Monthly Archives: October 2017

Reflections: 10 years of “Living Down North”

The end of October marks the 10th anniversary of my family’s time in Minne Lusa. As some of you know, I ain’t from around these here parts. The neighborhood where I grew up was nice, but it was no Minne Lusa. As a matter of fact, when my wife and I were looking for our first house to buy, we were surprised to find this place where we found it.

We moved in at the end of October in 2007. Our oldest son was less than three months old when we opened our front door for the first time. We have had ten years of life and memories in this house, in this neighborhood. As I try to process the idea that a decade has already passed, I’ve spent a good amount of time reflecting on what is the same and what is different.

Let me start with what feels the same. When my wife and I first moved into the neighborhood, we had just had our first son. We were trying to figure out how to be parents and we wanted a place that would be good for a young boy to grow and play in. Recently, after several years of trying to have a child without success, we have had a second son who is close in age at our tenth year to what our firstborn was in our first. We’re trying to remember how to be good parents. And we still want a neighborhood that is good for a young boy to grow and play in. When we first moved in, we relied on existing neighbors to help us feel at home in our community. Now, many of those same neighbors continue to make my family feel at home.

When we moved in, Minne Lusa was a neighborhood that had not yet fully realized its potential. Ten years later, that may still be true. We have made great strides in the last decade, but our real potential still remains unfulfilled. I’ve always had a vision of Minne Lusa being the community that starts to change unfair perceptions of large portions of North Omaha. I’ve always believed that we could be a local and national model for the transforming power of community. We’ve definitely taken good steps towards that, but we’re still waiting for that next level of neighbor participation. Major change will only happen with major involvement.

Many things have changed in the last 10 years, too. When we first moved in, Minne Lusa was a neighborhood without much of an identity. We had little to offer that would distinguish us from other Omaha neighborhoods. Now, we have a fairly effective brand that revolves around the kind of community that fuels Saturday Mornings at the Minne Lusa House, Trick-or-Treat on the Boo-levard, the incredibly fun Annual Golf Scramble, and the cheering section for the Omaha Marathon. Crime is down by almost 40% in the last 10 years and home values have risen significantly. We have been designated as an Historic District and have decorative signs installed on the Boulevard that welcome visitors and neighbors alike. We still haven’t solved the “Bad Landlord” issue, but we’ve improved the “Good Neighbor” ratio.

One of the biggest things to have changed in the last 10 years is that people aren’t surprised anymore when good things happen here. We’ve consistently worked hard to make those good things happen, to the extent that it is no longer unexpected to hear that this little North Omaha neighborhood is doing something awesome. In the first year or two of my time here, getting good press for Minne Lusa was like catching a unicorn. It was rare – virtually nonexistent. It was almost startling for people to see us in the press. Now, we’ve been in the news, locally and regionally, enough times that people aren’t  surprised anymore. That may not seem as exciting to you, but let me tell you, it’s an awesome thing. We’re a long way off from where we as a community have a vision to be, but we are a long, long way away from where we were 10 years ago.

There are a lot of emotions tied to my family’s decade in this house, in this community. This place and these people mean more to me than any of them know. The creaks in my steps, the cracks in my walls, the smell of the leaves on the sidewalks – all of these things and a hundred others have become a part of me in a way I never expected. I don’t know where I’ll be in another decade. I can hardly prepare for the coming week because life moves so fast. I can only hope that 10 years from now, I’ll be able to sit down again and look at how much Minne Lusa has continued to change and how much it has continued to stay the same.

I talk a lot about my experiences in Minne Lusa, but I’d love to hear your observations about the last decade in Minne Lusa or your vision for the next one. You can email me at mattgetsemail@yahoo.com or message me at http://www.facebook.com/MinneLusa.

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