Choose to Live in a Community Instead of a Neighborhood
It may seem like a matter of semantics, but having raised my children in a community, I can tell you that a neighborhood is not the same thing. Where we lived in North Carolina there exists a camaraderie and a vibrancy that I haven’t experienced elsewhere. If you want to live in an exceptional, engaging place, here are some factors to look for that can encourage community.
Community Gathering Spot
Our central gathering place wasn’t fancy. It was a simple rectangular pool adjacent to a swing set and play structure. The common mailboxes shared the same parking lot. But this small swimming area formed the hub of activities. There was an Easter egg hunt every year underneath the swings, and Santa visited for photos every winter. Tiny bicycles rode through the parking lot for a short Independence Day parade every July.
The pool was the center of activity on the last day of school, with kids of all ages happy to welcome a few months off. The parking lot outside the pool may not have been much more than a blacktop with stripes, but it held a bit of friendship magic. Community involvement wasn’t a catchphrase or a volunteer opportunity; it was a way of life.
The interactions must be encouraged for a community to flourish, but neighborhood designers and developers can nurture the seeds of community when building new homes in Chapel Hill by creating a central recreation area that naturally attracts residents. A clubhouse with gathering spaces and inclusive activities and events can all contribute to vibrant community life. And Wi-Fi doesn’t hurt.back to menu ↑
Front porch parties were a staple activity when the children were small. The kids on the street all came together in the late afternoons with their cruiser bikes, scooters, and Cozy Coupes. There was never much traffic on our street, so everyone spent lazy afternoons letting the kids play together instead of isolating ourselves in the backyards with the privacy fences.
The unplanned social afternoons became a regular happening. The kids could roll down a hill, share a common snack, or just take a break and soak up the sun. Over time, the parents depended on each other while running errands. It was never a formal arrangement, but it seemed like there was always a parent to count on if you needed help.
Neighborhoods can encourage helpful communities of parents by designing comfortable seating on front porches surrounded by lush landscaping. Contemporary style homes with long, flat driveways and quiet streets make it easy for parents to let kids spend time outside.back to menu ↑
Abundant outdoor common and play areas
Fresh air and wide-open spaces offered plenty of areas for residents to roam. We had a small trail system that connected through the greenbelt where people would walk their dogs or go for a run. The trails also made a great place for nature walks with little kids or bike rides as they got bigger.
Having access to the wonders of nature and healthy activities right outside the front door creates another chance for neighbors to interact. It’s an inexpensive way for communities to encourage healthy living and allow residents to connect over recreational activities.
Inspiring neighborly connections is as much an art as a science. Developers can encourage a sense of community by including landscaped common areas, parks with places for parents to sit, and trails that encourage people to get outside. Residents who use the open spaces will come to feel ownership of and responsibility for the spaces.back to menu ↑
Communities, where people come together and build lasting friendships, are special. The physical design of the neighborhood can contribute to making it a magical place full of friends and neighbors instead of just people who live near one another. If you’ve had the good fortune to live in a community, were there factors you can point to that helped make it a great place to live?