Pocket Neighborhoods – Creating Small Scale Community


Pocket Neighborhoods grew out of the work of Ross Chapin and his colleagues, but the idea is beyond any one person or style. It is pattern of housing that fosters a strong sense of community among nearby neighbors, while preserving their need for privacy. Examples can be found across the spectrum, from small towns, to suburbs to urban areas.

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What is a Pocket Neighborhood?

Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas.

These are settings where nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirttail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate.

Why is shared outdoor space so important?

The shared outdoor space at the center of a cluster of homes is a key element of a pocket neighborhood. Residents surrounding this common space take part in its care and oversight, thereby enhancing a felt and actual sense of security and identity.

This shared space has clearly defined boundaries — beginning at the entrance from the street and extending to the gates of the private yards — creating a felt sense of territory by anyone who enters. A stranger walking into the commons is likely to be addressed with a friendly, “can I help you?” At the same time, a 6-year-old’s mom is likely to feel at ease in allowing her daughter to explore the “bigger world” beyond the front door.

During the daily flow of life through this commons space, nearby neighbors offer ‘nodding hellos’, or stop for a chat on the porch. These casual conversations can eventually grow to caring relationships and a meaningful sense of community — all fostered by the simple fact of shared space.

More about pocket neighborhoods.


Posted on

November 5, 2018

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