Como neighborhood offers variety

by Valerie Valentine

On the corner of 15th and Como avenues stands a steel sculpture that sounds off every day at noon, 3, 6 and 9 p.m. This corner marks the heart of the Como neighborhood.
To the west lies Van Cleve Park, and to the east lie small, independently run shops that line Como Avenue. A few apartment buildings and many colorful houses fill out the rest of the area, where students and homeowners shop, study, work and live side by side.
Como proper is the area along Como Avenue bordered by 10th to 27th avenues. The Bunge building — a tall, white grain elevator west of Van Cleve Park — is noticeable from most vantage points.
The park, renovated last summer, boasts tennis courts, a wading pool, basketball courts, baseball fields, playgrounds and spacious grassy knolls to enjoy the sunshine.
In the winter, ice skating rinks are also available. A walking bridge connects Van Cleve to Dinkytown over the train tracks that run parallel to Como Avenue. Dinkytown is also accessible by 15th Avenue, which runs straight into campus.
Most residents appreciate the neighborhood’s proximity to campus.
Steve Anderson, a University student who has owned a house in the area for six years, said, “You can be very close to the U, without being in it.”
Kate Flitsch, a University renter for two years along 15th Avenue, agreed.
“I’m on the 6 busline, which can take me anywhere and is great in the winter,” Flitsch said. “I can walk or bike to school, and parking here is no problem. It’s quieter than Dinkytown but still close to the action.”
Other conveniences abound. Como is speckled with a variety of small businesses, including a variety of corner markets and specialty shops.
Flitsch cites the hot spot, That Place on Como, as a helpful haven.
“I can go around the corner to the coffee shop and study all evening during school,” she said.
Kate Levine, who recently moved into the neighborhood, said she appreciates the hidden-treasure appeal of the shops.
“Smaller areas have little stores you’d never find unless you were looking for them,” she added.
The local business patrons are loyal to the Como shops, despite the presence of the Quarry Shopping Center, a large mall just north of the neighborhood.
Mike Welna, who has owned Rendezview Video for five-and-a-half years, said most of his patrons are local, coming in on foot or bike.
“Business fluctuates, depending on the new renters each year. Sometimes it’s a struggle to survive,” he said.
Situated on the corner of 15th and Como, Welna has seen the neighborhood lose a few shops, but “the diversity of businesses has basically stayed the same.”
When asked about the neighborhood’s low points, many students complained about high rents and unresponsive landlords.
Kelly Nawrocke, who has lived in the area since May, said, “My landlord is good, but I know of other ones who are definitely not.”
Referring to rent, Flitsch said, “It seems to be cheaper than Dinkytown, anyway.”
Despite what some residents describe as mild tensions between homeowners and student renters in the area, Flitsch said the neighborhood is quite comfortable.
“You start to know people, recognize faces on the street,” she said. “It brings a sense of community.”