And then this year, I moved from Frogtown over here to Seward, and that was much more of a pull factor in Minneapolis rather than a push actor from St. Paul. I love the Frogtown neighborhood; it’s is a great place. Very walkable, all kinds of things within easy distance of my house. Very affordable, as well. But I was realizing that all of the friends who I was spending time with–who I was hanging out at a bonfire until like 10 p.m. It was always in Uptown or Kingfield. And then I was looking at an hour-long bike ride to get home post bedtime. And that was just getting… I can’t do that three times a week.

Sherry: [00:05:39] So if you want to hang out with the cool kids you have to live in Seward.

Ian: [00:05:42] Well, so here’s the thing, right? I consider the Uptown neighborhood itself to be a little bit overrated, but also, there are a lot of people who I want to hang out with who live there. So I realized, like, Oh, I’m not going to be able to convince them all to move over towards, like, Midway/Frogtown. At the same time, I’m going to have to move closer to them. So Seward seemed like kind of a good…The Seward/Longfellow/Phillips area was my initial spot where I started looking because I didn’t want to be way far away from my parents. And I still have a few friends over in St. Paul, as well. But, getting closer to the West Metro.

Sherry: [00:06:22] So, Tim, how about you? We heard about where you were from. Now, where are you moving to? Where have you moved to? What’s drawn you to that place?

Tim: [00:06:31] So, interestingly enough, one of the reasons why I chose Dayton’s Bluff was the transit access from there. I think maybe they changed a little bit, but where I’m at, I’m within a three-block walk of the 63, the 61, the 54 and the 74. Now, granted, the 61 and the 54 always run back-to-back, and it irks me to no end. Because I’m like, If you could stagger it a little bit, you could have better frequency! But still, there are a lot of good options, and honestly, a lot of the time I just bomb my bike down the hill and catch the buses at 5th or 6th Street or something. But yeah, it was really just nice to be able to have multiple options for going different directions. A lot of times where I’ve lived on transit corridors, it’s like, Okay, you can go this way pretty easily in the other direction of it, but it’s like, Are you really able to go north, south, east, west in that same way? Now there are still some limitations, due to being Downtown. There is that pull factor to Downtown. So little cross-town (trips) can be a little more difficult. But that was what put it in the higher echelon of choices. So how we did our apartment hunting–me and my girlfriend–I was just like, These are areas where I would want to be transit free. You pick how it looks; you pick the neighborhood and stuff like that. And so, I was looking at some spots both on the West Side or West and East St. Paul. I was looking at some spots in Midway, some places in Uptown. There was some other places that I’m blanking out… Frogtown, actually.

Sherry: [00:08:05] Um, what did… I just want to ask you, did this involve getting out a bus map? I mean, what exactly was involved in this process?

Tim: [00:08:12] Yeah, but also, I do that a lot regularly. I’m just a transit nerd. So, yeah, it just was an element of like, Okay, where are the places where routes are concentrated and that I can really find an easy way to get to things? And so a lot of the other spots, I was like, Oh, I’ll look for this. But then more and more I just kept coming back to Dayton’s Bluff. I have family that’s somewhat close to there in South St. Paul and then near Rice Street, and so it’s easy to go on either side from there. I got friends who are on Maryland. Another one’s on Randolph, and I’m like, It’s kind of nice there, and it’s low key in a way that still gets you close to downtown, but also has a ton of connections to different ethnic grocery stores and stuff. So I can switch up a little cooking and stuff there. And I’ve really enjoyed it a lot.

Ian: [00:09:00] And I imagine, once your girlfriend is looking at the aesthetics of an area, Dayton’s Bluff is really going to shine in that regard as well. There’s some really awesome old houses up there.

Sherry: [00:09:11] Yeah.

Tim: [00:09:12] Yeah. And especially for like the same cost we were looking at, the spots in Uptown–the neighborhood was really good, but a lot of the things, I’m just like, Comparing the same level of property to there? There is a bit of a drop off because Uptown is more of a place where people want to spend on it. So you’re going to have that difference there. And then there was definitely one spot I really wanted to look at. And then when we went there, it was like three broken windows in there, and I’m like, Okay, I guess I’m not.

Sherry: [00:09:40] So this was in Dayton’s Bluff?

Tim: [00:09:42] It actually wasn’t in Dayton’s Bluff, that spot. It was near the Blue Line, and it was the spot I was looking at. I was like, Okay, there’s two spots in Dayton’s Bluff that I was looking at, or this one spot near the light rail, and then the one near there, I was like super excited. I’m like, Yeah, we’re gonna go see it. It’s gonna be great. And then the moment we pull off in the backyard, she just looks at it and she’s just like, I mean, we’re here, so we’re gonna do the tour

Sherry: [00:09:42] Oh, that’s too bad. So I just want to ask: Both of you are car-lite or car free. How did your actual moving process take place?

