When Beth Brown first moved to Douglas Street near the University of Utah 14 years ago, there were two families living in a neighborhood filled with mostly university students in homes converted into apartments.
Today, Brown and others are reclaiming the neighborhood, just west of the University of Utah campus, as a place for families and the growing number of children who now live on the street.All along 1300 East, Douglas Street and 1200 East streets, houses once owned by absentee landlords are taking on a life reminiscent of earlier days when generations of families called these streets home, said Brown.
She said her family is the third to live in the brick home, which was built in the early 1920s. Her husband grew up in the neighborhood, and that was a prime reason for returning.
"I feel strongly this is a place to raise families. I want my children to be able to walk to the U. I like the old homes, the old trees. This place has a history. . . . However, there are times I wish I had new plumbing," said Brown.
The change in this neighborhood dates to the 1950s when people began the flight to the suburbs following World War II. At the same time, the large homes became useful as housing to the large number of GIs returning from war and entering college. Slowly the neighborhood became almost entirely apartment housing occupied almost exclusively by students.
During the past decade, the struggle to change the neighborhood has taken on various forms including fights to stop a condominium development. Most recently the residents fought to keep U. commuters from parking on their streets. As of June, anyone who parks along the street must either be a resident or have a visitor pass from someone who lives there.
Residents say that the new parking program will go a long way to helping change the character of the neighborhood and provide a safe place for children. At a recent public hearing, Boyd Wagstaff, a Douglas Street resident, said that over the past 13 years things have changed in the neighborhood and it is now time to preserve the new residential nature of the neighborhood.
Some commuters say the program won't solve anything but just shift commuters into neighborhoods farther away from campus.
Some of the neighborhood changes apparently are paying off.
Young families like David Redmond's have moved in. While outside working, he said he moved with his wife onto Douglas Street a year ago because he liked the area. He believes some of the biggest problems are with absentee landlords, like the one who owns a house across the street. The roof is sagging and paint is peeling.
On his property, Redmond lives in the front of the home and continues to rent apartments in back to help support his young family.
Neighbors say they have and will continue to make an effort to get the word out about their neighborhood. Several Catholic families, attracted to the proximity of Judge Memorial High School, have created their own niche in the neighborhood and helped bring new families in.
In addition, when a house goes up for sale, neighbors have a calling list of families that might be interested. They are also trying to form a pool that could help young families make a down payment on one of the old homes, Brown said.