After decades of focus on larger, more luxurious private residences (think exurbs, large homes, large lots), with relatively little attention to neighborhood public spaces, the pendulum is starting to swing back.
That's what went through my mind, anyway, as I read an interesting story in the New York Times today highlighting how some new condo and apartments are creating common spaces and building social activities.
Once primarily limited either to college dorms on one end of the age spectrum and senior citizens residences on the other, developers are now offering things like game rooms, activities and more for working-age residents as well.
Humans are "extremely social creatures," Susan Meiklejohn, an associate professor of urban planning at Hunter College, told the Times. "I think people in New York really suffer from an inability to really interact with people. And that's what these developers are realizing."
Case in point: Orion, a 60-story condo in Manhattan, which the Times says has "a glass body and a Club Med soul, where residents in anytihng from pajamas to pinstripes can enjoy a taste of camaraderie with their free (yes, free) daily breakfast, Starbucks coffee included.
" 'It’s almost impossible not to make a friend here,' said Danny SiFonte, the resident manager with a buildingwide celebrity akin to that of Norm on 'Cheers.'
“ 'We’re going to do movie nights and we’re going to do book clubs,' said Nancy Diaz, a resident who, in an interview, likened the condo to a cruise ship. 'There’s talk of using the pool for water volleyball. We’ll have Monday night sports. We have a spring fling coming up in May.' "
And Orion isn't alone.
"A six-building condo development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, for instance, which will have its first open house on May 6, has been named Hello and given a name-tag sticker as its branding image. . . .
"The amenities, like rooftop cabanas, a barbecue area, wine cellar, library, children’s playroom and pool, are spread throughout the six buildings, in part to motivate residents to fraternize."
This is what has been so sorely missed in many suburban neighborhoods, not just urban ones. It's one reason why I was so enthusiastic about rebuilding the tiny branch library in Saxonville, because the new library would have included some space for community activities, not just squeezing in, getting a book and leaving. It's why I'm so sorry that Amazing Things is moving to downtown Framingham and leaving my neighborhood.
More and more, people are starting to realize that quality social connectedness requires at least the option of interacting with people in your neighborhood somehow. Without always having to get in your car and drive somewhere, but as a natural part of your day.