Ian: [00:10:14] I am not just like car free, but also a year ago–two years ago–on my birthday, when my license was set to expire, I was like, Well, this seems like a good time to really make that commitment. And I was like, I’ll just let it expire. So I do not have a license at all. I track how long I can go without ever getting into a car. So, I go pretty hardcore on this. And my moving day was the first time in that entire time, since I got rid of my license, that I regretted not having a license on that day. Because we were borrowing my parents’ van to move all of the furniture. So that was way up on the East Side of St. Paul. And I had a bunch of friends lined up who were willing to help me move all of my stuff, and only one of them was available to pick up the van from the East Side. And then she was having car trouble on that day, so it was like, suddenly things were not lined up, and I had to scramble a little bit to find somebody else who could hop on a bus with me, go all the way to the East Side of St. Paul, grab a van, come back to Seward. Yeah. So, yeah, it was borrowing a van for me. If that wasn’t available, we would have rented from Menards or something. Get a pickup truck or whatever.

Sherry: [00:11:41] Gotcha.

Tim: [00:11:42] And I definitely cheated and did the U-Haul. But there was a time where after we had most of our stuff, there was a few things left and a couple few things needed to be cleaned up. So for that time, I actually made it a mission because I was like, I want one of those little push carts that people get  their groceries with on the bus and stuff. I went to like three places, and none of them had it. And so, I ended up taking some bus routes I never did and went out to Crystal and then up to, like, Brooklyn Park and everything, and just bounced around everywhere. Like, One of these places are gonna do it on the bus! And then I finally found it, and then I took the last few things back. And it was completely–really jank–throwing it in there, I had a garbage bin and then a couple light bulbs and shades sticking out, and then some random stuff. And I just was completely just trying to maneuver around the bus. (And thank you to a couple people who helped when a few things dropped off. Shout out to them. Community on the bus.) But yeah, so I did that for that little thing, but there was no way that–I don’t think that was gonna happen car-free. My girlfriend, she still drives regularly and when I’m going out with her, something like that, usually we end up driving. But for my own trips, I’m going for it, you know? But I definitely think that it it makes sense for (moving), because I don’t know how I would have figured out how to move a couch. I’m sure there is some amazing bike person who is going to be like, Yo, if you just break it down like this and you stack it like eight feet high…

Ian: [00:13:15] Oh, he’s sitting across the table from you.

Tim: [00:13:18] Literally! Right there!

Ian: [00:13:19] So most of the furniture that’s in this, uh, apartment right now, we moved on that day on on my move-in day.

Sherry: [00:13:25] Folks, I am looking at a couch and a table, and a desk…

Ian: [00:13:28] I didn’t own that couch yet.

Sherry: [00:13:30] Oh, I see.

Ian: [00:13:31] So that was… I purchased that at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, which is just a few blocks down from here. And I had recently gotten a burly flatbed trailer, and I was like, Well, this is a perfect way to really break in the trailer. And, uh, yeah, that’s not the largest item that I’ve ever moved by bike. Yeah, it probably is the largest, but it wasn’t the hardest.

Sherry: [00:13:31] Oh my goodness.

Ian: [00:13:54] A mattress was harder because mattresses are just awkward.

Sherry: [00:13:57] Okay, okay, for those listening, if you are interested in moving without a car, we welcome your comments and may have a future episode completely devoted to moving without a car. So what was that like from your friends’ perspective? You both talked about the communitarian aspects of having to move. You moved for your friends and family. You moved with your friends and family. So what does that look like for them?

Ian: [00:14:23] I think, I mean, my parents are definitely like getting nervous every time that I move farther and farther away from them. But I manage to make it back over there to the East Side every couple of weeks, for sure. Every time that I need a haircut, I go and watch a romcom with my mom. I think my friends who live over here in South Minneapolis enjoy that I am not trying to push them into going to events in St. Paul nearly as often anymore. It used to be like, Oh, yeah, Como Park–that’s super accessible! Everybody can get there. And then inevitably, I’d have somebody from Kingfield being like, That’s a long haul. So that’s been nicer. And I do want to push myself to be more spontaneous in terms of like, just text a friend and be like, Hey, do you want to hang out this evening? Do you want to put together a puzzle, whatever? That’s something that I have never had accessible in my life before. And so building that habit, I think, is something that I want to pursue.

Sherry: [00:15:26] That’s lovely.

Tim: [00:15:27] Yeah, that makes sense. Like, it’s definitely really easy to just kind of get caught in, like I do the work, I do my other things. And then, Oh, I didn’t have any plans. Just being able to be spontaneous. I think that’s maybe just an aspect of Minnesotan things like, Oh, they’re probably busy. I don’t want to bother them.

