Why we love Midtown

Pie and I have been in our new neighborhood, Midtown at Clear Creek, almost two years now and in honor of Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be the perfect time to blog about all the things we love about Midtown. But it wouldn’t be a real relationship if we didn’t also have a few gripes about Midtown.

Overall, we really love Midtown and we are very happy with our decision to move here over the other new home communities we looked at, such as Stapleton. And as far as the home itself, we are more than thrilled with our decision to purchase a new home rather than a pre-owned home.

When it comes to gripes, most of the things that Pie and I dislike about Midtown are either personal gripes due to the particular lot we chose or dislikes that can probably be found in most neighborhoods.

Like #1 – Proximity to downtown

Pie and I both work downtown and like to commute by bicycle, so it’s no surprise that one of the top reasons we like Midtown is that we don’t have to commute far to get to work. The most direct route to downtown is about seven miles and only 15 minutes by car or 40 minutes by bicycle.

We used to have a view of downtown Denver when we first moved in!

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View of downtown Denver from west side of Midtown

Like #2 – Proximity to paved trails

With Pie and I being such bicycle junkies and me being an avid runner, we love that the Clear Creek and Little Dry Creek Trails are literally right down the road from us. When I’m going out for a long, recreational run or bike ride, I like not worrying about the commute to get to a secluded, paved trail. I can just hop on the trail less than a quarter of a mile away from our home and zone out for my journey. The Clear Creek Trail leads both east and west, with great biking options in either direction. If we head out west, we can eventually hit Golden and Lookout Mountain for a fun, tough ride. If we head out east, we hit the South Platte Trail, which leads to several more options heading north and south, including an option to get to downtown Denver without having to bike on any roads with cars.

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Clear Creek Trail

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Clear Creek Trail view near Midtown

Like #3 – Transit options

There is a bus line (the #19) that makes two stops near Midtown on Pecos Street and this is a convenient option for public transit to downtown Denver without having to walk far from our doorstep. Pie and I don’t mind taking public transit and we like the option of having a drink or two after work and not having to drive. Call us cheap-asses, but we would rather spend $2.60 on bus fare than $15 on an Uber or Lyft ride. We’ll save that money for an extra happy hour cocktail thankyouverymuch.

What we love even more than the bus though is the new RTD commuter rail that recently opened up with the Westminster Station stop about a mile west of Midtown at 70th and Federal. This train option (the B line) leads to Union Station with zero stops and only takes 12 minutes. Westminster Station has plenty of covered parking (for now) in the parking garage, so we have the option of a quick drive or taking a 20 minute walk there via the Little Dry Creek Trail (*note – this trail is currently under construction and the project is expected to be complete Spring/Summer 2017; the finished project will include not only the finished trail from Midtown to Westminster Station, but a park with nature trails and a small lake at Westminster Station). The train leaves every half hour during rush hour and every hour at other times. We love this option for getting to work, especially on snow days! Unlike the bus, the train is rarely (if ever) held up by delays.

There will also be another RTD commuter rail line (the G line) option that will open up with a stop about a mile south of Midtown at 62nd and Pecos (Pecos Junction Station). This rail line option will take riders south to downtown Denver or west to Arvada. This was set to open Fall 2016 and is only delayed because of gate issues. The fact that our community will have two train options nearby is pretty amazing!

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RTD B Line near the Dry Creek Trail

Like #4 – Several modern homes to choose from

From my past blog posts, I have probably made it seem like there were no other options for new homes close to downtown Denver, but that’s not true. In Denver right now, there are a lot of “scrapes” and redevelopment happening. You probably can’t go a few blocks without finding an old home being scraped to build a new one, or even a whole block where this is happening, but Pie and I were really attracted to Midtown because it was a large area that was being developed, not just one home or a small group of homes. There’s just a “sense of community” that comes with a big area being developed like this as the home owners go through the same stage in life of joining a new neighborhood.

