A grand experiment: Google is building an MVP smart city from first principles in Toronto, and are projecting a 14% decrease in the cost of living and many small amenities. "When you can expect [self-driving] cars to drive at the speed limit and down the middle of the road, you can redesign how roads work". Locals seem to be most worried about data privacy.
Interesting: Dubai is a smart city rife with sensors, trying to make everyone happy.
Critics don't like the lack of privacy from so many sensors, and they're suspicious of tech people's efficiency mindset: that it'll kill the spontaneous interactions that make cities magical.
Canadians view privacy as a fundamental right. Americans see it as a nice-to-have (true).
Data privacy seems core to the messaging success of this smart city, and for that, housing data in servers colocated with the city is a critical PR win. Housing them on AWS or at a Google datacenter, regardless of the actual privacy of that data, would be vulnerable to bad PR. Suggests that smart city teams will need good devops and ops folks.
Wouldn't be surprised if techies systematically underestimate the general hysteria around data privacy. Just look at how derisive that sentence came out! Ha, meta.
1. Joseph Smith imagined pocket neighborhoods in the 19th century, and Mormons have been building around communities ever since. I wonder how much of the Mormon story - both their successes and their culty vibe - are due to their communal orientation? Probably a nontrivial amount.
2. 200 sqft apartments with furniture that rearranges itself is absolutely brilliant. Everyone should have Murphy beds, and as much space as possible should be common areas, and closets/storage could be hidden away. Love it.
3. Large developments are unpopular with powerful stakeholders, apparently. I wonder why the conservationist movement took such issue with this one?
Vermont’s Mormon megacity called off after preservationists sound the alarm
The sprawling sustainable city first made waves in 2016, when it was revealed that Utah millionaire David Hall had already purchased 900 acres in Vermont’s rural White River Valley through his nonprofit NewVistas Foundation. Those 900 acres were part of a larger plan to collect 5,000 acres across the four towns of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge, and carve out a walkable, mixed-use urban development for 15,000 to 20,000 people.
Hall claims that the project isn’t religious, just an experiment in ecologically sensitive urban design (despite its location near the birthplace of Joseph Smith) and that the LDS isn’t involved in any way. Still, NewVistas’ plan for the town hewed closely to Smith’s 1833 City of Zion plan; each square city block would be arranged in a rectangular grid along wide streets with prescribed setbacks on half-acre lots.
NewVistas wanted to combine Smith’s 19th century ideas with 21st century technology and New Urbanist principles. The city would have been composed of smaller villages of 160 to 210 people each on 960 half-acre lots, all centered around common areas, with the villages eventually coming together to form an urban conglomeration that could be scaled up to house millions.
Hall had picked up a total of 1,500 acres in Vermont since his purchases first went public. Now, after the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the four towns and surrounding valley under “Watch Status" on their annual list of the 11 most endangered historical sites, Hall has dropped his plans.
“The charming village centers and idyllic surrounding farms and forests in four historic towns," reads the Trust’s statement, “would be permanently altered by a development proposal calling for construction of a new planned community in this rural part of Vermont."
The move was abrupt, coming only one day after the Trust’s designation on June 26. Despite being met with fierce local resistance in the past, Hall directly cited the Trust’s mention and has now placed his land holdings up for sale. All 1,500 acres are reportedly being sold as one parcel to prevent overdevelopment in the future, though the plots are not all contiguous.
Fans and aspiring utopians shouldn’t be discouraged. Hall has already dropped $100 million on kickstarting a chain of global NewVistas, and a prototype community in Provo, Utah, close to Brigham Young University, is still on track.
The pocket neighborhood movement is a larger-scale community - one based on having multiple cottages around a central common space. In an urban environment it might look like an apartment building with a communal rooftop.
📒 Which architects are thought leaders of the "pocket neighborhood"?;;Ross Chapin Architects;
Pocket Neighborhoods • Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you designing any Pocket Neighborhoods in my area?
Pocket Neighborhoods are nice, but I don’t see them fitting into higher density urban settings.
As Ross describes in more detail in his blog post, “Not Just Cute Cottages", a cluster of cottages around a garden is only one form of what Pocket Neighborhoods are. Fundamentally, Pocket Neighborhoods are about nearby neighbors sharing and caring for common ground. In an urban area, this may take the form of a collectively owned apartment building with a commons room and roof-top terrace. Or a reclaimed public alley. Or neighbors creating a community garden created by nearby neighbors on a vacant lot.
We have a site that would be perfect for a pocket neighborhood. Can you build one here?
While we have been development partners on 6 pocket neighborhood communities in the Pacific Northwest, we are primarily architects, not developers. Our suggestion is to contact a local developer or builder in your area who may be amenable to these ideas, show them this website and the book, and discuss the process with them. We will be happy to consider creating a pocket neighborhood site plan and designs for appropriate homes. Keep in mind that local jurisdictions may or may not have the necessary zoning ordinances to allow pocket neighborhoods.
Can I visit the Pocket Neighborhoods I see in the book and this website?
Out of respect for the privacy of residents, we do not give out addresses for the communities.
How much does a house in a pocket neighborhood cost?
The answer to this question is completely particular to the region, location, quality of construction and size of the house. Prices vary across the country and even from one part of a city to the next. Because of this, any prices we suggest would be out of context.
