February 27, 2005

It All Comes Down To Neighborhood

"In the end, urban planners and residents say, when we choose a place to spend our time, to live our lives, it always comes down to location, location, location.

"In other words, the neighborhood," writes Martin Merzer in today's Miami Herald.

What do people want in a neighborhood? It's an interesting question. Sometimes, I feel that in Framingham, the only time that "neighborhood" enters the political conversation is when people want to "save" their neighborhood by keeping out inappropriate development. But what should our neighborhoods be? What do we want to CREATE in our neighborhoods, not just keep out? Anything more than a subdivision with homes? What about neighborhood businesses, little parks, public meeting places, some kind of civic heart & soul?

Urban planner James Murley lives in an area called Shenandoah, Merzer writes, "which turned largely Hispanic several decades ago and remains so but is proving attractive again to non-Hispanics who crave a walkable neighborhood close to downtown Miami. 'Neighborhoods change all the time,'' he said. 'That's the beauty of them. They change because they are made of the people who live in them.'' "


  1. Good article my town Sarasota just had a conference on neighbhorhoods good summary in the local paper. You can read it here

  2. I know that neighborhood types are changing and people are becoming more aware that
    they can have more in thier neighborhoods that just a house. However, theres one problem
    with all these changes. I wrote a paper title "Gated Subdivisions and thier Effect on
    Crime and Social Networks" (term paper for a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
    CPTED class) and lets focus on the "Social Networks" part of it. Gates or not, there is
    a "have" and "have not" lifestyle being created with all the newer, trendy subdivisions.
    Although I did not do any extensive studies on it, my research (and personal experience)
    indicated that these special communities are re-creating segregation, just like the old
    days. Its not just segregation of those who have money and those who don't, it is still
    racial in many places. There are plenty of minorities who have done well for themselves
    and bring home big paychecks. But they are accustomed to living in a community where they
    rely on thier neighbors and families to look out for eachother, to gaurd against crime and
    to be part of a social network. Although they may be able to afford gates and homeowners
    association parties, they still tend to choose to live they way they have before thier
    family had the money to move "up". So the gated and exclusive neighborhoods tend to be
    occupied mostly by whites and people who grew up fearing crime (which has historically
    been blamed on minorities). Society as a whole is suffering- there is a weakened social
    contract, a "Tragedy of the Commons" and the people inside the private communities have
    a sense that they should not have to pay more taxes (vote against any tax hikes) because
    they live on a private road that is not serviced by local government taxes. This is all
    dividing our communities up (regionally) and in many cases, only the "haves" can get the
    choices of what type of neighborhood they want to live in. The "have nots" get what is
    left over or created just for them and that usually comes along with the stigma of living
    in a "low-income neighborhood". Fortunately some local governments are doing something
    about it by creating incentives for developers, but its developers who have to get on
    the bandwagon too. Thats my 2 cents.