Ian: [00:15:45] That’s exactly what you think every time. They’re probably busy.

Sherry: [00:15:49] Well, I think that’s a thing that people don’t talk about very much when they talk about moving and why they choose to move where they moved. And you both talked about that. How about you. Tim, how is your current situation for seeing friends and family?

Tim: [00:16:00] I feel like for a lot of ways, Brooklyn Center had kind of the same distance and time level than St. Paul does for a lot of it. Because C and D Lines are really nice, and it’s much better than having to crawl down the 5, which, I mean, I didn’t have to do when I was in Brooklyn Center as much. But I used to stay over in North Minneapolis on 42nd, and I’ve had horror stories, going so slow. But at the same time, it’s like if I’m seeing my friends in South Minneapolis, that’s still a transfer: 45, 50 minutes down there from Brooklyn Center. If I’m in St. Paul now, going to South Minneapolis, it’s not really that much different. And then I have family more or less in St. Paul and stuff. And more and more it’s just kind of like… I think a lot of my friends are slowly transitioning to St. Paul. A lot of the reason I feel like, it’s just more affordable.

Ian: [00:16:56] That’s funny, because one of the reasons that I was willing to even entertain the idea of moving to Minneapolis from Saint Paul was because of the very first podcast episode that we did on this show, where that was the behind-the-article view of Janne Flisrand’s article about that rents are dropping in Minneapolis for the first time in a long, long time. And I was like, Oh, really? Rents can go down? Hey, maybe I want to get on some of that action. And obviously, rents are still more expensive than they are in St. Paul. But I was like, well, if Minneapolis continues to build, things are not going to be terrible.

Sherry: [00:17:39] Yeah.

Tim: [00:17:39] Yeah. And I think this is something I noticed the other day. I tweeted about it, and I was like, I don’t like where a lot of the cost of living conversation talks about median rent or average rent because the median rent of–or is it motor? I don’t know–I get those terms mixed up. The average rent in St. Paul or Chicago and Denver are really similar, but the amount of units that are under $1,000 in Denver is, like, two–and they’re probably both scams, according to Zillow. And Chicago had 700. Now, granted, that’s a lot more units in Chicago, and I can’t speak to the quality or anything about it. But just saying the average doesn’t really speak to what’s there. I’ve never even been close to living at average level rent. Right? And there’s still a lot of great neighborhoods in Minneapolis that are very cheap. Stevens Square, even some places by Loring Park, the Wedge… I show that to people who are outside the city, and they’re like, What, for that? No. What comes with that? I’m sharing this with four people in some student housing thing, aren’t I? It’s still accessible for that. And there are a lot of good neighborhoods like that in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We’re really blessed to have that.

Ian: [00:18:53] Yeah.

Sherry: [00:18:53] Now that you’ve spent some time in the new place, what are you most enjoying?

Tim: [00:18:57] I’m most enjoying the food. There’s a lot of really good Mexican. There’s some Salvadoran spots near where I’m at. There’s Sun World. So I go to their deli sometimes.

Ian: [00:19:14] When I was a kid, that was that that was a Rainbow Foods.

Tim: [00:19:18] Yep. Yeah.

Ian: [00:19:19] Way back in the day.

Tim: [00:19:20] And then it went to Cub, and you can still see the Cub banners in there that’s like, Yeah, this is totally not Cub. But. Whatever. I’m with it. And then, like I mentioned earlier, just going to some different grocery stores and being able to get, like, fajita meat by the pound and stuff. And I could just cook it up and I’m like, Okay, I can just… Like, it’s already done, and it’s usually seasoned pretty well and stuff. And there’s a lot of different spots like that. Like there’s a Somali grocery store near my house, there’s an Italian grocery store near my house, and it’s just like, I know there are places in other spots with it. It’s not just an exclusive St. Paul thing, but it’s a lot that’s really within that 15-minute zone. Just to walk.

Ian: [00:20:01] Yeah.

Tim: [00:20:01] I can walk through Sweet Hollow Park down the big steps and then back up the hill.

Sherry: [00:20:06] No, you do not walk back up those steps with groceries. Oh, you are better than me, Ian. How about you?

Ian: [00:20:13] You know, Google Maps recommends that as a bike route.

Sherry: [00:20:16] What?

Ian: [00:20:17] For real.

Sherry: [00:20:18] Wait. Yes, I got caught in that once. Yeah, it was the worst. Yeah. No.

Tim: [00:20:22] Wow.

Sherry: [00:20:23] No Google, no.

Tim: [00:20:25] Cyclocross?

Ian: [00:20:25] Exactly. Yeah.

Sherry: [00:20:26] Anyway. Ian, what do you enjoy?