But more importantly, we also liked that we could choose a neighborhood and then still have several options from there about the specific home we wanted and the price we were willing to pay. Midtown has options from cheaper town homes to more expensive three-story homes, and several options in between. Pretty soon, there will also be another large community adjacent to Midtown on the west side with a whole new set of modern homes!

Like #5 – The people and sense of community

Soon after deciding that we would move to Midtown, Pie and I found out that the neighbors in the community had set up their own closed/private group Facebook page called Homeowners at Midtown (similar to the Nextdoor app, which means it is only for confirmed homeowners in the community or soon-to-be homeowners). Although the page and members have “evolved” since the group was first started, it has generally been a helpful forum and source of information for the community. When we first joined the group, we found it very helpful that other people would share info and ask the questions we were itching to ask about the home-building process. Since we are past that stage of having our home built (and so are many members that are in the group), the content has changed to be more about current issues. In general, the Midtown Facebook page has brought together a lot of individuals that would otherwise not really get to know each other in the neighborhood.

Facebook page aside, the people in the community are generally great, too. We like that there are a lot of families in the neighborhood that are at our same stage in life: young or young-at-heart, physically active, married or about to get married, have or are about to have kids, and in most cases, going through the process of owning their first home. We also have a good variety of people in the neighborhood who are different than us in race and sexual orientation, so even if Pie and I weren’t a white, middle-class, young couple, we would be hard-pressed to not find someone in the neighborhood we didn’t have a lot in common with. Most of the neighbors we have met are nice people who will watch out for crime or suspicious activity in the neighborhood (and post about it on the Facebook group page), take in your packages, shovel the snow on your sidewalk, come over to help you install light fixtures or electronics, or just plain lend you something like a ladder or cup of sugar. Our next door neighbors even helped us haul in an extremely heavy treadmill down to the basement on our first day moving in! It doesn’t get any more neighborly than that!

We also just love seeing people out and about in the neighborhood walking their dogs or taking a stroll with their kid(s), regardless of the season or weather. It’s nice to see people getting off the couch and getting their daily dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D = happy neighbor. And happy neighbor = happy me.

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Grand Opening of Midtown’s “Home Plate” park

Like #6 – Sense of security

While no neighborhood is ever completely safe, even a gated one, we have felt fairly safe in Midtown. This probably ties back to the “sense of community” of our neighborhood, since there seems to be so many vigilant neighbors around willing to help make the neighborhood safe. Not only that, it just seems like we have a good group of neighbors. We have been in other neighborhoods in Denver where you literally have to worry about guns, gang fights, and frequent burglaries.

There also seems to be a surprising number of people who work from home in Midtown that do their best to look out for suspicious activity during the daytime, on top of the fact that many neighbors also own security cameras to help keep a virtual eye out on suspicious activity as well.

And when there is crime to report, the Adams County Sheriff’s Department is always quick to respond to our neighborhood to check it out and they even encourage the community to report suspicious activity to them.

Like #7 – Brewery, coffee shop, and dog park in the neighborhood

While Midtown will never be the next “Stapleton neighborhood”, we still have a modest amount of amenities and we like it that way! In fact, I think we have everything we need within walking distance: beer, coffee, and a place for our dogs to play. A brewery called Bruz Beers just opened up in the neighborhood in June 2016. We have a coffee shop called Backstage Coffee opening this month. We have had a dog park in the neighborhood since Day 1 (*note – our current interim dog park will be replaced by another one on the west end of the neighborhood) and another regular park with a playground and water feature that opened up May 2016. Eventually, we will also have a K-8 school on the west side of community.

We may not have a Super Target across the street like Stapleton, but there is a Neighborhood Walmart less than a mile away and several other store options close by (and in all fairness, the closest Super Target is an easy 10-minute drive off I-36 and Church Ranch Boulevard). I even think that Midtown is better off not having all the amenities that Stapleton does because it means less traffic in the neighborhood from people that don’t live here.

