A couple of days ago, I traveled to the east side of Flagstaff for the first time. I think it is easy to see Flagstaff as just NAU and downtown — especially for us students. Without proper transportation, there are only so many places we can go but the city is actually much larger than I thought. It just feels small because the housing gods are cramming students in every corner relatively close to campus. Even on-campus housing is growing with the new honors dorm set to open this fall. But that is a whole separate article to write.
I went to the Fratelli’s on the east side, which I didn’t even know existed (I find myself thinking this a lot lately), and I caught myself saying, “This is a different kind of Flagstaff.”
Gone were the large buildings, people walking up and down the streets, and the variety of stores that cater to the younger crowd. On the east side, there were more mom-and-pop shops, smaller businesses and the untouched roads that students haven’t traversed through yet. It was different.
Inside Fratelli’s, there were more local residents, no line and it was on the quieter side. The Fratelli’s close to campus on Phoenix Avenue is a bustling restaurant which seems to always have a line full of tourists and students.
The east side really surprised me, and I think there’s a lot of history and life that can be experienced there. I felt like I was not in Flagstaff, just because I am so used to campus and downtown life. It also got me thinking: What is true Flagstaff? Of all my three, going on four, years, I still haven’t seen all of the sides of the city. I just discovered the east side … what else am I missing?
I know the campus so well I can probably walk to class with a blindfold on. I’d like to say I know downtown really well too. Those are places I’ve been on a weekly basis, but I haven’t even begun to understand the east side and the mall area and all the other hidden places that are harder for students to visit.
I’m thankful I get to experience the city this summer the way I never was able to before. I’m learning a lot about the general landscape and trying to elevate myself to a higher level so I can leave Flagstaff knowing I discovered all the city has to offer.
On the other hand, I can feel the tensions rising from local residents. I can understand how east side residents don’t want me or any other NAU student to “discover” and “experience” the hidden and hard-to-get-to places of Flagstaff in fear that we will infiltrate and build our high-rise student housing in those areas, start naming local places our own and take up all the parking.
It is a hard line to balance.
I acknowledge that students have caused some issues to the locals, but we have also played a part in challenging Flagstaff to grow to fit both students and the local residents who live here year round. No issue is black and white.
Also, it is true that many students leave Flagstaff when they graduate which makes it easy to dismiss and condemn them for the trouble they cause for their temporary presence, but I know a lot of friends who have stayed and found full-time jobs after college. They have adopted Flagstaff as their home and have become neighbors and new local residents. The only reason I went to the Fratelli’s on the east side is because of one of these students. And I consider that a benefit while I experience my first summer here and try my best to understand all the faces of Flagstaff.