Actually Being Urban Part #3-Working Downtown

For the past three months, I’ve been engaged in my third experience of working in a dense, downtown environment.

Hands down this has been my best experience and the most personally fulfilling. I work to promote the presentation and the funding of humanities projects throughout the state of North Carolina. This means that I get to travel out of the office very frequently, occasionally visiting nice old main streets and the growing, modern downtowns. I’ve met all these wonderful creative people inside and outside of the office. Yet, I don’t have to travel to enjoy my job. Much of my enjoyment comes from being able to work in a dense, vibrant environment. There are three main benefits though to having this job in relation to the urbanist experience.

Benefit #1 is with transportation. With living downtown, I have the option to drive or not to drive. When the weather is nice, I walk the five blocks to work. When the weather is bad or when I know I’m going to need to leave downtown as soon as work is done, I only have a three minute drive to a parking deck which is paid for by my office. I have yet to take my bike out, but that’s also an option. One of my colleagues walks daily, rain or shine to work and speaks of how it helps him clear his head. Another takes the train in from the RTP area periodically and uses the time in between the work and  train schedules to get caught up on work and enjoy bits and pieces of downtown Greensboro. All the others drive, but appreciate being able to park so close to our building without having to pay out of pocket.

Benefit #2 is the variety of experiences. It’s not unheard of for me to run into one of my old grad school classmates who works at city hall, an old family friend on their day off or even one of my colleagues who managed to slip out to lunch before me. And then there are street musicians, canvassers and other out of the box types you don’t necessarily expect in Greensboro. Unfortunately, the vibrancy of downtown is not continuous. On my morning walks downtown feels like a ghost town. Other nights it’s almost too packed out with people. Yet, even when I’m the only one walking down the street, I appreciate the store windows and their event announcements, perfectly styled clothing and enticing food smells making me decide even before breakfast what I want to eat for lunch or even dinner.

My third and final benefit is that our office windows face out to the Center City Park. When I don’t feel like walking all the way home at lunch, I come down here and seek solace on one of the many park benches. A couple of other colleagues are the same way. While sitting there, I bear witness to the true diversity of the people of Greensboro. There are the men who appear to be retired and come down to talk jive to each other. There are the children whose parents bring them to run around the fountain. On Wednesday’s at noon there’s live music and if I stay late enough there’s exercise by the fountain on Monday’s and Wednesdays. Ultimately, the park is a nice break from being stuck upstairs all day, especially since my particular office does not  have a window, nor the downtown view. That’s ok. I’d spend most of my time staring out the window and failing to get actual work done.

As a child, I always imagined myself going to work downtown. I’ve done stints of work in office parks and on campuses. They have their perks, but nothing to me says “I’m going to work” like working downtown.

Wonder how else I’ve “been urban”, check out parts 1, and 2 here. Photo above I took in August of 2011 of my office building and the surrounding park and parking deck I occasionally use. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

  • It may be Monday, but for me, working downtown makes it better…

  • Chelsea Hughes

    Wonderful post, Kristen. Makes me miss Greensboro, a lot. Keep up the good work. 

    • Kristen Jeffers

      Thanks for stopping by lady! Greensboro is still on the come-up as you can see.

  • Zach Smith

    Nice post. And awesome picture of Greensboro. Is downtown the only walkable place? 

    • Kristen Jeffers

      No, the area around UNC Greensboro, as well as on Walker Ave about a block from UNC Greensboro is walkable with a small community grocery. Near our main hospital, we have the State Street/Golden Gate area, which is also adjacent to an old mill village. We have a lot of PUDs(big plots of land that allow for mixed uses, which may or may not be urban in nature) that are “mixed-use” in the sense that they have all these amenities, but outside of the nature trails, do not have walkability in mind