March 21, 2013

Building Resilient Communities through Small-Scale Living

To build safe, vibrant communities, there should be a continuous effort to promote sustainable methods within existing or newly developed neighborhoods. This focus on sustainable communities is centered around the idea of establishing better land-use efficiency, using alternative green construction and maximizing resources. One solution that has garnered attention is the concept of the Pocket Neighborhood

Developed by architect Ross Chaplin, these neighborhoods are clusters of neighborhood houses or apartments. Currently, there are several of these developments in the United States. A typical pocket neighborhood consists of eight to twelve households. These units are centered around an open space - a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards or an alley. These units can be built in urban, suburban or rural areas. Such developments encourage resident interaction and stewardship in the neighborhood.

One element of the pocket neighborhood can be found in the first phase of a neighborhood revitalization project by the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority. In developing the site plan for the first ten houses on a redeveloped block, NNRHA incorporated an alleyway that is only accessible by the homeowners. Backyard gates open into the shared alleyway, enabling the interaction of neighbors, particularly the children, without having to walk around the block. These new homes, as well as many of the new homes in the surrounding Madison Heights community, used VHDA mortgage financing.

To deal with the growing complexities within the housing environment, having a myriad of tools in the toolbox will continue to be important. A pocket neighborhood is one of many options that can help address sprawl while providing an element of privacy for residents. An important factor in creating this type of neighborhood may be reconfiguring existing zoning codes. 

Watch the video for a tour of Chaplin’s The Highlands at Langley development.
Where do you see opportunities to develop pocket neighborhoods?

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