Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Live in a Small Town Which is Now on a Forbes List

Last week, our little hamlet was listed on Forbes.com in "America's Best Neighborhoods 2010", a roster created by the nonprofit American Planning Association (APA). The list includes great neighborhoods which offer a wide variety of amenities: green space, nice homes, safety, cultural and historical significance and the like. Frederick definitely has all that. Being included on the roster is a nice feather in our community cap.

The specific blurb about Frederick in the article mentions our sense of history. We are surrounded by Civil War history with Antietam, Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry and, lesser known but equally significant, Monocacy Battlefield all within driving and even biking distance from our city center. Since Frederick's historical significance is the item specifically mentioned in the article, I assume this is what gave us the edge to get us on the list. I am not a history expert or even necessarily one who gets overly excited about history, but I can appreciate the historical importance of my area. And if history gets us a mention in some highly esteemed magazine which may positively impact our housing values, then I can appreciate our history even more.

Being no real estate expert either, I may be wrong, but I would imagine that being on such a list is a good thing. And at least for the next year until the 2011 list comes out, if I were selling a house within a stone's throw of Frederick, I would surely mention this in my sales flyers. What's a mention like that worth in today's real estate market, $10,000? More? That would be nice.

Forbes doesn't give all the details that the APA accumulated for its star neighborhoods. It does mention our "quaint old buildings" (history again) and the Carroll Creek Linear Park as neighborhood treasures. But I would like to all see the details. Without access to that, I am going to imagine what is on their list. I suspect that Frederick also got high marks for its downtown restaurants (thanks to the likes of Volt  putting us on the map last year on Top Chef) and its frequency of high quality festivals and events like the monthly First Saturday art gallery and shopping events. I suspect we got good grades for cleanliness and safety also.

Frederick definitely deserves to be on this list with all it has to offer. But I must point out a few things that I, as a transplant from a larger metropolitan area, believe are missing from Frederick. While Frederick has a thriving art community and clearly supports the arts, it is lacking in its support of music. There are so few venues in the downtown area or even outside the downtown area that support live, original music. You can definitely go to places that play cover music or "garage bands" (is that even a term anymore?) around town. But to see original singer/songwriter or other uniquely talented musicians, you have to drive way down one of the many roads leading out of Frederick. Or you must patiently wait until the Weinberg has some musical act on their calendar, which in my opinion is not often enough. That venue in particular could offer so much more especially since it is the only venue of its type in our community.

But the Weinberg aside, where are the smaller venues that could accomodate and support musical talent? This may seem like a shameless plug for a particular musician, but it's not. I get to hear him play all the time. But he doesn't get to hear other musicians play. Nor do the rest of us. The few venues where live music was played that did exist have perished as music venues (West Side Cafe, Frederick Cellars, Venuti's, even Firestones at one time). I find it hard to believe that there isn't a market for live music here. Many of our friends are music lovers and share this same complaint. And there is music all around us in the adjacent communities. What's up Frederick? If nothing else, embrace your musical history a la Francis Scott Key and support some live original music. If you play it, they will come.

The next thing on my list of what's lacking in Frederick is shopping. Before you get riled up and start spitting out names of the fabulous local downtown stores, let me say that I love them all. We have unique gift and antique stores that I frequent. And we have great shopping at Shab Row and even a Loft on the other side of town. But I can't live my life and support my shopping needs on antiques and gift items. Nor am I pleased each time I run into a friend or stranger wearing the same lovely shirt I am wearing from Talbot's or Loft. The FSK Mall has a good offering of shops, but why oh why Frederick fathers, is the Fredericktowne Mall becoming the hollow wasteland that it is? Have you ever heard of Old Navy? For those of us with kids (that would be most everyone in Frederick), when we need to replenish our cheap t-shirt supply, we rather not have to drive to Hagerstown or Leesburg to do it. So maybe while you're completing the plans for the Clemson Corner shopping center on Route 26, you could consider an Old Navy or similar instead of another tanning bed place like the new one that just popped up next to the FSK Mall. Really? I didn't even know people still used tanning beds.

Don't think that my shopping dissatisfaction does not come from being an avid shopper or even from the fact that I came from a larger metro area. When I go home to visit my parents in the small town that I grew up in, the shopping options are better there than here. For example, they have a Dick's Sporting Goods. Frederick doesn't. Not that our family has huge sporting goods needs, but I'm just saying it would be nice to have options other than Sports Authority (not that there's anything wrong with that) or having to drive 25 miles to another sporting goods store.

You get my point and you probably have examples of your own. Frederick has much to offer and I do enjoy living here. My kids are happy and are in great schools. We have great friends and plenty to do. But if I could make it just that much better, a day in Frederick would go something like this:
I would drive through my picturesque neighborhood on the way to drop the kids off at their really good schools and then head out to pick up a few things from the unending selection of stores within a 3-5 mile radius of my highly-valued home after which I would make plans with my husband and a few great friends for an evening out to include a sumptuous yet affordable meal followed by quality live music performed in a funky venue.
Throughout the day, I would of course take time to appreciate the historical significance around me. I would just be an ingrateful complainer if I didn't.

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