CHAPTER CORNER: CNU Carolinas Talks Pocket Neighborhoods

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Welcome to the second post in CNU's CHAPTER CORNER. Chapter Corner features dispatches from CNU's individual chapters around the country. Hear firsthand about what others are doing to instill New Urbanist principles into their neighborhoods, cities, and regions.

CNU Carolinas Chapter member Josh O'Conner reviews Ross Chapin's concept of Pocket Neighborhoods, and discusses how the idea can affect a shared sense of place in locales with such an abundance of private space, such as Asheville, NC.

Ross Chapin recently presented his ideas on the concept of Pocket Neighborhoods at a workshop sponsored by the Carolinas Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism in Asheville, NC. The event, a collaborative venture organized by the Asheville Design Center, drew over 100 design professionals, planners, and members of the public and focused on Chapin’s ideas of creating a community designed around the forgotten concepts of neighborliness and well…community.

Chapin’s presentation and ideas are interesting in this time of built environment renaissance. Here we have an architect that’s introducing a concept that highlights many of the ideals that Jane Jacobs was so adamant about in her discussions within The Death and Life of Great American Cities while at the same time dismissing the idea that quality development must take place within the city core or exurban fringe. His proposal is simple at its core: we not simply build houses but instead focus on creating a community (matching the New Urbanist paradigm).

What’s particularly interesting about the pocket neighborhood concept is that it creates shared space, with amenities for intentional community, while still providing an amazing amount of flexibility in the overall design.

The idea builds upon the concepts of alleys and joined backyards, which have become instrumental in many discussions of New Urbanist design while working on an extremely small scale. Chapin recommends sizing the neighborhoods at 8 to 12 households making the concept suitable for urban infill development.

Overall, Chapin provides a revision to the concept of subdivision design that offers opportunities to bring together several desirable concepts within the realm of urban planning (including infill development, affordable housing, cluster subdivision design, aging in place, etc.) without forcing development in any one direction. It’s clear that the concept offers a fresh look on how we conceptualize housing. One important linkage that arose at the Asheville event was how pocket neighborhoods can be used with cottages or tiny houses in order to offer a quality of life that focuses on a shared sense of place rather than an abundance of personal space.

There are plans in the works to follow up on this event with similar workshops open to a wider variety of professionals in order to stimulate placemaking efforts within the Carolinas community.


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