The Nally-Johnson family might not have an official title of Norton Commons Pioneers, but perhaps they should.
When Bob Johnson, 62, and Jeff Nally, 53, moved into the neighborhood in 2006 with their five-year old son, Adam Nally-Johnson, only two streets had been completed in the development. The realty office was a trailer, surrounded by mostly empty lots. But Nally said even then he was intrigued by the vision of what the neighborhood could be.
“We got a postcard in the mail to come to a focus group about a new neighborhood,” he said. “We went and they were showing master plans and proofs of advertisements. I leaned over to Bob and said, ‘This is a traditional neighborhood development, like the one we visited in Celebration, Florida when we went to Disney World. I started doing our research right then,” said Nally.
“Jeff was familiar with the new urbanism movement so he started teaching me about it,” said Johnson. “I wanted a house with character but with an attached two-car garage and closets, said Johnson, something they ultimately found in Norton Commons. But more importantly for the couple, they found a “front porch” community.
The front porch
“Our intention was to sit on the front porch and see our neighbors, and be close to restaurants and shops,” said Nally. In fact, Nally’s mother, Lou, (aka “Maw”) moved to Norton Commons seven years later and is literally 500 steps from the Nally-Johnson home. She loves having her son and his partner nearby, and of course grandson Adam, now 18, who is studying graphic design and photography at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). The couple, who have been together 26 years, were married in Canada in 2007, and adopted Adam at nine months old from Cambodia.
Both men say they enjoy hanging out on “Maw’s” porch, chatting with people walking their dogs who say hello and stop to talk. They also love all the restaurants, particularly Mercato Italiano, and any sushi restaurant. Adam’s graduation party was held at 502 Bar & Bistro. The convenience of available amenities nurtures family time, and makes for tranquil weekends away from work, said Nally, a professional speaker, executive coach and author.
“I’ve been thrilled with the growth in the 12 years we’ve been here,” said Nally. “It’s a relaxing getaway with the trees, landscaping and the beautiful amphitheater. I love that we can walk around and get some of Louisville’s best architecture reflected in the homes and layout. It’s a calming retreat from what happens in our daily lives,” he said.
Sometimes, the family can spend the whole weekend and never leave the neighborhood. One recent Saturday, Johnson had a long to-do list and realized everything on the list was available within a block and half of his house. He did a series of selfies on Facebook, called “Day in the life of Bob Johnson in Norton Commons,” featuring him at the bank, getting a flu shot, having brunch and getting a cut and color at the salon, and more. “This is one thing we love about the neighborhood,” said Johnson, who currently works for an educational organization that helps challenged elementary schools to succeed.
Norton Commons and its inclusive atmosphere
The Nally-Johnson family said they are all invested in being part of a community that’s inclusive – not only in lifestyle but in demographics and socioeconomics. And “Maw” likes that there are many other widows and widowers in the neighborhood.
Nally said when the family moved to Norton Commons in 2006, he was initially concerned about the suburban sensibility. “We’re a gay couple with an adopted child from Cambodia – is this really going to be a diverse neighborhood?” asked Nally. “But one thing was clear as early on as the focus group – the community was going to include all kinds of housing, and no gates,” he said. “It was designed to have people coming through the neighborhood and be open.” Johnson added that he now lives in the kind of neighborhood he grew up in, “where people will knock on your door, and you can chit-chat with your neighbors across porches.”
The couple said they have felt completely comfortable in Norton Commons. “I am pleased that there are lots of LBTQ folks in this community,” said Nally. “When you see your neighbors on their porch, or on the sidewalk at the sushi place, you get to know them. It turns out we’re all pretty much more alike than we are different.”