The Cedar Street neighborhood

by Eric Ginsburg

I grew up on a cul-de-sac, running around with other kids in the neighborhood. We would cover ourselves in mud and then jump in the neighbors’ pool, play with Legos or Playmobil for hours and sneak through backyards climbing pine trees and building forts.

In college they called it the “Guilford bubble,” but it applies to many schools that encourage some community interaction but are largely insular institutions. Both as a kid growing up in Massachusetts and a college student west of downtown, my community was largely defined geographically.

My definition of community has changed over time.

With friends scattered across the country now, I’ve lived in a number of places in town and not known my neighbors, and in the last two years my parents have moved across the country and then back.

A year ago, I moved to Cedar Street near the Grasshoppers stadium. Wedged between Westerwood, Battleground Avenue, West Friendly Avenue and Spring Street, the Cedar Street/Bellemeade area is not a formal neighborhood, but now I’m convinced it’s the best one in town.

There’s the Gecko House, whose inhabitants host a huge party every Guy Fawkes Day, smashing electronics, twirling fire and bouncing on a trampoline.

Around the corner is the lady punk house called the Maxxipad. We boast at least three members of Greensboro roller derby, three professional community organizers and the Panda Pile house. And that’s just some of people making up the unusually high population of twentysomethings.

On one corner, residents occasionally hang what must be homemade tie-dye shirts on their porch for sale. My downstairs neighbors have lived in the house for 10 years, and last week offered me a large bag of vegetables from their garden out back.

The people are the best part of living here, but they are far from the only attraction. Many of us moved here in the first place because of the affordable rents and proximity to downtown. But we’re also a short walk from a little park, the Greenway, Smith Street Diner, the Downtown Farm Market and Westerwood Tavern. These public spaces have facilitated meeting other neighbors, including one at the basketball court and another at the bar.

We are also brought together by common desires. According to a 2005 study, residents feel strongly about a need to maintain affordability and diversity, create more neighborhood cohesion and encourage alternative modes of transportation.

Residents surveyed in the study also spoke of a need for more green spaces, and rumor has it some of the unused swath of land on Prescott Street is being eyed for a community garden or orchard.

The study is admittedly outdated, making it less accurate and harder to understand. For example, I can’t figure out why the only group listed as working to help us create a neighborhood identity is the police department. Yet, many of the listed desires ring true for the people I know here.

It will likely be a challenge for us to maintain low rent prices while the area becomes increasingly desirable.

The Downtown Greenway will run directly along the edge of our small area promoting decreased reliance on cars as desired, but along with the expected development around the loop, the greenway could put pressure on our wallets.

Our lease ends at the end of the month, but my roommate and I have both decided to stay here. He’ll be moving practically across the street, and a different friend will join me in my apartment. We never walked the block and introduced ourselves to our neighbors as intended, but even though I’ve been here a year I tend to with my friend once he moves in.

Most people recognize that having a sense of community is important, but usually we don’t confine that to our immediate vicinity. We are part of communities based on friendship, politics, faith, interest and school, but we can’t forget about our neighborhoods. Having a geographic community has helped me foster a sense of place and belonging.

Like people surveyed in the Cedar Street/Bellemeade area in 2005, I want to increase communication and build relationships with the people I live around. Knowing my neighbors makes me feel safer and more at home, and when added to the other attractions, I find myself wanting to invest more time here.