Neighborhoods vs. Subdivisions

Prospect New Town in Longmont, CO is a fantastic example of a new neighborhood with diverse uses, home types and price points.

 Many will categorize subdivisions and neighborhoods as the same, but what is most often built today (at least before our current Development depression that we are in)are subdivisions.  “Neighborhood” has a warm connotation that feels good and sounds like somewhere that you want to be, on the other hand the term “subdivision” sounds cold and depressing.  Subdivisions are typically a monotonous entity of repetition created for the appeal of a single group of people, density and more often than not, a price point. Neighborhoods, on the other hand, are places with a wide variety of uses, densities and people.  Neighborhoods are places that people are more likely to reside in for longer periods of time.  In Colorado Springs, the Shooks Run Neighborhood is one of many good examples.  With its central location near downtown, many people are attracted to renting a home, apartment or even a carriage home upon arriving in Colorado Springs.  They may fall in love with the neighborhood and choose to rent or purchase something bigger.  In the future, when stability has occurred for the Shooks Run resident, they could choose to purchase a much larger home AND remain in the neighborhood.  This is an important aspect of neighborhoods.  When a resident is in a place that they love and feel they will be there for a long time, there is an additional sense of pride.  This sense of pride does not come to all with homeownership in a subdivision of homes “from the 200’s.”  There is hesitation to making improvements and considerations of, well if we are only going to live here for x amount of years, should we really build the fence, paint the house, improve the landscaping, install irrigation, build the deck, stain the deck, (or your choosing of improvement).  It is very unlikely that in a subdivision without the feeling of ownership and pride that someone is going to offer their time to clean the park, plant flowers in a median, water median trees, host a block party, etc.  I lived in a subdivision in Omaha (actually an area called “Chalco”) where the pride was non-existent.  I am a landscape architect and would love nothing more than to have a beautifully landscaped yard, but I hesitated multiple times in actually doing it.  Costs were an issue, but what it really came down to was after I was settled in after 6 months, I didn’t like where I lived and didn’t feel it was worth the investment.  Neighbors were moving out, the house was cheaply built and I just wanted out of the subdivision.  It was a very depressing environment to live in, “taking walks” in the neighborhood illustrated to me that others did not take care of their lawns either, so I did the bare minimum to keep the grass moderately green.   

The Holiday Neighborhood in Boulder, CO incorporates retail and restaurants beautifully at the neighborhood scale.

 I believe that as people are looking for their next home after our recession is over, they will make smarter choices in considering how long they will live in their future homes and if it feels like a neighborhood.  I believe that more and more people, especially the baby boomers and the millennials will be moving back toward the culture and urban centers of our cities.  The development community needs to understand this so that new products are made available to the demographic who wants to live closer to the urban activities, yet desires the new home.  Chris Leinberger wrote a fantastic article titled Here Comes the Neighborhood, where he analyzes the migration back toward our cities and the decline of “subdivisions”.  Related article by Chris Leinberger: The Next Slum?

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