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Old 03-31-2011, 06:42 AM   #21
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But, I guess I just prefer to have a little more distance from my neighbors. Well, okay, a LOT more distance!
Amen; DW/me feel the same.

Even though we only have a bit over an acre, I could never return to those days of in-town living, along with hearing the neighbor's through the wall.

And if it get's too much to handle? That's why they have lawn/snow service folks. As for now, I enjoy the outside "w*rk"; nothing like getting on the lawn tractor and mowing the "back 40"...
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Old 03-31-2011, 06:59 AM   #22
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Pocket Neighborhoods are the same as pattern #37 - House Cluster in A Pattern Language, published in 1977

The linked photos in previous posts make it look like the designers did little more than implement this pattern. There are practioners who clearly see how other patterns from the book will help turn a common space into a community space, for example: Pocket Neighborhoods ? Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World

Other patterns that would help turn the common grass into a community place are #121 - Path Shape, #124 - Activity Pockets, #241 - Seat Spots and #105 South Facing Outdoors.

The book is amazing. Long before I finished the book I'd concluded that most of conventional design for towns, neighborhoods, streets, parks, homes, rooms and parts of rooms is by people who are ignorant of what features can encourage community or friendly interaction. Either that or they're intentionally designing to encourage isolation.

My favorite pattern is the only one I recognized before ever hearing of the book. If public outdoor stairs have both room to sit and places to sit along the edges such that they don't interfere with foot traffic, people will congregate. It's pattern #125 - Stair Seats.
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Old 03-31-2011, 07:39 AM   #23
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Amen; DW/me feel the same.

Even though we only have a bit over an acre, I could never return to those days of in-town living, along with hearing the neighbor's through the wall.

And if it get's too much to handle? That's why they have lawn/snow service folks. As for now, I enjoy the outside "w*rk"; nothing like getting on the lawn tractor and mowing the "back 40"...
Most of my land is woods and wetlands, so out of that 4 1/4 acres, I'd guess the part I actually have to mow is about an acre. So, it's really not TOO much work. And, as I get older, I can always let parts of it revert to nature, so I have less to mow!

And the funny thing is, even with 4 1/4 acres, sometimes the neighbors feel like they're too close. The house to the left of me is probably about 300 feet from my house. Yet, when the occupants sit out on their back deck and start getting loud (not fighting, just partying and having a good time, I swear it sounds like that 300 feet isn't enough! And, when they first moved in, one of them let me know, nicely, that I might want to watch what I do in front of my bedroom window. Somehow, from her driveway, 300 feet away, she said she could see me changing! And I'm thinking seeing with what? Binoculars?! But, at least she let me know. I had gotten lazy about it I guess, because that house seems so far away, and there used to just be a single older guy who was hardly ever home...geeze, I hope I wasn't giving HIM a cheap thrill all these years!
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Old 03-31-2011, 09:15 AM   #24
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From the responses, I gather that some people prefer a large buffer between themselves and their neighbors while some prefer closer contact . Obviously, pocket neighborhoods are not the answer for those that prefer isolation. However, for those who crave a stronger sense of community and neighborliness, but still want to enjoy the benefits of a single family home, a pocket neighborhood may be the solution. When I was younger I dreamed of living on a 5 or 10 acre parcel and gave little thought to the benefits of having neighbors. Now that I am older, I have begun to think more about the social advantages of having neighobrs nearby and the security benefits of having someone close by to watch my house when I am away. Also, I also don't want to bite off more than I can chew with respect to the maintenance that comes with a larger home. Finally, I am interested in simplifying my life so that I can better focus on what is really important without the distraction of the inevitable clutter that comes with "living large." The "pocket neighborhood" concept seems to address these priorities better than any other available lifestyle I have considered. I've looked at condos, mobile homes, traditional single family housing, and mini-farms in the country. None of them seem to achieve the right balance between privacy and neighborliness that I feel is ideal. Personnally, I'd like to see the pocket neighborhood concept catch on in the U.S. I realize it's not for everyone, but I suspect pocket neighborhoods would work better for most than the typical condo complex, or the typical housing development where their garage door is their "face to the world" and where neighbors quickly surround their property with a 6 foot fence, effectively isolating themselves from others. I think this emerging concept will work well for many retirees.
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Old 03-31-2011, 09:38 AM   #25
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I work for a civil engineering, land surveying, and urban planning firm. We have been involved in several "pocket neighborhood" developments in the Chicago suburbs. Almost all have been geared for the 55+ crowd, without incorporating any commercial uses in the "pockets". It seems like the conventional younger buyers around here have not yet embraced the idea - they still want their big house with their own yards to play in. Judging from what I hear from younger parents, child safety is a major concern. Child safety seems best provided by the standard residential subdivisions with individually owned lots.

