August 18 2011

New Urbanism and Pocket Neighborhoods: Developing Stronger Communities

New Urbanism, among other movements, strives to make a community more walkable, while establishing a strong sense of community. While the design of New Urbanism communities can create an environment in which pedestrians are more welcome and neighbors can easily gather; this does not always promote a sense of togetherness. For various reasons, providing the means for a united community does not create the expected result.

While many impediments abound for the New Urbanist movement, focusing and developing basic building blocks for a strong community foundation are essential. Is it possible that a sense of community starts with something as basic as the feeling of family and a place to belong?

A neighbor of mine, Linda Stephen, Account Manager with IWPR Group, introduced me to a book published by Taunton Press. Pocket Neighborhoods: creating small-scale community in a large-scale world by Ross Chapin. This book addresses ways that strong communities can be developed and nurtured. While the neighborhoods in this book are small, perhaps elements and examples used to create these communities can be applied on a larger scale, or possibly linked together, to create more viable and sustainable developments.

Of course, some of the current issues such as transportation and employment still need to be addressed, but what if multiple small-scale communities within a larger area came together like cousins at a family reunion? A stronger sense of many small communities might develop into a desire to support a larger unity of togetherness, to build upon strengths and help support one another’s weaknesses.

What kind of sense of community do you see in your area? What do you see as ties to help bind communities together? What role do you see urban planners, architects, and landscape architects taking to support this type of movement?

Shelley Rekte

Shelley Rekte is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, and works within the environmental design sector. As a mother, she has seen many changes in the world around her, as well as the differences between her son’s life experiences and her own. Shelley understands the importance of the environment and strives to broaden her perspective, with the aspiration of expanding the perspectives of others for developing equitable communities. Shelley Rekte blogged for The Grid until October 2011.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 7:27 am and is filed under Architecture, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “New Urbanism and Pocket Neighborhoods: Developing Stronger Communities”

  1. Monarch at Ridge Hill Says:

    Shelley-you raise some interesting questions about New Urbanism. In such developments, having a strong focus on common areas–such as parks, grocery stores & schools–is extremely important. Building a neighborhood that reinforces socializing with the same neighbors on a regular basis will create that sense of community.

  2. Shelley Rekte Says:

    I agree. If people have the opportunity to be among their neighbors, even with something as simple as a good, walkable neighborhood, they create much stronger ties to their community as a whole. In my own neighborhood, I have met neighbors that live several blocks away while walking my dogs. I feel much more secure within my community and have a greater sense of belonging because of it. Social capital should be emphasized during planning and development processes.

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