Ian: [00:20:28] I would have to say, I really love how close I am to Milwaukee Avenue, which was not 100% planned, but I ended up being just a block away from Milwaukee. And so, that is my favorite spot to go and sit and read a novel. And there’s almost always a few neighbors out at that little parklet at the intersection of 22nd and Milwaukee. The really great thing about Milwaukee Avenue is that everybody’s porches are right up in front of the walkway. And so, I can tell that this is a whole community of people who, they know each other because they walk past each other’s houses all the time and they’re there to chat. And I’m like, I can like, I need to spend more time there, in order to meet some people outside of inviting them onto a podcast episode. You know, we had Jim Young on last episode.

Sherry: [00:21:32] So we should we could get some on-the-street things going on over there.

Ian: [00:21:34] That would be great.

Ian: [00:21:45] All right. There’s lots more interesting stuff to talk about. But before we go on, let’s take a little break in the parklet to talk about Minnesota’s new state flag. So this isn’t directly transportation or land use. But many of our listeners here on the Streetsmart podcast are very civically minded. We’re very proud of where we live and wanting to make our communities better. One of one of the important things about that is being able to have symbols of our communities that we are also proud of. So one of the outcomes of the legislative session 2023 in Minnesota is that they formed a commission to create a new state flag and a new state seal. And that commission had to finalize their designs before January 1st. And then they would be sending those to the next year’s legislative session, and as long as our state senators and representatives don’t reject those designs, then that state flag will be adopted on May 11th, which is Statehood Day here in Minnesota.

Ian: [00:23:08] I’m very enthusiastic about flag design, so I was following this process pretty closely. It was definitely a design-by-committee style process. And we ended up with a bit of a design-by-committee result. The flag that was ultimately adopted is not actually one of the flag designs that was that were submitted. We had thousands of flag designs that were submitted. First, they narrowed down the options to six finalists, and then they narrowed down to three from that list. And then they ended up picking and choosing different elements from different different designs, even bringing in some elements from previous finalists that had already been eliminated to tweaking colors and changing some stuff around.

Ian: [00:23:56] But the end result, if we if we look at it from the perspective of flag design, right? Vexillology is the area of study of design of flags. By the way, if you want to learn a lot of really cool, interesting stuff about what what goes into a good flag design, I highly recommend watching the TED talk by Roman Mars about flag design. He focuses in on city flags because cities are small enough entities that a lot of times when they adopt a flag, they don’t have the design expertise onhand to be able to come up with a good design. And so, they end up with… There’s some really, really spectacularly terrible city flag designs out there. We here in Minnesota, we were going from probably one of the worst state flag designs. CGP Grey did a ranking of state flags last year and ranked ours as the extreme bottom of the list because our old state flag was just… It was our state seal on a blue background border. Which is impossible to distinguish from any other flags of similar design from a distance. It’s impossible to draw on a piece of paper.

Ian: [00:25:29] So the new flag design that we have is… It’s hard for me to look at it with the long view just yet. Because we’re still fresh off of watching the process of coming up with this design. So I’m still coming at this thinking about a lot of the other designs that were left along the wayside. So what is this new design? So our flag has a light blue background. And then on the left side of the flag covering the light blue background is a dark blue area that is evocative of the shape of Minnesota. Um, it’s kind of a K shape. And then centered on that dark blue section is an eight-pointed star. It’s a design that is very easy to re-create from memory. You can draw it. It’s distinct from a distance. You can tell it apart from other flags, whether there’s a lot of wind, you can clearly see the whole flag or if they are hanging limply on a windless day. And in particular, I think this flag looks really, really good when you hang it vertically, like hung vertically. You have this light blue section on the bottom, and the dark blue K section almost becomes like an arrow pointing upwards, like this chevron pointing upwards towards this eight pointed star that is at the top. And it’s centered, and it’s like it takes center stage. So I’ve  already seen sticker designs. I’ve seen somebody making cookies in the shape of Minnesota with the flag–but like the vertical version of the flag design as the background.

Ian: [00:27:32] And it looks so freaking good, even though I do think that it would have been good to to keep… One of the earlier versions of this flag design had the K shape. And then instead of just a solid background on the right side of the the flag, it was stripes. I think it probably would have been good to keep that stripe motif around, partially because that grounds the flag in flag design, right? There’s a lot of country flags out there that have a triangle on the left side pointing inwards and then 3 to 5 stripes filling the rest of the, the flag. The original design that created the base of what became the final design, had stripes in it, and that grounded it in this tradition of flag designs. I think it probably would have been good to keep those. But even so, this final design, it looks good on its own. It is two different tones of blue and then a white star. So it does feel very cold? Which probably is appropriate for Minnesota, but I don’t know. I don’t want us to lean too heavily into the whole like, It’s cold in Minnesota thing. We already have that reputation. We don’t need to lean into it too much.

