By Sandra Nickel
It happens every year. Folks see the Old House Expo ad in the newspaper or find the site on the Internet and show up to see what it’s all about. They oooh and aaah with just a tinge of sadness, then confess they didn’t even know that our residential historic districts existed.
Many have moved to Montgomery from other parts of the state or nation. Most have bought or rented in east Montgomery (or a suburb) and didn’t see homes in Old Cloverdale, Cloverdale-Idlewild, or Garden District, never mind Cottage Hill or Capitol Heights. And they are amazed that, not only are the homes wonderful and the surroundings lovely, the areas are filled with families with little children who love to front-porch sit and walk around the neighborhood. In a word, it’s safe!
Safe, indeed. My husband and I have lived in our Garden District home since 1980. Yes, we have experienced an occasional property crime (Emory Folmar and I didn’t agree on much, but I totally agreed when he said, “If you’re going to live within walking distance of poverty, you’re going to have property crime!”). And I have never felt unsafe … not for one single moment.
Why, then, are so many in the River Region fearful of our downtown and Midtown areas? In my opinion it is, unfortunately, as a result of the vestiges of racism and all those other -isms. On some level, conscious or subconscious, there’s the tendency among most of us to feel less than totally safe when we are in the minority and/or in the presence of people who are very different from ourselves. The most obvious difference, of course, is color. But it can also be clothing/hair/makeup/jewelry. Think about your own reaction to “Goths,” those folks who dress in black, dye their hair black, paint their nails black, etc. Think about your own reaction to the folks with tattoos and piercings.
In our older and historic neighborhoods, diversity is the order of the day. It is one of the things that makes Midtown who we are: a rich mix of young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. We not only tolerate, but celebrate our differences.
So if you have friends and co-workers who are stuck in neighborhoods where everybody pretty much looks and sounds alike, cut them some slack if they make bad assumptions about where you live. Don’t argue with them. Instead, invite them to visit and get to know first-hand why Midtown is increasingly attracting relocations from all points east, northeast and northwest!
Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.