Group of colorful cottages with sidewalk in the middle and family with toddler

So, what is a Pocket Neighborhood?

First popularized by Ross Chapin Architects, a growing number of vibrant communities around the country are designed around the concept of a Pocket Neighborhood, which is a small collection of private homes clustered around a shared, community-oriented space. Lively Lane was inspired, in part, by this concept, and our townhomes cluster around both private gardens and a shared common yard. Each cluster of homes is then further organized around a “living” street (“Lively Lane”) that is designed for slow, safe vehicular movement that can be shared with bikes and people too.  The result is a friendly, inclusive community where neighbors can easily become acquainted while being able to enjoy a variety of both private and communal space.

Connecting to the People and Places Around You

New homes today often have dominating, front-loading garages that immediately pull people inside along with disconnected yards that all but eliminate the possibility of casually bumping into your neighbors, much less get to know them.

For many people, each day can feel like a recurring trip directly from house to car to work and back with only a few seconds in between.  Instead of spending so much time behind closed doors, pocket neighborhoods create more opportunities for residents to step outside, breathe in some fresh air, and perhaps simply say hello to those living near you.

“Too often, cars dominate a neighborhood, with overly wide streets that encourage speeding and expanses of driveways and garage doors that command the entrances. Most interactions among neighbors occur in front of their homes, so limiting the intrusion of cars into this space allows neighbors to engage more easily with one another.” – Ross Chapin, architect and author of Pocket Neighborhoods

Lively Lane isn’t a gated community that is isolated from the rest of the town, but a micro-neighborhood that integrates into the surrounding community and promotes taking on the city by bike or foot. Cars still have a place but are parked conveniently around the shared street instead of in driveways that typically consume the front or rear yard of a home.

This site design physically and psychologically opens up one’s access to the City.  Local coffee shops, restaurants, majestic open spaces, and more are just a few minutes’ walk or bike ride away.

Enhancing Security and Safety

Pocket neighborhoods generally also provide an open but semi-enclosed outdoor environment where residents are encouraged to utilize the community spaces, parents feel comfortable letting their children outside to play, and everyone has enough familiarity to look out for one another.

Starting a family in a pocket neighborhood can be a great setting for children to play outside and get to know other children that may live around the block. With Lively Lane’s private rear gardens, shared common yards, and living street concept, there are multiple safe zones for playing outside. Allowing kids to explore the nearby curiosities outside the home is thus less stressful for the entire family.

Having familiar neighbors has many benefits from borrowing that cup of sugar to having occasional help checking your mail or pets while away from home. Organized shared spaces encourage you get to know those living nearby and create a collective sense of security through community. 

Pocket neighborhood with families playing outside
Project: Frogsong Infill Housing
Architect: Durrett Architects 
Location: Cotati, CA

Prioritizing Social Health

Whether friends and family members live far away or even just on the other side of town, getting to know your neighbors can be meaningful. Sometimes, we lack networks that we can rely on when we might need a quick helping hand or have a minor emergency. Lively Lane is designed to be an inclusive community that encourages neighborly interaction and building a new network of acquaintances with those that live on your street. Recent events where we’ve experienced first-hand a semi-locked down state have shown us all how important it can be to have even a brief physically-distanced interaction with other people, even if just once or twice a day.

The Community Shed area at Lively Lane is another area that creates an informal space for neighborhood gatherings while also providing a place for activity best done outside your living space or garden. With a bike repair station, community picnic table, mail stop, and announcement board, residents have the opportunity to post flyers, host a small outdoor meeting, or work on a project. These amenities help out with everyday needs and creative pursuits while allowing for planned or chance encounters amongst neighbors.

“The key to a successful pocket neighborhood is balancing privacy and community. Homes can have privacy while opening to a common space shared by a cluster of surrounding neighbors. Then, like friends around a dinner table, conversation is effortless.” – Sarah Susanka, architect and author of The Not So Big House

Balancing Private and Shared Spaces

Amidst the current pandemic, we have all spent more time at home and less time socializing in public spaces. It is important to recognize that although a pocket neighborhood is built to bring the community together, there is also enough private space to call your own at Lively Lane.

To prioritize privacy, our townhomes have thoughtful window placement, double-wall construction between units, and individual rear gardens with high-quality fences opening to the common yard area and connecting boardwalks. Residents still have their own outdoor space to enjoy without sacrificing connectivity, just with the option to venture out to see your neighbors along the walkways.

In Ross Chapin’s book Pocket Neighborhoods, he emphasizes that finding the right balance between personal spaces and public spaces is the key to cultivating community. Our ultimate goal in building Lively Lane as a pocket neighborhood is to create unique, comfortable homes just steps away from friendly faces and local amenities.

Group of homes around shared walkway with neighbors interacting
Project: Umatilla Hill
Architect: Ross Chapin Architects
Developed: Kimball & Landis
Location: Port Townsend, WA

To learn more about building a future in our pocket neighborhood, start configuring your townhome today or get in touch for more information and we’ll follow-up soon!

Cover image of Nevada Infill Housing by Durrett Architects.