Ian: [00:29:03] But, yeah, I mean, like, hanging the flag vertically, especially, it looks like a banner that that you might follow into battle. It’s so cool. So, I don’t know, I’ve already seen, you know, there’s tons of memes out there around this flag. Some people are saying that, like, Oh, it’s a loon; its eye has lit up because it’s charging; a giant laser is going to come out of its beak. And that’s what we’re seeing on the flag is this blue laser coming out of a dark blue loon beak. I don’t know. The fact that people are reacting so strongly to it is a very good sign, I would say, because people are already creating these stories and these feelings around the flag and connecting to it in that way. So I think it’s it’s a flag design that is going to last through the ages. It’s going to be a symbol that we can rally around. So I’m a fan.

Ian: [00:30:07] All right, now let’s get back to the conversation between Sherry and Tim and I.

Sherry: [00:30:16] So any regrets from either of you? Anything you’re experiencing now that you’re kind of regretting?

Tim: [00:30:23] I regret that St. Paul is not taking the same steps in their bike infrastructure. There’s definitely a little bit of a tradeoff there. And I know me and you were talking a little bit before this about like, I feel like when things happen–because even before Brooklyn Center, I was in Minneapolis for a while–when things happened in Minneapolis, like City Council, you hear about it in a lot of places and a lot of things in St. Paul just kind of sneak by and you’re like, Oh, I wish I could have been there to at least speak on it. Would I have made–the one person made– the difference? Probably not. But I could at least have got some friends there, and maybe we could have made an impact, or at least had a conversation with a planner that turns into something in the future. Because I’m more new to the area, I’m not as connected with the people who are watching those things, who are involved with City Council. And I don’t get as much of that through osmosis, like when the Hennepin Avenue bike lanes were coming. I wasn’t even really on Twitter at that time. I heard about the Hennepin Avenue bike lanes or bus lanes. But you don’t really see that in the same way. Another thing I do really miss is a dog park.

Ian: [00:31:33] Yeah, my parents always had to take the dog all the way down by Shepherd Road.

Sherry: [00:31:39] Yeah.

Tim: [00:31:41] Or the spot by Arlington and–

Sherry: [00:31:41] Arkwright.

Tim: [00:31:44] Yeah, that’s a good spot. At the spot in Brooklyn Center, I think my favorite thing about that place–a lot of the things I didn’t really like–but my favorite thing was they had a little lot right next to the unit that was just a fenced-in area for a dog park. And they could just run around and do their thing. And I kind of miss that. I low-key kind of make my own dog park by this little pop-up skate park near Conway and Arcade–just south of 3rd. They have this fenced-in tennis court area that’s like a pop-up skate park. And if nobody’s in there, there’s only one gate in there. So I just close it behind me and I’m like, Yeah, go crazy and run on the skate infrastructure.

Sherry: [00:32:23] I used to roller skate over there.

Tim: [00:32:26] Also a little off topic, but I think it’s also hilarious that there’s a sign on there that says “No skateboarding,” and it’s now a skate park.

Sherry: [00:32:34] Indeed.

Ian: [00:32:35] Wonderful.

Sherry: [00:32:36] Ian, how about you? Any regrets?

Ian: [00:32:38] Uh, regrets? I would have to say that I probably regret the amount of noise pollution that I have in my apartment. In some ways, the neighborhood is a step sideways from Frogtown in that regard. Right? In Frogtown, I had quite a few neighbors who were louder than I would like after hours. But I’m not a night owl. I go to bed at 9:30, 10 p.m., so anything, any noises that are going on after that annoy me. The thing that I did not anticipate here in Seward is that I didn’t realize that my apartment building is right across the street from a fire department. And turns out the firefighters get a lot of calls in the middle of the night–like, a lot more than I would have thought they would. I’ve heard that that is partially because fire departments out in the suburbs have been defunded and a lot of them have closed. And so the departments that are here in the core of the Cities end up fielding a lot of calls from farther and farther out because there are fewer individual fire department buildings around. But also, I’m not far from Highway 55 from Hiawatha, right? Which seems to be a corridor that is used very, very frequently by–it sounds like probably police cars that are going north/south very fast with their sirens on, and that that noise makes its way very, very clearly to my apartment.  And I like getting to sleep with my windows open because of the nice, fresh air. But it’s hard to justify being able to do that when there’s so much noise going on outside. And, of course, just living in an apartment building, you’re sharing walls and a ceiling and a floor with other people. And I’ve heard from friends who live in some other apartment buildings that are entirely made of concrete where they’re like, Yeah, I never hear any of my neighbors. It’s not a problem. But evidently that is not the case for my particular building. I can definitely hear, you know, the upstairs neighbors walking around. Sometimes I can hear stuff.. I should put some weatherstripping around my front door just so that less noise from out in the hallway makes its way inside.