The "pocket" concept rarely fits in a standard category in a zoning ordinance, so they are generally planned as "planned unit developments", where the final planning and design parameters need to be established early in the approval process. Dwelling density, street access, and open space issues are generally the stumbling blocks in gaining approvals. Once planned, designed, approved, and built properly, they can be a great place to live. I would like to see more of these developments around here, incorporating more small commercial uses in with the residential.

Here's an aerial view of one of the "pocket" developments we worked on. The residents love the no maintenance aspect of the development - everything outside of the house walls is maintained by the HOA.



To me, this looks more like a normal neighborhood with patio homes... the only common area looks like it is in the middle of the cul-de-sac....


Me, I like my back yard... we have a hot tub... my wife plants LOTS of flowers... there is a bit of room for the kids... we grill on the back and have tables and chairs outside... the original picture did not have any private area that I saw... this picture has very little area at all...


As for living in a condo etc.... I lived in NY for a bit and did not hear the neighbors unless I really tried... a good built building can get rid of a lot of this problem... not a quick thrown up apartment...



Also, I do not have any problem with this design as long as it is an option... if you like it, great... if not, buy something else...
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Old 03-31-2011, 09:51 AM   #26
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From the responses, I gather that some people prefer a large buffer between themselves and their neighbors while some prefer closer contact . Obviously, pocket neighborhoods are not the answer for those that prefer isolation. However, for those who crave a stronger sense of community and neighborliness, but still want to enjoy the benefits of a single family home, a pocket neighborhood may be the solution. When I was younger I dreamed of living on a 5 or 10 acre parcel and gave little thought to the benefits of having neighbors. Now that I am older, I have begun to think more about the social advantages of having neighobrs nearby and the security benefits of having someone close by to watch my house when I am away. Also, I also don't want to bite off more than I can chew with respect to the maintenance that comes with a larger home. Finally, I am interested in simplifying my life so that I can better focus on what is really important without the distraction of the inevitable clutter that comes with "living large." The "pocket neighborhood" concept seems to address these priorities better than any other available lifestyle I have considered. I've looked at condos, mobile homes, traditional single family housing, and mini-farms in the country. None of them seem to achieve the right balance between privacy and neighborliness that I feel is ideal. Personnally, I'd like to see the pocket neighborhood concept catch on in the U.S. I realize it's not for everyone, but I suspect pocket neighborhoods would work better for most than the typical condo complex, or the typical housing development where their garage door is their "face to the world" and where neighbors quickly surround their property with a 6 foot fence, effectively isolating themselves from others. I think this emerging concept will work well for many retirees.

Here is a thought...... it is the PEOPLE that make the difference, not the layout of the houses....


My sister used to live on 10 acres of land close to Austin... she knew all her neighbors and they knew her... you could see 4 of their houses from her house... if someone came over at least one of them saw who it was and if they did not know them would investigate... one of them would 'mow' my sisters land to get the hay... they were 'closer' together than where I live and my neighbors are 15 feet from the side of my house... we do know one well as they have a daughter that is the same age as ours...

So, you can fill up a pocket neighborhood with people that want to socilize or some who do not.... if they do not, then it is a bunch of patio homes where the people live inside and do not interact.... guess what, just like it is today...


PS... my sister now lives on 40 acres in Oregon and also knows all the neighbors.... almost forgot... my BIL lives in a normal neighborhood and also knows all the neighbors... and have get togethers etc.... they just walk up to the neighbors house and knock and ask... 'do you want to come eat some bar-b-que?'
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Old 03-31-2011, 09:57 AM   #27
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The shared wall is only a problem if the neighbor on the other side of the wall is inconsiderate, as far as I can tell.

There is an assumption that neighbors in the pocket neighborhood would be uniformly considerate and wouldn't play loud rap music all night, every night, and behave in other inconsiderate ways. This assumption appears to be based on the idea that due to the upgraded small homes and associated higher expense, the neighbors would also be of a higher quality.

If higher expense equates to considerate neighbors, then a very expensive high rise condo complex with some common spaces on the ground floor would work just as well, or better. If access to the upper floors is limited, then there is no need for anyone to watch anyone's home when they are away.

