Michael and Toni Medick

Last residence: Baltimore
Here since: Michael, May 2010; Toni and the family, June 2011

For Baltimore architect Michael Medick, Baton Rouge seemed like a city on the verge of possibilities. Site-planning firm CSRS recruited him to broaden its town planning functions, and Medick accepted. He believed Baton Rouge, which had recently passed a progressive parish master plan called FuturEBR, was on the cusp of change and that it could build on the progress begun downtown to create a highly livable city.

Medick’s wife, Toni, and their children followed a year later, giving them plenty of time to find the right school and to pack up their busy lives on the East Coast. The summer heat was among Toni’s first impressions, but it was quickly offset by another warmth: the people.

“My perception about moving to the South was that the people here were going to be really kind and welcoming,” says Toni. “That really appealed to me because I wanted to make sure the move was good for my family—I relate to the world through them. I have not been disappointed. Baton Rougeans are incredibly kind.”

Toni was raised in Washington, D.C., and Michael is originally from New Jersey. With the exception of a stint in Memphis, they’d spent their lives on the East Coast, but had found its fast pace and pressure-cooker vibe wearying. The who’s who environment spawned by Washington political culture was hard to escape, says Toni. They felt themselves relax in Baton Rouge.

“So many places take themselves too seriously,” says Toni. “Baton Rouge was really laid-back and down-to-earth, and people treated us like old friends. And even though the traffic can be bad, it’s nothing like it is on the East Coast.”

Baton Rouge may be more relaxed, but it doesn’t lack high-quality arts and culture events, say the Medicks. “People are open-minded about the arts and music—this is a university town,” says Michael. “And anything you do for fun is easier to get to.”

Moreover, the Medicks say they have found almost everything they left on the East Coast in Baton Rouge, including horseback riding, ice skating and lacrosse.

“It really is all here. You just have to know where to look for it,” says Toni. “There are hidden gems all over town.

To get to know the community better, Toni, a former architect, began working in the development office of her children’s school, Episcopal High School.

“Kids are an easy way to acclimate yourself to a community,” she says. 
Meanwhile, Michael continued work on town planning projects for CSRS, and in doing so observed Baton Rouge’s potential.

“When we moved here, people would say, ‘Baton Rouge will never become something like Memphis,’ but I totally disagree,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity here that has not even been explored. One of them is our river.”

The Medicks joke about taking their 11-year-old daughter to the top of the state Capitol and hearing her squeal at the sight of the river, which is oddly invisible to Baton Rougeans on a daily basis.

“There’s the potential for more development on the river,” says Michael. “We see tons of opportunity here.”

Locals complain bitterly about traffic, but to the Medicks it’s not that bad.

“It’s nothing like Beltway traffic,” says Michael. “And no matter where you live, you’re only 15 minutes from anything.”

The Medicks laugh about how they’ve traded in the Old Bay seasoning for the Zatarain’s; about how they’ll boil, not steam, their crabs from now on; and how they’ve adapted to college football—rather than basketball—being the regional top priority.

“There is a Southern way of doing things,” says Toni. “Creatively planning how to make others’ lives richer with food, gifts, notes and get-togethers. Carefully dressing for every occasion, including the children—smocked, pressed and monogrammed. (And those beautiful hair bows!) Pleases and thanks-yous. Ma’ams and sirs. Church on Sunday—yes, it’s still important. There is a respect for history, family and culture. Life here seems to be the happy product of a thoughtful community. We feel quite fortunate to be here.”

Something that surprised us: Crabs in Louisiana are boiled, not steamed as they are in Maryland.

Culture clash: We were surprised at how big hunting and fishing is for so many families here. Hailing cabs in big cities, we were used to. But hunting and fishing has been something new.

Something Baton Rougeans take for granted: The live oaks. They’re stunning. Sometimes we just stop and look at them.