Sherry: [00:35:25] So I mean, overall, as you think about it, how has this move changed your life?

Tim: [00:35:30] That’s a big question.

Sherry: [00:35:31] It is.

Sherry: [00:35:33] You’ve had lots of warm up, though.

Tim: [00:35:35] That’s very true. I would say it’s changed my life in allowing a lot more places to really be easily walkable. I was definitely, you know, car lite when I was in Brooklyn Center. But I definitely had the temptation of like, My girlfriend’s car’s right here. It’s winter. I guess I could just drive over to the Walmart. And that happened a lot. And it just was convenient. And when you’re in an area with the main roads being four-lane roads and stuff, it’s built for cars. You know, when you’re walking to Walmart and Cub, you’re walking through a parking lot for four minutes. And so it’s very set up in that way. And so I definitely got a lot more lazier on that sense versus when I was living in South Minneapolis. And I was just like, Ah, it’s just a few blocks’ walk. I could do it. I just bike over there and stuff. And so coming back to St. Paul, it really just kind of invigorated me again into being like, Yeah, there really is no excuse of why I need to do this. And since then, the amount of time where I was driving went from maybe 30% in Brooklyn Center to maybe 5% now. It’s really dropped a lot. And I definitely like being in a spot where it’s pretty convenient for me to walk and be able just to get fresh air. That is so much for my mental health: Just being able to disconnect and go walk around and just love the tree cover everywhere and look at all the old houses and the missing middle and stuff there, and just walk down 7th Street and grab some food and just disconnect for a second and then come back to what I was doing.

Ian: [00:37:18] I think the biggest way that my life has changed as a result of this move is actually something that we haven’t talked about at all yet, and that’s that this is my first time living in an apartment building in multifamily housing, and I’m also living on my own for the first time. Up until now, both of the houses that I lived in as an adult before this were single family homes where we stuffed four to five to six people, you know? All young adults into a house all together, in order to keep rents low. And that wasn’t my ideal scenario for a few different reasons. One, I know that energy consumption is much more efficient when you’re living in an apartment building than when you’re in a single family home–wanting to live out my ideal in that regard. And also just not having to check in with anybody else if I want to have a friend over, you know?

Sherry: [00:38:21] Yes!

Ian: [00:38:22] I don’t have to worry about stepping on.. Like, all the food in the fridge is my food. I brought that food I don’t have to worry about, Did somebody else forget to label their food? Things like that. And also not owning, I think that home ownership is really overrated. That’s a whole different episode. But I am very, very much enjoying not having to worry about when things break. Like, Do I need to figure out how to do this? No, I just have an app where I go and I say, Hey, maintenance people here’s the thing that’s going wrong in my apartment right now. And then they come and magically fix it while I’m off at work.

Tim: [00:39:07] Yeah. On top of that, have you connected with some of the neighbors in your apartment building much at all?

Ian: [00:39:14] One or two. Not as many as I would like. Once again, I feel like I’m going to make friends who live on Milwaukee Avenue before I start making friends here in my own building.

Sherry: [00:39:24] Yeah, it’s Minnesota. If they live next door, you’re not going to know them for a while.

Ian: [00:39:28] Yeah, um, I know one guy who lives downstairs. And I know him because he commented on my bike one time, and then I realized that he also bikes a lot. And then in another conversation, I found out that he works at Freewheel Bike shop near here. And I was like, Oh, we should probably exchange numbers!

Sherry: [00:39:49] Yeah. So as you were preparing for your move, I imagine you learned a lot of things that you might be able to share with our listeners. What advice would you give to folks who are looking to move within the Twin Cities?

Ian: [00:40:02] Make a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets. So my moving process started with the ideal of living closer to my friends. And so what did I do? I turned that into data, right? I made a list of which friends I hang out with really often and honestly, I made a list of which friends I would hang out with super often. In an ideal world where we like lived right next to each other.

Sherry: [00:40:36] Is this list, uh, public and shared?

Ian: [00:40:38] No. Absolutely not.

Sherry: [00:40:39] Okay.

Ian: [00:40:42] I’m not going to tell all my friends which one of them were, like, higher on my list.

Sherry: [00:40:47] So you did a spreadsheet.

Ian: [00:40:48] So I did a spreadsheet.

Sherry: [00:40:49] What were the columns of your spreadsheet?

Ian: [00:40:51] So the columns were addresses of, well, I think I did it just neighborhood by neighborhood first. So like, Neighborhood. And then for different addresses of my friends, what is the travel time between the target neighborhood and that friend’s house? And then the spreadsheet can do some magic math, weighting according to, like, Oh, who am I going to be–who am I planning on hanging out with more often? It can wait that one higher than others. And in the end it spits out a number that’s like, Okay, here’s the average travel time between if you moved there and all of your friends.

