No matter how much you’d like them to, children don’t stay young forever. Neighborhoods are the same way.
South End was never going to stay weird and cultured and hip. It’s too close to Uptown. The light rail that has brought billions of dollars in investment only accelerated the inevitable.
And now we’re feeling the growing pains. The line was out the door for the final few days of Phat Burrito, the beloved and brightly colored lunch spot. Common Market has closed its doors, Food Truck Friday has relocated and we’re about to say goodbye to Amos’ Southend.
The trendy spots of South End’s adolescence have largely given way to the bars, breweries and dormitories — I mean, luxury apartments — of the neighborhood’s collegiate years.
South End has graduated, and Mom is cleaning out his old room. Meanwhile, South End is partying it up on fraternity court.
You can torture the metaphor further if you like. The Dimensional Fund Advisors HQ? The corporate summer internship. The first hotels in the works? Parents weekend.
It’s time to start thinking about what we want South End to look like when it’s fully grown up.
We have a few hints of what it could be.
South End could end up more like an Uptown South, with mid-rise office buildings, high-dollar condos and a few dynamite restaurants. We’ll see some of this with the Dimensional Fund Advisors building and the large office building coming to West Tremont Avenue.
South End could end up becoming the high-end retail district that Uptown boosters have always wanted to have there but never been able to achieve it. We’re seeing that at Atherton Mill, with Free People and Anthropologie.
South End could end up becoming the walkable wonderland of urban planners wildest dreams. We’ll see this on West Tremont Avenue and Camden Road, where nice restaurants, retail like Blue Hem, office space and apartments will combine to a true live-work-play environment.
But more than that, I want to see South End really grow up rather than try to chase perpetual youth.
I want to see the apartment dwellers moving into stately townhomes just down the street and walking their children down the Rail Trail to a park. I want to see a community rallying behind the local public school.
I want to figure out how to turn South Boulevard from a pedestrian death trap to a pleasant stroll. I want to figure out how to sustainably create a place where people don’t need to use cars.
South End is not dead, as some would have you believe. It’s growing up. Yeah, it sucks when the kids leave the nest. But it’s time to decide what the neighborhood will do with its life.