I live in the suburbs. I love it, and I also miss living in the city proper.
Things I love about the suburbs:
- Owning my own home (decent property in the city is too expensive for me to afford)
- Having land. My back yard and back deck make you feel like you’re surrounded by grass and forest. There’s abundant cute animals, birds, and great feeling of space. When the leaves are on the trees you can’t see anyone else’s house.
- Quiet. Sound isolation is huge. Not sharing walls/ceilings with people, not having loud street noise, traffic, sirens, etc… Not only does it mean that I can enjoy peace and quiet or sleep when I want, but it also means if I want to play Halo or listen to music at 1 AM (like now) I can do it without bothering anyone.
- Having a large driveway and big garage. Easy parking for when I throw a BBQ. Big garage space means lots of room for toys, tools, and more.
- Neighbors. I’m not SUPER close with my neighbors, but we all know each other, they’re very nice people. We watch over each other’s houses when people are out of town. We loan each other snowblowers and chainsaws. My neighbors kept my driveway clear during a nasty storm when I was out of town. I’m WAY closer to my neighbors than I ever was to any of my apartment neighbors when I lived in the city.
Things I loved about the city:
- Being in the heart of things. The flow of people, vehicles, action. The city has a heartbeat and it’s invigorating.
- Easy access to amazing resources. Great restaurants, clubs, galleries, shops, public transportation, services, etc… Living in Central Square you could walk to about anything you could possibly want or need.
- Social scene. In the city it’s easy to meet up with friends, to find people to work on projects with, to find people to go to the movies with, all of it. There’s a lot of people living very close to you, so things are pretty easy. Try getting someone to stop by to watch a movie when you live in the ‘burbs.
- As sort of a combo of 2 and 3, you’re constantly exposed to new things, new ideas, new places, new events, new culture, new projects, new people. It keeps things changing and evolving and prevents stagnation.
I’ve been reading lots about urban planning, eco centers in cities, watching TED talks (like this one: The Sharable Future of Cities) and they paint the dream of a city neighborhood that sounds amazing but I have never actually seen it. I’d love to though.
I’m envisioning a perfect little microcosm, tailored to suit my needs and interests. For me this neighborhood would look something like this:
It would be in a major coastal city like Boston, Seattle, San Francisco. A city with overall good quality education, solid infrastructure, public transportation, low crime, strong economy, etc.. I’m envisioning a small neighborhood that has easy access to public transportation and ideally quick access to a major highway. It would have a combination of some stand-alone houses with character (either new modern designs or classic older edifices or a nice mix) and some more built up brownstone type row-houses, and maybe some mini high-rises. For anything with shared walls/floor/ceiling excellent soundproofing is a must! The neighborhood would be designed to allow for easy and safe walking and bicycling throughout, and have a nicely laid out mix of residential house, and small local businesses: coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, cinema, grocery store, etc… It should have some nice common green space where you can walk your dog, play frisbee, have a picnic, host a weekly farmers market. It should have a mix of folks with a strong focus on technology and arts. I’m picturing a place with maybe 150-200 people, where everyone knows everyone else. Where you can walk into the coffee shop for a drink, and find someone to play chess with and talk about whatever crazy idea you came up with in the shower that morning.
I’ve always felt if you put smart motivated people together you can accomplish amazing things, and I think aside from the normal benefits this type of designed neighborhood could bring (minimal carbon emissions, etc…) you’d see some amazing things happening there.
I guess I want my house, 150 good friends, a good coffee shop, whole foods, and an Apple store all within walking distance. Basically a mix of Eureka, a Zen Monastery, and Kinetik. Is that too much to ask?