Sherry: [00:41:30] That is very impressive, Ian.

Ian: [00:41:32] Yeah. And then I had it automatically color-code a gradient from green to neutral to red, like, Which neighborhoods are more centrally located amongst all of my friends and which ones are worse? That was the start of the process of narrowing down like, Oh, okay, which neighborhoods are going to be the first place to look?

Sherry: [00:41:57] Wow.

Ian: [00:41:58] So that’s how I started realizing, like, Oh, Longfellow, Seward, Phillips, Powderhorn was kind of the general area to look in. And then, starting there, I was like, Okay, where are some nice walkable areas that have a lot of amenities that I want? Which areas have transit and bike trails that go both north south, east, west, you know? You start overlaying more and more information on top of this, like, Oh, who has US Internet available in their neighborhood, right? Important things.

Sherry: [00:42:39] So your advice then would be to use a spreadsheet that maps your values?

Ian: [00:42:45] Exactly. Yeah. I love taking values and turning them into data.

Sherry: [00:42:50] Me too. Tim. How about you?

Tim: [00:42:52] The thing I like doing when I’m thinking about moving somewhere is I just like to explore the area for a day. Just just go there on foot, walk around, find some food, talk with some people in the area–and you really get a sense of what you’re going into a lot, especially if the neighborhood is a little unfamiliar or you’re like, Ah, I’ve passed through here, but I haven’t passed through here with the thought of, This could be where I’m at. And so, I think that’s something that’s really been helpful for me. Knowing where I’m at with it, too. And also, with the basic stuff: Make sure that everything’s good to go with it. Which is what I did not do going into the move, because when we showed up, none of the pre-inspection thing was done. So we had to push back our move=in date by two days.

Sherry: [00:43:35] Oh no.

Tim: [00:43:36] So learn from my mistake. Thinking about your routes and like, where are you going to be going most frequently? I don’t have those skills to put it in the spreadsheet, but that’s awesome idea.

Sherry: [00:43:46] You know, you’ve taken what sounds like a more intuitive approach, a more in-your-body, in-the-place approach; thinking about those logistics, about inspections and things like that.

Ian: [00:43:56] And that’s the kind of thing that freaked me out when I was talking to Sarah Johnson. She didn’t have a way to do that intuitive approach because she has no idea what any of the neighborhoods in St. Paul are like. She didn’t know where she was going to want to hang out on a regular basis and what the travel patterns were going to be like. I grew up in the Twin Cities. I’ve lived here for pretty much my whole adult life; choosing a neighborhood was still a learning process of looking at the data.

Sherry: [00:44:31] I want to ask you a question. I hope we can back up. Um, so as you’ve been listening to each other, what is one question you would have for one another?

Ian: [00:44:39] Well, the one question I was going to ask was, Tim, what on earth are you thinking moving to the East Side? Mostly from the perspective of… I found transit to be borderline unusable up there, and I’ve already heard that angle of your reasoning process and I like the thought process that you’ve given.

Sherry: [00:45:02] Tim, do you have a response?

Tim: [00:45:04] I already responded on there. As much as I don’t like all the transit going just in downtowns, it does have its advantages when you’re close to there.

Ian: [00:45:14] I guess my question for you would be, When are you going to invite us over for a housewarming party?

Tim: [00:45:19] Hey, we got to do it. I definitely want to do some kind of barbecue or something before the weather gets too crazy, or I’ll just be winter doing it. I don’t know, we’ll see. I’d say the question I would have for you is What was the number one thing that puts you over the top for this place?

Ian: [00:45:35] For this place. So this apartment was actually a bit farther north than I thought I was going to be looking in. I thought that Lake Street and Hiawatha was the sweet spot for me. And then I expanded the search outwards a little bit as I failed to find places within my affordability range right in that spot. And this one, I wasn’t really taking into account the fact that there’s a hardware store literally 30 feet away from my door.

Sherry: [00:46:06] So important!

Ian: [00:46:06] It really is. You know, the Pizza Luce is right across the street. I had never heard of Seward Cafe before. Turns out I’m a good little socialist boy. I love Seward Cafe.

Ian: [00:46:20] But honestly going on a tour of this unit and realizing like, Oh, this is within my range. $925 a month was like, it wasn’t like the lowest rent place that I had toured, but it was far, far from the highest that I had toured. And I walked around and I’m like, Everything’s clean. These are nice amenities in the kitchen.

Sherry: [00:46:47] Can confirm.

Ian: [00:46:47] Yeah. I was like, There’s nothing to complain about here. You guys haven’t been in the bedroom, but the one entire wall is the closet. And I was like, I could fit a bike or two in the closet.

Sherry: [00:47:01] Um, there are so many bikes here, listeners.

