I am a relative newcomer to Munjoy Hill, and that gives me a special appreciation of the neighborhood under zoning review. I notice the explosion of new construction that goes against the architectural “feel” of the neighborhood, but my concern is with what new and expensive condominiums will do to the relaxed, walking atmosphere that is so distinctive on the Hill.

Kids wait for the bus on the corner. Their parents are not nervous about fast traffic or busy pedestrians. I’m 77 and can walk down the middle of the streets when snow blocks the sidewalks without a worry. The slow pace of traffic is contagious.

When I arrive for my morning coffee, most are regulars who have walked there and know each other. I say “hello” to most passers-by on the way to and fro. Traffic is slow and very polite. The local Italian tailor shop flourishes, as do the small food markets and restaurants. Often, I know those who eat during summer at sidewalk tables. This is not an upscale neighborhood – though new construction threatens to make it so.

I have nothing against richer folks who wander on our relatively sleepy streets. But if the density of upscale buildings increases, the neighborhood “feel” will suffer. There’s something valuable in having one neighbor who has lived here for 40 years and another for 30 years and doesn’t need a car because she can walk everywhere at 72. Young parents like the slow pace for baby carriages and letting kids roam a bit on the way to the market or to be dropped off to school.

The look of buildings is important to preserve, but neighborhoods are, too. And “upscale” means commuting and shopping elsewhere, to the detriment of the wonderfully personable feel of Munjoy Hill.

Edward Mooney

Portland