About 20 years ago, my now-husband Joe told me that he had always wanted to live in a downtown condo in our hometown of Sioux Falls, SD. I thought this sounded like a horrible idea. I love the outdoors and green space and couldn’t imagine being surrounded by grim, grey concrete and office buildings. Fortunately for me, there were no good downtown living options available at the time. I got my way and didn’t even need to be assertive about it.
A few years ago, when a high-quality, mixed-use building was being planned for an ideal downtown location, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to Joe. Downtown Sioux Falls was thriving with lively restaurants, a uniquely popular Sculpture Walk and an active Performing Arts Center. Now that downtown was the place to be, Joe was certain that this was the right building for us. His long-held dream could come true.
I wasn’t so sure. We talked about it quite a bit. Joe is often right with his out-of-the box ideas and I had a hunch that he might be on to something. And yet, it was hard to get on board.
Eventually, I asked myself: who am I to stand in the way of my best friend’s life dream? I don’t want to be that person. With some trepidation, I decided to be a good sport and give it a try.
As the condo was being built, I reminded myself regularly that where I live doesn’t make me happy. Happiness comes from inside, not from my external surroundings. I told myself over and over: Where I live doesn’t make me happy. I’ve been pleased living in a small apartment and unhappy living in a large home – I could find happiness wherever I lived, right?
So, this spring we packed up our pretty house in our shady neighborhood with wild turkeys and graceful deer, gave away a lot of furniture and headed downtown. I hoped for the best, but didn’t expect it.
Little did I know that this condo would be the best place I’ve ever lived.
The Condo Itself
Because this was a new building, we were able to choose where our unit would be, as well as design the space. We have floor-to-ceiling windows that face north and east that let us watch the prairie sky’s drama. I quickly learned that our view was endlessly interesting. We can see the sunrise spread across the sky’s blank canvas. From our perch on the seventh floor, we also have a good view of pedestrians and traffic.
The space itself is suited to us. It’s spacious and airy, with serene colors. We use every room, every day. I have my own office – it’s light blue and perfect for me. My dog snoozes in my office as I work. I come and go through our mud room and give the dog baths there too. And the bedroom is the best one for sleeping I’ve ever had. It’s tucked into the corner of our unit with great black-out shades, a firm mattress and cozy blankets.
Green Space Galore
One of my biggest concerns about moving downtown was that I wouldn’t have enough green space in my life. Instead, I was surprised to learn that I actually have more green space, despite living in the so-called concrete jungle.
I have taken countless magnificent walks with my dog since our move. We are about a fifteen-minute walk from a historic neighborhood with a beautiful named McKennan Park. Walking into the park at dawn is magical. It’s as if I’ve stepped into an mystical fairy tale with the quiet, towering trees, meandering sidewalks and stately homes waking up to a new day.
If I want a change in scenery, I walk a few blocks east from our home and explore our city’s River Greenway, a heavily-treed, grassy area that makes me feel like I’m in the middle of nature, even when I’m not. Holmes wears himself out as he pulls frantically on the leash, trying to chase the many squirrels and rabbits. When I let him, he tries to climb the trees to get closer to the squirrels that safely scold him from above. His vertical leap is well over four feet! The squirrels, however, are not worried.
More Social Connection
One of the best parts of living downtown is how socially connected we are to other people. Our building is adjacent to Josiah’s, one of the most popular and active restaurants in town. It’s a cozy, spacious and inviting place with high ceilings and a welcoming fireplace. I walk by Josiah’s several times a day and have meetings there too. I enjoy peeking in and seeing who’s there – as early as 6:30 AM or all the way until when they close at 5 PM.
We have a warm group of fellow condo owners. I enjoy seeing them in the parking garage, elevator or hallways. Even if it’s just exchanging a sentence or two with them, I feel the love.
Once a week, we have a condo owner gathering on the top floor of our building. You bring what you want to drink and a snack to share. It’s come as you are. You might be dressed up, fresh out of the shower or in workout clothes. It’s all good. It’s a great chance to catch up and get to know our neighbors better.
Not only do I enjoy all of my social connections, I’m also driving less since our move. I’m in the car at least one hour less per day, now that I can walk to most meetings. I don’t get to listen to as many podcasts these days because I’m not in the car so much, but I feel a sense of well-being and connection to Mother Nature when I get to where I need to go on foot.
I’m Not Always Right
In life, I can think that I know what I want. I can be stubborn about it too. But I’m don’t always know what will make me happy. I think this is true for most of us. In fact, I’ve heard before that research says we’re not particularly good at knowing beforehand what will please us. This has certainly been the case for me with our downtown living experiment.
I’m thrilled with life in our downtown condo. Thank goodness I was willing to be open to an idea other than my own. If I hadn’t been, we would have missed out on one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. And my BFF wouldn’t be living his dream.
Turns out, downtown living is now my dream too. You just never know.