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Reflections on Living in Greenbelt and Takoma Park

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Mural at Takoma Park coop

Since moving to Old Greenbelt from Takoma Park in December of 2011 I’ve seen a steady stream of others doing the same wondered how they experienced it. So I asked on social media and a bunch of them wrote about their move to Greenbelt and differences they see between the two progressive Maryland suburbs.

  • Missy Todd grew up in Takoma Park from 1961 to 1978, then moved to Greenbelt. “Love them both. TP was a great place to grow up. It had its issues and peculiarities, but so does Greenbelt.”
  • Erik Hanson: “I lived in Takoma Park 2000-2004 and in Greenbelt ever since. I like to say that Greenbelt was more 1930s progressive while Takoma Park was 1960s progressive. 1930s progressive is pro-union, mostly white, Judeo-Christian, okay with police, doesn’t know where its chakras are and thinks Jello is cool. 1960s progressive is more interested in yoga, POC & LGBT rights, travels internationally, is better educated, and has more access to wealth. In 2004, when my rent-controlled house in Takoma Park was being sold, I was looking to buy a house myself. I could afford nothing in Takoma Park and a realtor recommended GHI.”
  • Brooke Kenny wrote “We lived in TKPK from 2006 to 2010. Just could not have afforded to buy a place there.”
  • Beth Kay “JUST moved here this year after 10 years in TP. I asked how it’s going here for her so far.”It’s going well so far! I was lucky to find a house so close to the Roosevelt Center, and that’s made my Greenbelt experience much closer to what I’d hoped it would be when I moved to Takoma Park ten years ago. In theory, Takoma Park is walkable, but in practice, if you want to live within walking distance of a lot of amenities, you have to be prepared to drop half a million dollars on a house or $2000 a month on rent, minimum. But up here, I can walk to the grocery store, the gym, the library, and a few restaurants within five minutes — and I could actually afford a home that lets me do that. A home with a yard, no less!I admit I do miss the food in TKPK. There were a lot of unique places, and nearly all of them delivered to where I lived. Don’t get me wrong, I love the New Deal Cafe, but sometimes I pine for the days when I could order breakfast from the Salvadoran bakery down the road or go to Busboys and Poets without having to haul out to Hyattsville. And I have honestly considered making a special trip back to TKPK just to get Kin Da’s crispy cashew chicken on nights when I desperately need some comfort food.That said, I haven’t had a chance to really dig into what’s around OGB food-wise, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find a new comfort food dish to replace that soon enough.”
  • Hilary Howes: “I’m from San Francisco and my impression of TK was really positive when I got here in 2000 but I liked the weird in OGB better. It’s hippie TK compared to bohemian OGB.”
  • Amythyst Dwyer  “A few years ago I was in the New Deal Cafe and noticed a woman looking all around the Cafe and I heard her say, ‘Wow, this is more Takoma Park than Takoma Park!”

 

Roscoe the Takoma Park mascot, and Roscoe's Restaurant

 

  • Melissa Ehrenreich “I grew up in TK and my classmate’s father SCULPTED Roscoe the Rooster [the town’s mascot, shown above]. Greenbelt reminds me of how TK used to be in the 80s – affordable, green, funky, and diverse. Before it became gentrified.”
  • Ashley Landreth “I loved TP because it had renter protection laws (uncommon) and I was able to rent a tiny apartment in 1999 for an extremely reasonable amount ($625/mo) without needing a roommate. I’d just moved to the DC area for a federal job. It was an affordable neighborhood if you looked in the right places. I loved that the main drag felt like a small town with lots of small businesses.But eight years later my salary was continuously being outpaced by the housing market (Cheverly, Hyattsville, and condos in TP) and I was frustrated. I was ready to own a home and Greenbelt was priced right and felt right. It was a shorter commute for me, yet still metro-accessible. I loved the idea of the coop and it made owning less financially uncertain.In TP, I rarely spoke with neighbors and bumped into people who worked with and loved the proximity to DC power. A turn off for me, a humble civil servant.”I loved that the urban sociologist who helped design Greenbelt made it so that neighbors would naturally bump into each other and chat…which definitely happens in my court. I call it the hive. I have many friends in my court, all of whom have a
    Greenbelt Dog Training in Takoma Park July 4 parade
    A regular Greenbelt presence in Takoma Park’s July 4th Parade.

    copy of my house key—-never something I could say about TP. I also loved Sligo Creek Parkway in TP but found Greenbelt Lake just as beautiful for walking. I also LOVE the Greenbelt Coop Pharmacy. They’re great. I hated my options in TP and the service was slow and terrible.
    “Also, I just adore Roosevelt Center…the pool, gym, theater, library, and farmers market are all right there which was a distinct advantage over TP. I actually swam laps at Greenbelt pool for several years before owning a home here.I could really never have afforded to own in TP, I’m just not in that class of earning power. I feel more comfortable here in Greenbelt where there are other professionals of somewhat modest means. I find them to be down to earth, more along the lines of the people from my Midwestern roots.There are a lot of white people in Greenbelt. I wish there was more diversity.”