Tim: [00:47:04] I do have another question. How many bikes are in this apartment right now?

Sherry: [00:47:07] Yes, that’s a great question.

Ian: [00:47:08] With your two bikes here, there are now six bikes.

Sherry: [00:47:15] There we go.

Tim: [00:47:15] I was thinking it was going to be like 7 to 8, so, you know, that’s not bad.

Sherry: [00:47:20] So in the grand scheme of Tim and Ian’s life, how do you suppose this event–this move–will fit into the rest of it?

Tim: [00:47:30] I honestly see myself staying where I’m at for a little while. You know, things can definitely change. And there’s always variables and curveballs in life, and I’ve had my fair share of them, but at the same time, I look at where I’m at now and I see projects. I’m really excited about coming to the area. The Gold Line and the Purple Line. I see potential for affordability for if I can afford a house one day. It’s pretty cheap over there and I’m already liking the area, pretty much from everything I’m going through there. And I’m comparing this to some place that’s super cheap, that’s 40 miles out in the country. It’s definitely, definitely advantageous there. And then also just wanting to put some roots down a little bit, I don’t think I’ve stayed in a spot for more than a year and a half since like 2017 or 2016, so I’ve moved a lot. And I definitely could see myself maybe moving out of this particular apartment, but I feel like I would stay within the neighborhood. It’s a real combination of walkability that could be better if 7th Street was better.

Sherry: [00:48:43] Coming coming to a podcast near you.

Tim: [00:48:45] A lot of different cultural influences there, that spring up real good events that just kind of come out of nowhere right across the street. There’s a church there, and out of like nowhere on a Sunday morning, there’s a whole festival in that parking lot. I’m sure that some people could recognize it, but I don’t know what the what it was for exactly. It was like some kind of fall festival, but it was like celebrating something else. And there were people on stilts, 15-foot tall in costumes. And I’m like, Yo, this is awesome. And I see stuff like that. I see things on the other side of Saint Paul, the Rondo Jazz Fest or Selby Avenue Jazz Fest. It feels like there’s a lot more events are for the community that’s there versus I feel like a lot of Minneapolis events are for the region–which is cool because you can attract people from a lot of places, and I still enjoy going to them–but I do think there’s something special about what this is. This Doesn’t have to be spread everywhere. It’s not necessarily for everybody. It’s for the people who know about it, the people who can stumble into it. And I think there’s something beautiful about that. And I want to get connected more in the neighborhood and make it better. So I feel like I’ll probably be there for a while.

Ian: [00:50:07] Well, my parents just got me a sweatshirt that says Seward on it, so I’m locked in.

Sherry: [00:50:14] Good for your parents. I like your parents.

Ian: [00:50:16] This move has a lot of other major life changes tied up in it as well for me, mostly in the regards of living on my own for the first time, so I think that that is kind of where it ties into, like Ian’s identity. I can definitely see myself staying here for a good long time. Ironically, Stina is moving to South Uptown pretty soon, and that means that the friend density matrix has contracted a lot. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time over in Uptown, but that’s only like a 20-minute bike ride away. So that’s not bad at all.

Sherry: [00:51:01] Yeah.

Ian: [00:51:01] Yeah.

Sherry: [00:51:02] That should do. Okay, so if you could do a quick one sentence pitch to get our listeners to move to your neighborhood, what would it be?

Ian: [00:51:13] I think I would say that the essence of Seward is it’s a little bit like old-hippie, it’s a little bit punk-rock socialist, and it’s very eclectic. And that suits me very, very well.

Tim: [00:51:31] I would say the area where I’m at, it’s a lot of different ethnicities, a lot of definitely different income levels, but it still feels like it gels together. It still feels like there’s a lot of those unique surprises there. That’s always cool for me, just to pop into something and just be like, Oh, this is dope. I don’t even know what’s going on, but it’s awesome and I’m here for it, and I want to learn.

Sherry: [00:51:58] That’s awesome. Well, listeners, we would love to hear your one-sentence pitches for your neighborhood as well.

Ian: [00:52:05] Share those on social media with the hashtag #StreetsMNPodcast.

Sherry: [00:52:11] Signing off with all kinds of stories about moving within the Twin Cities. Take care.

Ian: [00:52:19] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn podcast. The show is released under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial non-derivative license, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you’re not altering it and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was produced and transcribed by Sherry Johnson and was edited by Jeremy Winter. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at Podcast@Streets.Mn. Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using the hashtag #StreetsMNPodcast. Until next time, take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

About Sherry Johnson

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Sherry Johnson gets feisty about sustainability and localism. A complexity coach, adaptive strategist, and amplifier of counter-narratives, Sherry supports civic and nonprofit leaders as Principal Guide at Cultivate Strategy.