The high rise condo idea reminds me of my mother's resident-run continual care facility. The common space encompassed the entire first floor and basement, and included a lovely dining room where residents ate together. There were rooms to lounge in and watch TV with other residents, a beautiful, lush garden with paths and benches, a gym room (with a trainer), hair dresser, resident-staffed library, and resident-run thrift shop for selling/exchanging used items.

Everyone knew everyone on a first name basis. Of course, there were cliques that developed but overall it seemed like a pleasant place to live.
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put your own pocket home where you'd like
Old 03-31-2011, 10:03 AM   #28
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put your own pocket home where you'd like

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Old 03-31-2011, 11:44 AM   #29
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I think this emerging concept will work well for many retirees.
Well, at least it's a good way for people to get out of that nasty habit of independence and start on the road toward communalism and the nursing home.

Anyway, if you live in one of these upscale busybody ghettos, what do you have to gripe about all day? "Hey, get the hell off of our lawn!" doesn't strike the right grumpy old man note.
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Old 03-31-2011, 12:24 PM   #30
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With all due respect, many of the replies here seem to start without an understanding of Ross Chapin's pocket neighborhood concept. It's not for everyone of course, but there is a successful market in the NW and elsewhere.

Again, these are not conventional small homes bunched together on a small parcel at all. They are very high quality, very high $/sqft small homes set close together in a community oriented manner, unlike a convetional suburb. The homes I have seen have been mostly in the 1100-1500 sqft range at a cost of $400K to $600K - decidely not a conventional or patio home. I'd have to know where it is, but the aerial photo in the earlier post is nothing like a Chapin neighborhood. Just looks like conventional small home neighborhood densely packed.

It's funny the replies that complain about being too close to neighbors for a variety of reasons. Of course that's a popular legitimate view. But people who actually buy in Chapin neigborhoods are clearly looking for a lot of interaction and community with other residents, it's not an unanticipated surprise. Do you really think someone spending $400-$600K on a very small home would do so without carefully thinking if the community is appealing to them personally? Again the high prices and very small lots probably go a long way toward ensuring compatible neighbors.

Not for everyone, but nirvana for some...
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Old 03-31-2011, 12:36 PM   #31
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Again the high prices and very small lots probably go a long way toward ensuring compatible neighbors.
Is there recourse if this doesn't turn out to be a little slice of heaven? With a conventional neighborhood, it's easier to ignore a neighbor that has become a PITA. With this situation, you're gonna be seeing a lot of them. Can the neighbors get together and vote someone off the island? Buying a house in one of these places would involve due diligence of a whole 'nuther level--maybe have dinner with the entire "pod"? Do they all get a vote? Maybe it's more like rushing a frat than buying a house.
Selling might not be an easy option--this is a niche market.
This might be a good answer for wealthy extroverts who like small houses and want to bond with like types. Maybe another market will spring up for poor folks--mobile homes set up in a big circle. Cars park outside, kids run through the sprinklers on the inner grass circle.
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Old 03-31-2011, 12:47 PM   #32
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Is there recourse if this doesn't turn out to be a little slice of heaven? With a conventional neighborhood, it's easier to ignore a neighbor that has become a PITA. With this situation, you're gonna be seeing a lot of them. Can the neighbors get together and vote someone off the island? Buying a house in one of these places would involve due diligence of a whole 'nuther level--maybe have dinner with the entire "pod"? Do they all get a vote? Maybe it's more like rushing a frat than buying a house.
Selling might not be an easy option--this is a niche market.
This might be a good answer for wealthy extroverts who like small houses and want to bond with like types. Maybe another market will spring up for poor folks--mobile homes set up in a big circle. Cars park outside, kids run through the sprinklers on the inner grass circle.
I doubt there is any recourse, but there's no recourse when you buy any house. You could have bad neighbors tightly packed in a conventional neighborhood, in fact I suspect it would be even more likely with a $100K-$200K home. And we've all seen zero lot line McMansion neighborhoods, and I am sure those owners don't have any recourse or voting on who the neighbors are. OTOH, if you buy a home on 5 acres and decide you can't stand mowing all weekend every weekend (or paying for it), you don't have any recourse on that 'slice of heaven' either.