Side note – I think part of our satisfaction in what the neighborhood has to offer has a lot to do with our expectations of what we thought and wanted the neighborhood to have. When we bought into Midtown, we knew not to believe everything that the salesman said (they’ll tell potential buyers that a Whole Foods or Trader Joes is going to move into the neighborhood just to get them to buy), so we were pretty excited and grateful when these few amenities popped up in the ‘hood. Besides, we bought into the neighborhood mostly for the house itself, not because we wanted a house with a community pool and a snow sledding hill (which, by the way, are things that are definitely NOT coming to Midtown).

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Garden/Community Center at the entrance of Midtown

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Midtown’s “Home Plate” Park

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Midtown’s “Home Plate” park playground

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Midtown’s “Home Plate” park water feature

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Dislike #1 – The property taxes

Oh, they are so much! 1.25% of your property value. The higher taxes are supposedly due to the infrastructure improvements around the neighborhood and are likely to not go down any time soon.

Dislike #2 – Being part of unincorporated Adams County

Admittedly, I don’t know much about unincorporated counties and whether my gripes are really because of unincorporated Adams County or some other reason.

For instance, my biggest gripe is the lack of sidewalks and bike lanes around our area. Want to walk down to the new train station in Westminster? Go ahead, but you’ll feel like a hitch-hiking idiot having to walk on the side of the road the entire way down 70th. A similar situation is true south of Midtown on Pecos leading to the new Pecos Junction Station that is not yet open. There are sidewalks on one side of the street (although always full of dirt and debris), but no sidewalks on the other side of the street on the closest section to the station.

Want to bike to downtown Denver with the shortest route? Sure, just ride straight down Pecos… along with all the large commercial vehicles and semi-trucks. No big deal.

There also seems to be a lack of ordinances that the city of Denver has plenty of. Neighbor’s dog barking for hours on end? Surely there is a noise ordinance for that in the books…. Nope!

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W. 70th Avenue (with no sidewalks on either side) between Midtown and Federal Boulevard

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There is only a sidewalk on one side of Pecos south of I-76 and some other sections have no sidewalk at all.

Dislike #3 – Illegal firework popping

This is probably something that is becoming a more widespread problem, but the illegal firework popping in the older neighborhood to the north of Midtown is off the charts. It goes for weeks on end and all hours of the night during the “firecracker holiday phase”. We have learned that if we want to keep our sanity, we should just plan on taking a camping trip to the mountains for the Fourth of July, the worst night for the fireworks.

midtown-fireworks

Dislike #4 – Lack of a real HOA…yet

Although most people hate HOAs because they can be such tyrants, it would be nice if our “HOA” (or whatever is it that we currently have) would sometimes be a little more present and involved in our neighborhood. Currently the HOA doesn’t seem to enforce any rules, which isn’t such a bad deal, but it also doesn’t tell that one neighborhood to pick up the poop in their background that they consistently let pile up for weeks at a time or tell that other neighbor to do something about their three-foot weeds or tell that other neighbor to water their dead lawn (or at least replace their dead grass with xeriscaping). For the most part, we could care less if other people don’t want to take as much pride in their expensive home purchase as us, but when their dog poop fumes are wafting towards our backyard BBQ get together, that’s going to be a problem.

Also, nobody in the neighborhood has really seemed to figure out what we are paying our expensive “HOA” fees for. When we moved in, there were a lot of inaccurate assumptions about what the HOA covered as far as snow removal and landscaping maintenance in front of the homes. There have been several clarifications on what snow removal they will do and what landscaping they will take care of and we’ve completely lost track of what the final conclusions have been since Pie and I don’t have any issue with shoveling snow and mowing our own lawn, but the bigger deal is that we seem to be paying HOA fees for mysterious, or inconsistent services. (On the other hand though, we do have a lot of nicely landscaped common areas like the “home plate” park and entrance to the neighborhood.)

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A spring blizzard in 2016 covered Midtown streets in snow that wasn’t plowed.