  • Sabrina Baron lived in Takoma Park from 1998 to 2008. “I like to say that Greenbelt is what TP has always claimed to be. I think TP must have been amazing in the past, but I moved there just as people with money were starting to come in and frankly, that ruined the town. Drove up property prices and the new demographic does not get involved and give back to the community. Neither do any of the celebrities who live there. There used to be a large artist, academic, and student population, but those groups can no longer afford to live there. I know people who have made great sacrifices to buy horrible houses in TP because they want their kids to go to MoCo schools and TP is the only place in the county they will live.”
    “All of that said, I made a lot of friends in TP who will be friends for life. Lots of fundamentally wonderful, dedicated people. The long-term residents are very special people. But on the whole I’m happy to be in Greenbelt, which had a much less exclusive vibe.”
  • Chris Colvin, who grew up here and has also lived and worked in TP, wrote that “Greenbelt in the 70s and 80s was a amazing mix of great families We all knew each other. The kids played Little League Baseball and Soccer among other sports. We had BMX trails and safe woods to play in. As a adult, Greenbelt is still the same in a lot of ways.Takoma Park has a similar vibe of Coop and Community. The music scene is larger in TP because it’s so close to DC. I describe Takoma Park as being a mix of Greenbelt, Md and Georgetown DC. I have worked at House of Musical Traditions for 20 years and am very honored to teach music thru them.Also would say that Greenbelt has the Lake and Takoma Park has Sligo Creek, they both have Coops, good schools, recreation buildings for kids and teens.”
  • Katy Gaughan “I think Takoma Park has changed a LOT in the last 10 years. I lived there on and off from 1999 to 2015 and loved the artistry, the music, the activism, the crunchy-ness, and the sense of community. I took pride in providing drum circles – first weekly, then monthly, both indoors and outdoors, for 7 years.  But Takoma is not affordable anymore to artists and musicians – it’s almost like a “little Bethesda.”I’ve been in Greenbelt for 3 years and LOVE IT.  I love the tight-knit community here. I love that it feels like living in a park. I love that the Cafe and grocery stores are coops. I love that it’s affordable. I love the small town vibe. I love the unpretentiousness. I love the festivals and wish there were more (and will probably be involved in the future in making that happen!). I love that people know their neighbors here. I love the community living room vibe of the Cafe where you can go in by yourself and either know everyone or make new friends easilyFinally, as an artist and future home-owner, I don’t want Greenbelt to get so popular that it will become unaffordable!”
  • Cara Powell asks, “Can we stop telling people in Takoma Park how much cooler Greenbelt is? They’re all going to move here and ruin it!”

My Turn – Why I’m Happier in Greenbelt
I moved here as a retirement-age down-sizer. Although I loved my 26 years in Takoma Park, life is better for me in Old Greenbelt because:

  • There are lots more people my age here, and more things I enjoy doing. It’s been easy to make friends. I found life in Takoma Park to be more focused on people with school-age kids.
  • Living about a 7-minute walk from Roosevelt Center, I have a lot more places I can walk to – live music, movies, grocery store, swimming pool, library, art studios – .the list of destinations is amazing.
  • Old Greenbelt is still affordable, and that means more diversity in income and education, which I like. Takoma has lost much of its funkiness to soaring home prices, but Greenbelt’s still GOT IT.
  • Greenbelters are much closer to nature here, with the lake and woods in the center of town. And cycling is easier here than in hilly Takoma with its narrower streets.

What I Miss 

colorful homes of Takoma Park
Some homes on Woodland Avenue, my old street, and nearby Sycamore Avenue.

But there’s a short list of things I miss:

  • The colorful homes and gardens in Takoma, where the majority of homeowners seem to garden.
  • A complete and obstruction-free sidewalk system, which I used for exercise and seeing the town. Many of Greenbelt’s inner sidewalks dead-end or are obstructed in some way. City sidewalks stop and start, especially along Crescent Road, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road.
  • Plenty of restaurants in the center of town. Though I get why Old Greenbelt doesn’t have as many – Roosevelt Center is off the beaten track, where it’s harder to support many restaurants.
  • Murals! They’re all over Takoma and DC, too. Just not here yet.
Three of Takoma's many murals
Three of Takoma’s many murals


The Coolest Things in Takoma are Available to Nonresidents   

The famous Takoma Park Folk Festival in early September is free for everyone, as is the Takoma Park Street Festival in October. I recommend them both.

And everyone is talking about Takoma Radio! It was founded by a bunch of NPR staffers who successfully bid for the FCC license and went on the air in 2016. As a low-power station, the broadcast isn’t available here, or anywhere more than 5 miles away. But fortunately the station is “streaming world,” to quote the website. I have it saved on all my screens and often sample its impressively diverse shows – 70+ of them, hosted by knowledgeable volunteer DJs.

Follow Susan Harris:
“Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com and direct the nonprofit Good Gardening Videos.org.”

2 Responses

  1. Connie
    | Reply

    Very interesting and really enjoyed this article with so much insight and sharing. I lived in an apartment in TP for a bit in 2003 and before that Cleveland Park and Dupont Circle and loved being able to walk to things. (That’s how I grew up.) Now living in the far out suburbs (moved in w/ my boyfriend) and really long for a walkable neighborhood with artists, activists, community oriented folks with a library, small grocery store, music venue, farmers market, theater, and mom & pop restaurants – just like Old Greenbelt! I’ve had my eye on Old Greenbelt for many years and when I thought my Mom needed to relocate, looked and researched Old Greenbelt. I’ve read (including this website) and seen enough and talked to people to know that I want to retire in Old Greenbelt one day. It’s more within my reach than TP and it’s friendly, funky, artsy, quirky, diverse, historic, and convenient and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet your neighbors, which I miss. This article makes me even more certain of my dream. Thank you!

  2. Jess Tussing
    | Reply

    Great article!! Don’t know how but wouldn’t it be cool to see Old Greenbelt become a food destination!

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