The allure of the residence fronting on to a park setting has been a popular planning methodology over the past 20 years. Often, homes with a quality park setting are the first to sell in a neighborhood.
These residences have their place in the market and in a neighborhood that values pedestrian safety and social interactions. However, I often offer a word of caution when incorporating them into a neighborhood. The success is dependent on a few conditions that I have outlined below:
- Frequency: I believe that the success of a home that fronts on a park is dependent on the neighborhood as a whole and how frequent it is applied. I use a rule of thumb of applying this condition to ten percent or less of the total homes in the neighborhood. When the whole neighborhood is designed with homes on park settings, the social interactions become similar to that of a conventional neighborhood. Residents tend to ignore the front door regardless of the architecture and the garage serves as the front door.
- Integration: If you were to apply the above frequency rule, the condition must be integrated throughout the neighborhood and not all in one location. Without careful integration, the unique quality of the park setting is lost and other problems are created, such as vehicular parking.
- Diversity: Similar to the success of many great neighborhoods, diversity of home types and sizes is very important. If the Park Residences are reserved for only one builder or even one type of home, the charm of the Park Home may be lost in the neighborhood.
- Block Size: The block size is always important in designing a walkable neighborhood, but it is crucial in the design of a residence that fronts on a park. The reason is access to available on-street parking. If the front door of a home does not have convenient access (within 100-150 feet) to where the vehicle is parked, you cannot expect the homeowner to use the front door.
The presence of such homes with garages located off of the alley and the front door opening on to a pocket park has been falsely associated with new urbanism. It is true that many neo-traditional neighborhoods constructed on the principles of the new urbanism exhibit one or more pocket parks with homes fronting directly on to them. There are also many subdivisions that are constructed with the park home used exclusively, many of which are falsely marketed as new urban neighborhoods.