navigate to read about Karyn's book Alabama Arts

navigate to page of travelwriting samples

navigate to make Karyn Zweifel a writing  assignment

navigate to see Karyn's other books

navigate to read personal essays Karyn has written

navigate to list of published articles



Urban Living

500 word sidebar B&W City Guide
Copyright (C) 1998 Karyn K. Zweifel

Close to home.

It’s a subject people get passionate about. And no wonder. The question of whether to live in the city or the suburbs touches every aspect of a family’s life.
“The majority of people who want to live in urban areas are looking for great architecture, high-quality houses, and a real sense of community,” says Pride F. Forney, who lives in Crestwood and sells homes primarily in the city. “They are city-centered people.”

Ardis Albany, another realtor who lives in Forest Park, agrees. “The main reason for living in an urban neighborhood is lifestyle. It’s convenient. The houses are different, with lots of old-world charm, pretty architectural detail, high ceilings.”

Bruce Ivey has been selling loft apartments in downtown Birmingham since 1995. His clients, too, are looking for a particular kind of lifestyle.
“It takes a certain type of individual to live downtown,” he says. “They’re usually young, single, professionals. They enjoy being downtown, because they’re interested in the performing arts, and going to art galleries.” Lofts are often in historic buildings, but the space is not at all like a typical apartment.
“It’s just a huge open space most of the time, depending on the conversion. They range from 700 to 1100 square feet, and prices go from the low fifties to $200,000 depending on the space.”

“When you live in the city, you get diverse neighbors and surroundings,” notes Albany. “It’s a broader base of folks, with a wide variety of interests. But most share a common interest in the community.”

Urban neighborhoods like Crestwood, Forest Park, Highland Park and Southside have been gaining strength in recent years. “The city is the most convenient place to live,” Forney says. “You can get to work in ten minutes without fighting traffic.”

Albany believes the quality of services available in urban neighborhoods adds to their allure as well. “You can walk or bike to great stores, wonderful restaurants, the drycleaners or whatever you need.”

Sidewalks, parks and old towering trees are not all there is to urban living, though.

“One of the challenges to urban living is the question of schools,” Forney concedes. “But there are some excellent public choices, like EPIC and McElwain. Avondale has a committed staff. And there are always good private schools to choose from.”

Albany doesn’t believe schools are more of a concern for urban families than their suburban counterparts. “People home school, or send their children to private schools,” she says. “I think children are much more enthusiastic about education when you choose to do that.”

Living space in the city tends to cost less than in the suburbs, whether you’re in a loft downtown or in an older neighborhood. “You can get a great house for less money,” Forney says, and older houses tend to be better built.

Bruce Ivey wishes there were more loft apartments available to sell. “I’ve got two or three people interested, but there’s nothing available. We need more of them.”

“Living here involves enjoying the city and all it has to offer,” Albany concludes. For Albany and Forney and their neighbors, life doesn’t get any better than this.