Dislike #5 – The people

While the people in Midtown are great, there are also a few that are not so great. Obviously, in any neighborhood there are going to be one or two bad apples, but because of how interactive and social Midtown is, this means that we’ve become familiar with just about every single annoying person within a half mile radius of our home and we know more about people’s personalities and intelligence than we would really like (i.e., the people who like to use the Midtown Facebook page as their soapbox to be frequent complainers or the people who can’t write a post with correct grammar and spelling to save their life).

There is also something about new construction (or perhaps it’s just the new era of social media and people voicing their opinions) that brings out a certain breed of people that think that just because they bought a fancy new home, they are entitled to control everything else about the neighborhood. This has ranged from people strongly believing there should be a community pool to people who think three-story homes shouldn’t be allowed in the neighborhood because they block the views. And then there’s the people who are annoying simply because they think the Midtown Facebook page is Craigslist or a substitute for Yelp, rather than a forum to share useful neighborhood info.

Dislike #6 – Neighborhood layout

The neighborhood layout is probably our biggest gripe about Midtown itself and even still, is really just a personal gripe.

When we decided to purchase in Midtown in January 2014, there were the only two home builders in the neighborhood at the time and it was difficult looking at the maps in the sales office and imagining what Midtown would look like when it added more home builders and home collections. Pie and I really wanted a corner lot to have one of the only opportunities of getting a bigger yard. Unfortunately, the masterminds behind Midtown thought it would be such a great idea to get creative with the layouts of the neighborhood blocks. Instead of just keeping the blocks simple with traditional rows of homes, they decided to make a rows of homes perpendicular to other rows of homes. For instance, perpendicular to our short row of Brookfield Signature homes is a perpendicular row of Century Communities town homes (with both collections of homes being alley-load).

The design of the blocks made it so we couldn’t really get a true corner lot on a street, but instead, we ended up being a corner lot to an alley entrance. The T-shaped alleys that are a product of this design are a nightmare for large service vehicles trucks to make tight turns around (and people in general who don’t know how to drive). As such, every Thursday on trash day, our corner landscaping in the alley is demolished. The design of these “perpendicular blocks” has also made it so we are not just next to one home, but perpendicular to four adjoining town homes right across the alley from us, allowing for exact opposite of the concept of privacy. And while we knew we would lose our pretty view of the mountains one day, we were not prepared for how disappointing it would be for that view to be replaced by the ugly backsides of four town homes. Perhaps the biggest annoyance of having four town homes garages facing our house is that at night, when the town home owners don’t turn off their garage security lights, our master bedroom and guest bedroom are flooded with light that even blackout shades can’t hide.

Not only were future phases of Midtown designed with weird arrangements of the homes, but each phase of building that they “release” always seems to be in a random location not nearest the last phase. When we moved in, they started building the town homes adjacent to us, but left the lots of the town homes and homes across the street from us untouched. Instead of working on the homes and town homes across the street from us at the same time they were working on the town homes adjacent to us, they began building town homes and homes on the opposite, south-end of the community and worked their way back to our area. They have recently and finally finished building the homes across the street from us, but still not the town homes. While we knew we would endure a lot of construction around us, the way they have staggered the building process has made it so we have had a constant stream of construction going on around us. At the end of all of this, we will have likely endured at least 2.5 years of construction directly near us, instead of one year if they had started with the homes around us first.

Of note is that the constant construction issue isn’t just about dealing with obvious problem of noise, but also for traffic and trash from the construction sites (particularly nails in the street and cigarette butts, food wrappers, etc. that blow into our yards). A less obvious drawback was that we didn’t have many neighbors around us for quite some time, so it was somewhat anti-climatic moving into the neighborhood and not having anyone to share our joy of moving in with (especially for us being at the end of a block). But one day Midtown will be filled in completely!

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We knew this view out west wouldn’t last for long, but we certainly didn’t prepare ourselves enough for the view of town home garages that it was replaced with.

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Instead of having one neighbor beside us, we ended up with four town home neighbors and a lovely view of their garages from our yard and kitchen.

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Top photo: Alley landscaping “before”. Bottom photos: Alley landscaping after service trucks and trash day have come through.

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