At $400K-$600K, the owners are presumably wealthy, but they could buy McMansions if that's what they wanted. Frankly, Chapin neighborhoods are probably for well to do green extroverts IMO. I would guess:
  • They like associated with others who are like minded, something you're maybe less like to get in a conventional neighborhood.
  • They like knowing the neighbors, and like the idea that if there's a stranger around everyone knows it.
  • They like knowing someone can watch the house, kids and/or dog for them when they are away.
  • They're probably pretty social.
  • They probably don't like maintaining yards or landscaping.
  • They prefer quality over size in a home.
Again not for everyone, nirvana for some. Both views are OK no?
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Old 03-31-2011, 12:47 PM   #33
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Here is a thought...... it is the PEOPLE that make the difference, not the layout of the houses....
I can give examples favoring either view. When I was growing up in the 40s and 50s, my family was always in closely knit neighborhoods, regardless of geometry, because my father was a very gregarious man who made a neighborhood wherever he was. My wife and I, on the other hand, are not at all sociable, but all the same, we chat with our neighbors fairly often, especially the other dog owners, because the nearby public beach is a sort of common area.
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Old 03-31-2011, 01:07 PM   #34
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During and especially after WW2 the US Army funded a lot of research on Army posts to decipher some of the effects of geographic position in neighborhoods on number of people known in the area. This was family base housing. A finding that stands out in my mind is that occupants of a corner lot will know and be known by more people than those living in mid-block; and those at the end of dead-end streets have the fewest contacts.

So placement of housing does have a large effect. The same is true if you go out for drinks with a large group. If you want to meet a lot of the members, try to sit at mid-table rather than at an end.

I also would like to comment on noise in suburbs, large-lot exurbs, and apartments. I've lived in all of these, and I found that typically given a quality apartment management, apartments have fewer disturbances than the other two. Barking dogs- many apartments will have a no dog rule, and if yours does allow dogs a repeat offender dog will soon be gone, by himself or with the family too. Highly variable in a suburb, and at best if you are forced to call animal control or cops on an offender, the neighbor will hate you and possibly look to retaliate as long as you continue to live there. Out in the country, unless you have 1000 acres or so, it can get even weirder, as people who like here often are not really into other people and some very long lasting grudge matches can evolve.

I like my life to stay simple and relatively unconflicted, and multi-unit housing as long as it attracts quality renters or buyers and enforces quality behavior tends to foster this simplicity.

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Old 03-31-2011, 01:14 PM   #35
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A similar concept of mixed retail and housing has several examples in my area.

The Shops at Legacy

The Village Shopping - Home

http://www.watters-creek.com/

West Village

Probably others...

Doubt that any of these fit the "cheap bastard" budget, though.
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Old 03-31-2011, 01:28 PM   #36
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I live in an older craftsman house with a huge wrap-around porch. I get the community with people walking, and the privacy of a back yard. Best of both worlds, IMO. I live in a friendly farm state, YMMV.
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Old 03-31-2011, 01:50 PM   #37
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I work for a civil engineering, land surveying, and urban planning firm. We have been involved in several "pocket neighborhood" developments in the Chicago suburbs. Almost all have been geared for the 55+ crowd, without incorporating any commercial uses in the "pockets". It seems like the conventional younger buyers around here have not yet embraced the idea - they still want their big house with their own yards to play in. Judging from what I hear from younger parents, child safety is a major concern. Child safety seems best provided by the standard residential subdivisions with individually owned lots.

The "pocket" concept rarely fits in a standard category in a zoning ordinance, so they are generally planned as "planned unit developments", where the final planning and design parameters need to be established early in the approval process. Dwelling density, street access, and open space issues are generally the stumbling blocks in gaining approvals. Once planned, designed, approved, and built properly, they can be a great place to live. I would like to see more of these developments around here, incorporating more small commercial uses in with the residential.

Here's an aerial view of one of the "pocket" developments we worked on. The residents love the no maintenance aspect of the development - everything outside of the house walls is maintained by the HOA.

I think this is interesting. I'll agree that I would only be interested if there were some commercial included - at least a coffee shop and a convenience store (not a gas station). It seems that getting out and seeing the neighbors requires better weather than I'd expect in Chicago. I'd want a community where a bicycle is a realistic option for a few trips.

I've heard of colleges doing developments close to campus where the college is meant to be the connection between the residents. I haven't seen a completed development like that.

One complication is that in my neighborhood we see one another when we're out working in the yard. A development where the outdoors is maintained by hired help loses this connection.

Do you have a name for the development in your photo?
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Old 03-31-2011, 06:03 PM   #38
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On my 40 acres I have Pocket gophers.
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Old 03-31-2011, 07:20 PM   #39
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Do you have a name for the development in your photo?
Polypburgh?
Paisleyville?
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Old 03-31-2011, 09:26 PM   #40
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Pocket Neighborhoods are the same as pattern #37 - House Cluster in A Pattern Language, published in 1977

The book is amazing.
Thanks for the tip. It does look fascinating.
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