Why I chose to buy a house in Toledo | Community Spirit
I moved to the Birmingham neighborhood in East Toledo six months ago. My husband and I fell in love with an 1899 Edwardian house. When we decided to move into the city our friends and neighbors in Springfield Township told us we were crazy. What about the crime? What about the number of vacant homes? Not many of our friends and family could understand why we would chose to move into the city when everyone seemed to be moving out of it.
Perhaps it did seem odd. I grew up in the suburbs outside Columbus, Ohio, in a nice middle class home on an acre lot. The neighbors were so far apart there was little interaction – no talks on the front porch, no neighborhood block parties. We just went about our lives; with little thought about building an intentional community.
That’s what attracted me to Birmingham. There is a deliberate effort to build community in this neighborhood. The Birmingham Development Corp. meets monthly to discuss neighborhood concerns. Subcommittees dealing with safety, housing, recreation, and the community garden meet in between meetings. The area churches get together in June to clean up the neighborhood, and every August the neighborhood hosts the Birmingham Ethic Festival.
Last August, as we were getting ready to close on our home, we decided to go to the Birmingham Ethnic Festival just to look around the neighborhood a bit more. When we told workers at the festival we were moving to the neighborhood they were excited. They were friendly. They gave us a ton of information about the Hungarian Club and Birmingham Development Corp. This was a neighborhood that was proud of its heritage and excited about new people moving in.
Although, I should be completely honest. I think part of the reason my husband and I were readily accepted is that I have a Ph.D. I teach at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. and my husband is finishing his Ph.D. this May at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. Added to that, my name “Mesaros” is Hungarian. My great-grandparents immigrated to Pennsylvania at the turn of the twentieth century, and my husband’s parents live in Hungary. For a neighborhood with a strong Eastern European heritage we fit right in. I think the community saw us as responsible citizens who wanted to help improve the neighborhood (which we do). I hope we’re the beginning of a trend where other young professional will see the potential of city life.
For young couples like us there is little incentive to buy a home that is two to three times as much in the suburbs. You can have your pick in Toledo. Your mortgage will be cheaper than renting an apartment, and you can payback your student loans faster.
Perhaps, I’m an idealist but I want to help Toledo get back on its feet. It’s a wonderful city. It just needs people to see its potential and move in.
Sure, there are problems. I get sick of people riding their mopeds down my street or throwing trash in my yard, but the benefits outweigh the negatives. I love being in a neighborhood where people say “Hi” to everyone they pass. If you stay in your front yard long enough on a warm day you are guaranteed to get into at least a 30 minute conversation with a neighbor. We watch out for each other’s houses. If there is a petty break-in down the street we tell the neighbors and ask each other to keep an eye on our homes. We do have a security system, but having neighbors who watch out for one another is great.
I didn’t have that growing up. In many ways, I feel like I’ve traveled back to the 1950s when life was slower and people took the time to stop and talk to one another. I never wanted a middle class life in the suburbs with the fancy car and a house that looked like every other house on the street. I always wanted a neighborhood with character, and I’ve found that in East Toledo.