The lease to the Westside apartment I share with my twin brother expires this month.
I’ve paced myself in deciding whether to sign another year-long contract or start fresh elsewhere, with a new landlord and different tenants. But the past year has made definite one thing: I won’t soon be leaving the place I’ve fondly come to consider “my ’hood.”
To me, the Westside typifies this city — with its rich history, character and picturesque vistas — and without it, I’d be forced to re-evaluate Colorado Springs as my home.
Just as New York City’s five boroughs host pockets in which anyone might find a home, this town has segments that cater to different personality types and lifestyle choices.
To the north and south, sprawling subdivisions and quiet, shrub-lined streets offer families safe places to build homes and raise children. The city’s Eastside provides both affordable housing and upscale prairie suburbs, able to make varying demographics comfortable.
And though the prospect of living in the heart of downtown has long been alluring, not even the city’s core can offer that which the Westside does so subtly.
This submarket is both calm and chaotic, with both supermarkets and friendly local vendors. It is a haven for arts and culture, convenient stores and pizza delivery. But perhaps above all, it fosters healthy living and the Colorado experience with its excellent walkability, tourist attractions and a bike trail that can get you from Old Colorado City to downtown in less than 15 minutes.
I moved here last June from Little Rock, Ark., expecting to find a living experience worlds apart, but instead found remarkable similarities.
When Brendan and I drove into Colorado Springs the week the Black Forest fire began, we did our best to find adequately affordable housing using a sort of scatter-shot approach. After perusing Craigslist and driving back and forth across town, we found what seemed to be the best balance of quality of life for the money on the Westside.
To me, the neighborhood’s feel is not unlike countless turn-of-the-century areas in Southern cities like New Orleans, Atlanta or Little Rock — with the most exceptional accent of mountains. With its Victorian architecture and many trees, it has both the grit and the green I came to embrace while growing up.
This submarket is both calm and chaotic, with both supermarkets and friendly local vendors.
The strip and its surrounding areas serve as a hub for locally owned shops, restaurants and galleries offering quality products and focused on infusing our economy with dollars of both locals and tourists.
Rather than driving through a Starbucks, it’s just as convenient to pull up at the locally owned Kangaroo Coffee on Eighth Street. When in need of dog food, both Republic of Paws in OCC and Wag n’ Wash on Uintah are but a bike ride away.
The area is ripe with entertainment on any given weekend, from folky shows at Front Range Barbeque to the Saturday morning farmers market in Bancroft Park. If I feel like hanging out downtown or at Ivywild School, I can easily get there by bike.
Aside from going to work downtown, I find myself rarely having to drive more than a couple of miles for anything — save a bi-monthly jaunt to IKEA.
I’ve always loved the concept of downtown living, as do many of my counterparts, but it can often be costly and less exciting in a medium-sized city.
This presents a Westside perk that is of great import to most Millennials: affordability.
The fact that many of the large Victorian homes and old tuberculosis sanatoria along West Colorado Avenue are in the hands of small-time, independent landlords can mean lower rents — although it also can mean neglect and lack of service.
There aren’t many other places around where a 24-year-old bachelor (or two, in this case) can rent a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom/two-bath apartment with an office in a 115-year-old Victorian for $800 per month (including utilities).
Sure, my side of town comes with its drawbacks: Many complain about the people on the street — characters with varying degrees of character — who sometimes present both the cops and residents with interesting displays of crime and violence. But coming from Little Rock, I’ve grown to love the true grit and unpredictability of city life.
For my brother and myself, what matters isn’t that our neighborhood is the safest, prettiest, best-smelling or most private. We care about living simply, honestly and affordably, and we do that on the Westside. nCSBJ