Monday, March 10, 2008

Urban vitality

I’ve wanted to live in Portland ever since I was in middle school and my parents first brought me and my sister down to the fledgling Old Port to go shopping. Exchange Street was stilled paved with cobblestones back then and, like today, dotted with funky gift shops and eclectic restaurants. All I cared about were the stores that sold stickers. They were offered on rolls and in strips, and I particularly loved the Toots, Mrs. Grossman’s and Boynton’s (I still think they're funny, even today).

But outside the neighborhood bordering Exchange Street, things got sketchy, quickly. My dad’s office, just a few blocks away at the corner of Commercial and India, was considered a rough part of town. Now there’s a gorgeous new cruise ship terminal, the Ocean Gateway, next door. We never went to Congress Street--there were porn theaters and god knows what else going on up there. Now it’s called the Arts District and is arguably the hottest scene in town.

I definitely never walked a mere three blocks into Bayside, where today I type these words. Of course, this neighborhood is changing too, with new apartments, offices and a ginormous Whole Foods. Since we moved in, we’ve brought our own changes, planting trees and removing trash. But back in the 1980s, this area was blighted from decades of young people fleeing the city for the suburbs and hinterlands.

Thank god we’re coming back to our senses and bouncing back to the city. I’m excited that Bayside is developing and more people will be able to experience Portland, Maine’s creative urban vitality. It’s a treat. And I’m willing to share.

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