Here are a few other considerations that factor into the cost question. Homes in Pocket Neighborhoods tend to be smaller by choice and because commons elements cover some of the need. A smaller house can cost less than a larger house just because its smaller. However, smaller homes are generally more expensive per square-foot, because higher priced elements like the kitchen and bathrooms, and fixed-costs such as hookup fees and electrical service, are not spread across as much lower-cost areas like bedrooms and hallways. Common gardens and buildings do add to the overall cost, though the total cost of those elements is divided by the number of homes.
Can you design a house for us?
Possibly. One of the cornerstones of RCA is designing sensibly-sized, one-of-a-kind homes nestled into their settings. It’s what we love to do. While we sometimes work on projects outside our region, most of the custom homes we design are in the Pacific Northwest where we can work closely with local builders in crafting the home. Read about our Home Design Services, then tell us your needs and project ideas, and let’s see if we’re a match.
Can we buy plans for any of the houses we see in the Pocket Neighborhood book?
Design plans for some of the homes in the book and on this site are available through RCA's GoodFit Collection
Can Ross give a talk at our conference?
Ross is occasionally available for public speaking and teaching engagements. He has given keynote addresses and workshops at conferences, juried national design award competitions, and served as a guest critic for university design studios. Click here to see some Topic Titles, or contact us with your request.
In an era long before the Internet, you could gather neighborhood news at the back fence and send your preteen to the corner store for milk. You might walk to work or take a short bus ride.
Living simpler, more connected lives is a goal of many downsizing Baby Boomers and discerning Millennials, who seek a lifestyle that doesn’t involve a long commute to a giant house in the suburbs.
Small movements are popping up to meet the changing needs of these households. Cohousing, small or micro homes, communal living, and intentional communities are just some of the new approaches to meet the changing needs of these households.
Another alternative is a “pocket neighborhood," which is a community that is specifically designed to reestablish stronger community connections.
What is a pocket neighborhood?
A pocket neighborhood consists of a group of homes gathered around a common green area within a larger, surrounding neighborhood—a “kind of secluded neighborhood within a neighborhood." They are patterned after neighborhoods that were prevalent before society became overly dependent on the automobile, and they can exist in urban, suburban, or rural areas. Architect Ross Chapin built the first contemporary pocket neighborhood in the U.S., and has become a champion of the pocket neighborhood movement.
Pocket neighborhood designs include multiple places for people to meet and interact on a daily basis. These informal interactions create a stronger sense of community. Front doors and porches face the common area. Multiple pedestrian pathways encourage walking, and connect residents to surrounding neighborhoods. Multipurpose community rooms serve as important gathering places. The homes in pocket neighborhoods are generally smaller and more adaptable and resilient to meet the needs of a variety of households while allowing the members of the households to age in place as households change overtime.
Pocket neighborhoods are an antidote to today’s unconnected world. They strengthen the web of support and friendship among neighbors. The common areas and the design of the spaces between the buildings are instrumental to making a pocket neighborhood work. Neighbors are on a first-name basis, children are free to play, and residents take part in caring for the common areas.
Pocket Neighborhoods fulfill a need
Pocket neighborhoods have come along to adapt to changing lifestyles:
Families are changing as Baby Boomers experiment with the “luxury of less," and contemplate ways to “age in place."
Millennials are reducing their environmental footprint and rejecting old ways of doing things.
Solo households are growing, with roughly one in seven American adults now living alone.
LGBT families are leaving the cities and exploring new possibilities.
For a growing segment of people who want a stronger sense of community, pocket neighborhoods offer a welcome option.
Introducing the Hill Avenue Pocket Neighborhood
At Westlake Urban, we are in the process of designing our first pocket neighborhood to be located in Hayward, California at 1818 Hill Avenue, and the City of Hayward Planning Commission and City Council unanimously approved the project late last year.
Source: Westlake Urban
The property is typical of many of the properties in our portfolio in that it has been in the Westlake portfolio for decades. The property is currently vacant, but is centrally located – just a 10-minute bus ride to Downtown Hayward and the Hayward BART Station – and surrounded by parks and recreational areas. A small grocery-anchored shopping center is located less than a block away within easy walking access.
Our goal is to build a pocket neighborhood that will add value, vibrancy, and a sense of belonging to ensure that the community flourishes for many years to come.
Key Features of the Hill Avenue Pocket Neighborhood:
A diversity of housing sizes to accommodate a variety of households.
Resilient, energy efficient homes, with adaptable floorplans so residents can age in place as households change over time.
Well-designed common outdoor areas free from cars and traffic.
A light-filled multipurpose community room with views of the East Bay hills – to provide an important gathering place for residents.
Sustainable landscaping including fruit trees and other edible and environmentally beneficial plants
Well-designed, onsite storm water retention
14 of the homes include a 400 square foot room located over the garage. These rooms have been approved by the City of Hayward as in-law units that the homeowners may rent out. In addition, the City’s approvals allow for these spaces to be rented short-term (such as through Airbnb) once city policies for short-term rentals are in place.
We are anticipating construction to begin in Fall 2015 with the first homes available for occupancy in Spring 2016.
If you or someone you know is looking for a unique community like this, we would love to speak with you. Please give us a call to learn more. And better yet, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive regular updates about the Hill Avenue Pocket Neighborhood. We would love to have you join the conversation.