Pocket Neighborhoods

A pocket neighborhood is a type of planned community that consists of a grouping of smaller residences, often around a courtyard or common garden, designed to promote a close-knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. These are setting where nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can find friends just beyond their front gate.

The difference of a Pocket Neighborhood

A pocket neighborhood is not a typical midwestern subdivision.  Where residents may know some of their neighbors, but likely not the hundreds that live there.  In most neighborhoods, streets are public, yards and gardens are private, but protected semi-public spaces are unusual. In a pocket neighborhood, neighbors have a shared stake in the common ground they live next to.  Because of their watchfulness, strangers are taken note of and children are free to play.  Neighbors are on a first-name bases: “Tom and Melissa live across the way.”  These are the first ones to call on in an emergency, and the closest to join you for an impromptu order of takeout pizza. 

This shared space has clearly defined boundaries – beginning at the entrance from the street and extending to the gates of the private yards – creating a felt sense of territory by anyone who enters.  A stranger walking into the commons is likely to be addressed with a friendly, “can I help you?” At the same time, a 6-year old’s mom is likely to feel at ease in allowing her daughter to play outside. 

Privacy is Key

While there are many examples and kinds of pocket neighborhoods, privacy is an essential ingredient that allows residents to have a positive experience of community.  To ensure privacy between neighbors, the cottages “nest” together:  The “open” side of one house faces the “closed” side of the next.  The open side has large windows facing its side yard (which extends to the face of neighbor’s house), while the closed side has high windows and skylights.  The result is that neighbors do not peer into one another’s world.  In many pocket neighborhoods, residents park their cars away from their homes, having them walk through the shared common area on the way to their front doors. 

The Walk

This relationship between the car door and front door greatly increases the level of interaction among neighbors and strengthens their bonds.  It is the essence of a pocket neighborhood.  For many people, the short walk is not considered a hardship, even in snowy or rainy climates. Shoppers walking from the nearest spot in the parking lot, will walk further from their car to the store door at Meijer, than they will to their front door in a pocket neighborhood. 

Who Lives in Pocket Communities

Everyone!!! Singles, Empty-Nester Couples, Families, the Great Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen-X and Y, Millennials – literally anyone who wants to live in a close, tight-knot neighborhood.  They are not for everyone of course.  People who want a private, independent lifestyle have many conventional housing opportunities to choose from.  But for a growing segment of people who want a stronger sense of community, pocket neighborhoods offer a welcome option.