As we look for ways to improve of neighborhoods, each with its own strengths and challenges, here is a brief look at some of the common elements found in neighborhoods that work.
Examine your own neighborhood… what category of functionality faces challenges? Is it isolated and disconnected? Do you HAVE to drive ALL the time just to get to someplace else for even the most basic ammenities? If you and your neighbors wanted to have a community event or gathering… could you?
The neighborhood is a physical place — varied in intensity from more rural to more urban — that many different communities inhabit. At its essence, whether downtown, midtown or out-of-town, its health and viability (in terms of both resilience and quality of life) is defined by certain basic characteristics. Easily observable in neighborhoods that work, these characteristics have been articulated a variety of ways over the years. Combined, they form what I like to call the 5 C’s.
Great neighborhoods host a mix of uses in order to provide for our daily need to live, work, play, worship, dine, shop, and talk to each other. Each neighborhood has a center, a general middle area, and an edge. The reason suburban sprawl sprawls is because it has no defined centers and therefore no defined edge. Civic spaces generally (though not always) define a neighborhood’s center while commerce tends to happen on the edges, on more highly traffic-ed streets and intersections easily accessible by two or more neighborhoods. The more connected a neighborhood is, the more variety of commercial goods and services can be offered.