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Old 08-10-2010, 09:32 AM
Location: Cincinnati
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I'm enjoying the thread "What makes a neighborhood cookie cutter?" so I thought I would make a sister thread with a truncated title.

To you, what is a neighborhood? Is a cluster of houses a neighborhood? Can one acre lots grouped together be a neighborhood? For you, what are the defining elements?

For me, a neighborhood is an area where most everything one needs is within one or two square miles. Food, recreation, social opportunities, public facilities, work, etc. Having recently bought a house, such a place was more difficult to find than I imagined.

But, I think for others the key quality of neighborhood has more to do with the neighbors and less to do with amenities. What do you all think?
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:58 AM
Location: New York City
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Originally Posted by progmac View Post
But, I think for others the key quality of neighborhood has more to do with the neighbors and less to do with amenities. What do you all think?
Perhaps this is a perfect distillation of the urban/suburban dichotomy?
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Old 08-10-2010, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by tpk-nyc View Post
Perhaps this is a perfect distillation of the urban/suburban dichotomy?
That depends. Plenty of small towns fit this description perfectly, yet most would not call them "urban," nor do they fit the definition of "suburban." Perhaps the "urban/suburban dichotomy" is based on incorrect assumptions?
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Old 08-15-2010, 08:02 AM
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
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I am very interested in this subject and have been thinking a lot about my own experience over the years.

As a child I grew up in a rural area where many of our neighbors lived on 160 acre farms. We knew most of our neighbors within a mile or two of our home. And we were neighbors and generally knew what was going on in each others' lives even though this was before we all had telephones and 2nd cars. I still find it puzzling how this communication occurred.

For some events there would be a larger group of people who would come together. I remember a particular harvest event for instance or a death in someone's family.

Other than geography we generally shared the same schools but as far as I recall that's about it because we were quite diverse in terms of religion, politics, vocation, and other such interests. Yet we were all neighbors and I still consider that place a neighborhood in every sense.

The first place I lived as an adult was a in a little suburban neighborhood where the lots were probably 60 x 120 on average. I knew my immediate neighbors but socialized little. But we were childless then and young and both working. I don't remember that area as a neighborhood.

The second place I lived was where my children were mostly raised. It was an area not so different from where I moved but the homes were a little larger. But it was definitely a neighborhood because we knew everyone on our little block and visited each other often and had spontaneous parties on each others' driveways and porches.

From there I moved to an acreage addition of about a dozen homes surrounding a large pond or small lake. Mostly we were small business owners and professionals and were either childless or had older children that were mostly gone. We fed the fish together and always visited each other. It was definitely a neighborhood.

I've also lived in apartments and condos. I'd have to say the apartments were the poorest neighborhoods I lived in. I knew no one and saw no one and really had no ties. I think we were all in some kind of transition perhaps and that's why we were living there and that element alone contributed to our isolation from each other. The condo was a neighborhood though but it was more settled and permanent feeling than the apartments.

I think the conclusion that is forming in my mind is that neighborhoods are created by people who are each participating in some kind of similar life experience at the same time. And I think it has to something that is more than temporary and transitional.

The question though that I'm thinking about so much is how the physical development itself can contribute to and enhance this concept of neighborliness.

Last edited by flintysooner; 08-15-2010 at 08:57 AM..
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Old 08-15-2010, 08:27 AM
Location: North Texas
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I live in a neighborhood where the homes were built between 1954 and 1962. Most of the houses on this street were built '56 to '58. Back when this neighborhood was built, there was very little in the way of amenities out here. There was quite a bit of "nothing" between Dallas and Richardson, even though the Dallas city line is only about a mile, mile and a half directly south of me. Of course that is now not the case and people hardly notice the transition from Dallas to Richardson; a lot of people don't even know where the boundaries are unless they notice the street signs change from green to blue.

I'm not sure what spurred people to move out here in the first place; I suppose it's what spurs people to move to the exurbs today: nice house at a lower price than what you can find closer in. Now that Dallas's northern suburbs stretch halfway to Oklahoma, Richardson is considered almost urban and pretty "close in". It's called an "inner ring" suburb. There isn't a whole lot of difference between this neighborhood and similar-era neighborhoods in Dallas itself; they look much the same and feel much the same, though property values here are still lower because we're further out than most of Dallas...though some of Dallas is north and west of here. (It's strange, don't ask me to explain because I can't!)

To me what makes my neighborhood a neighborhood is the sense of pride and community that is present here. Most of the owners here are long-term owners, there are some renters but not many; some properties are rented out because the original owners died and the heirs want to wait for the market to pick up again before they sell, or because they just can't let go of the property, or they want to try their hand at being landlords. You can't really tell which houses are rentals until a lease ends and a "for rent" sign pops up in the yard. They usually are rented out very quickly to quiet families who have recently relocated to DFW and are learning/researching the area before buying.

Our neighborhood is great; we have sidewalks, a lot of people still do their own yard work so you can strike up a conversation with a neighbor; lots of people take walks with their kids or dogs; we have a fantastic city park in the neighborhood that is popular with neighborhood residents (and everyone else); when the weather is nice that place is packed! We also have a rec center and a pool at the park. It's all open to the public so everyone can use it, not just neighborhood residents. We are also within walking distance to Richardson's city hall and central public library, and a large post office as well. It's very nice. Some neighborhood residents even walk to church but not many since the majority of our residents are elderly.

The families in this neighborhood are highly supportive of the public schools and of the city itself. A lot of people discount this neighborhood when they are searching because when you get off the highway, almost everything you see around you is Indian ethnic markets. That puts some people off. But this neighborhood also has a lot of mainstream grocery stores, a lot of mom and pop sit-down restaurants, some fast food joints but it's not saturated with them, and lots of little one-off boutique businesses. For example one of the finest sugar-free bakeries is right here in the city, along with some of the best Middle Eastern shops/restaurants in the area.

I love my neighborhood and I don't consider it a suburban wasteland; it's an old suburb that continues to thrive because the city management is excellent, the school district is outstanding, and the people who live here take a good deal of pride in their homes and neighborhoods, and for the most part people here are from Texas or neighboring states so there's not a lot of the west coast mentality here. No offense to people from the west coast, but they are different. I haven't found them to be as outgoing or friendly as Southerners. YMMV. I also love that this neighborhood has a good blend of old folks, families, and people of various ethnic backgrounds and professions. It makes for interesting neighbors and enriching conversations.
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