September 28, 2016 — This website absolutely gets so many great article ideas from our Members and visitors. A perfect illustration was the suggestion which we had from 2 different members, huntley61 and janeAnn, to explore the idea of retiring in a pocket community. Thanks to all!
What is a Pocket Neighborhood?
The most common characteristic of a pocket neighborhood is a small group of homes and other type residences sharing a common, open space area. That space might be for gardens, pedestrian walkways, shared yards, or something else. The idea is to promote a close knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. Instead of a sterile parking lot as a common area, these usable public spaces belong to everyone who lives in that neighborhood. While the name and the communities are new, the idea is old and traditional – villages and city neighborhoods in Europe and New England (think homes clustered along the green) have had the same thing going for centuries. Pocket neighborhoods exist in a variety of environments – rural, in cities, or even the suburbs. Another aspect of pocket neighborhoods is that they are small scale – maybe 12 homes max (although many pocket neighborhoods might be linked together by walkways). Homes are usually smaller and closer together than in existing towns and suburbs. The movement is in some ways an extension of residential cluster housing, where a group of homes might be built on fairly large piece of property, but the homes are close together to create large common spaces.
Are pocket neighborhoods good for retirement and those 55+?
While we are aware of only a few pocket neighborhoods built expressly for those 55+, many baby boomers are interested enough in the idea to move into one. One attraction is the idea of living next to and relating to people of all ages, not just older people. In these shared settings neighbors get to know one another; children learn to appreciate their empty nester or single neighbors, families enjoy people of all ages, and retirees feel like they have not been put in a ghetto. One possibility for retirement is the idea of building your own pocket neighborhood with like-minded friends. Zoning issues can be difficult, but not impossible. But the idea of shared resources and known neighbors might make that effort worth it (see Cohousing).
Pocket neighborhoods are intentionally designed to afford opportunities for chance meetings – parking areas and/or garages are usually located away from the homes to necessitate a short walk through common areas. Mailboxes are often clustered in a central spot to insure that neighbors have a chance for interaction. But privacy is important too. Homes are oriented to offer several layers of privacy, such as low fences, private outdoor areas, and some windows facing walls without windows.
These highly social neighborhoods are promoted as an alternative to the sprawl, isolation, expense, and commuter and automobile focus of many larger homes in suburban developments. Ross Chapin Architects apparently coined the term, and specialize in Pocket Neighborhoods. One of the first was the Third Street Cottages on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. On their website you can find photos and information on at least 15 of their projects including Conover Common Cottages in Redmond.This is a great source for finding out more details about Pocket Neighborhoods.
Living in a pocket neighborhood is not for everyone. If you crave privacy and don’t like running into your neighbors, stay away. Homes tend to be smaller. And most of these communities are all ages, so if you only want to be the 55+ crowd you won’t be happy.
Where can you find pocket neighborhoods
Because of their small scale, pocket neighborhoods do not tend to attract developers with big advertising budgets. So you might have to seek them out yourself. Audubon Circle in Boston is one, identified by 20 sculpted bird silhouettes over one of the city’s busiest intersections. A small neighborhood in Fife has a pocket neighborhood of 12 homes built in the 1930s. Although only 2 of the communities profiled on Topretirements are identified as Pocket Neighborhoods, we hope more are added. Those include Concord Riverwalk in Boston and Vandalia Cottages in Franklin, Tennessee. You can also search under Residential Cluster Development to find similar type neighborhoods.
Comments? Have you thought about living in a pocket neighborhood, or had experience with one. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.