December 10, 2021

 
We moved to Bozeman in 1982 certain that this was the place and here we would stay, raise a family, and spindrift into eternity. The housing market was hot then and the brick house we bought at 216 N. Wallace sold for a premium price of $50,000. This price was intimidating since three years earlier we had purchased a house in Miles City for half the price.

We added an addition to the back of the house and a baby daughter to our home. We preserved the historic nature of the house and achieved the National Register of Historical Places status with the Peterson House: A classic Queen Anne style cottage built in 1895.

Life was full tilt back in those days with a robust art scene, young professionals moving to town, hip restaurants opening, a bustling Main Street, and a character filled NorthEast side of town. Sound familiar?

Since then we have witnessed at least four expansions and contractions to Bozeman but a sense of place and community in the NE side of town abides. Real Estate Development, an ironic term meaning something is being torn down or harrowed, to be improved, is once again prowling our neighborhoods. Even though we have moved to the SouthEast side of town my private practice has remained in the hood.

I take great joy in hearing children play on Hawthorne’s playground as I listen to the troubles that visit our personal lives. It feels light. It also tells me that those of us who call this part of town home have a duty to safeguard the character of our neighborhood so that in the future, the laughing children can call it home as well.

What this means to each of us is the question: whether we are just scraping by or planning to “develop” property. The inevitability of change is not to be scorned nor feared. Yet the call to character of what it is that makes for a quality life in Bozeman must not be betrayed. Otherwise we succumb to profit over purpose. I think we all know what that feels like: hollow.

This neighborhood association is the saving grace for the challenges we face. It is only in a robust community based conversation that compromise and equity is achieved. Shouting at each other is not communication. What sounds true is a well considered, thoughtful, engaged dialog around how we can do the impossible: grow and retain character. To facilitate such meaningful dialog, a collective sense of what is the nature of the NE neighborhood, is the fundamental question.

For me it is a sense of belonging, of having shared stories with neighbors, of remodeling rather than rebuilding, although there are fine examples of in-built properties that reflect the aesthetic of the north side. It is also a sense of identity emerging from raising a family, belonging to a cohesive neighborhood, and standing strongly together against forces that do not share such an ethos.

Our daughter is now thirty-three and often has dreams set in the years spent in a place where her life was held, not just by us but by close friends and neighbors. Let us safeguard the
character of the northside so that the children we are raising can have similar dreams thirty years on.

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