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Urban Planning: A Remedy for American Community?

In an attempt to revive American culture back to the community centric 1950's and 60's, an urban developer in Kansas City, Missouri is moving away from conventional suburbia. In modern suburbia, many of the homes are large and similar in structure to the surrounding homes in the subdivision. In contrast, this urban planner built a subdivision that has smaller, uniques homes that are very different from each other. Additionally, the new subdivision has large front porches designed to entertain neighbors, friends, and family. This plan echos Putnam because it addresses the same societal ill: the decline in American community. This urban planning venture attempts to revive the casual card games and chats on front porches by providing a living space where this is possible. The goal is to create a bond between homes instead of a random aggregate of houses.

On face, this remedy for the lack of community and involvememt is compelling, but has one major flaw. Most modern subdivisions are composed of similar houses because it is more efficient to build several similar houses instead of several differet houses. The benefits of this efficiency are twofold for the comsumer: 1) houses that are built efficiently are less expensive and 2) houses that are built efficiently allow for more houses to be constructed. The creation of this urban planning venture may lead to the construction of simply another wealthy neighborhood rather then a bonding community. Moreover, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that this venture will bridge into the community at large. Rather, this venture may serve to unite the neighborhood but keep all other participation (clubs, leagues, ect.) at the same rate. In conclusion, this neighborhood echoes Putnam because it recognizes the decline in American community but does not necessarily solve for this harm.

Comments

Kansas City is my hometown, so this is interesting to me: do you have a link? I know in the suburb I'm from, they're planning a "city square" type of development that's supposed to harken back to old urban communities as well - it's probably subject to the same criticisms you point out here.

You did a really good job explaing your skepticism that this approach, even if this works for those in the neighborhood, will likely not help those most lacking social capital nor will it encourage "bridging" ties. It is an interesting experiment though: Let's say it turns into an astounding success. Would that mean that governments should consider helping off-set the extra costs of these kinds of developments to encourage more neighborhoods like this? The relationship between physical spaces people live in and their social and political consequences is something geographers are doing lots of interesting work on.

The link, http://www.newlongview.com/
shows how the developer is also outlining the addition of parks, businesses, and stores. However, I still think the concern of bridging as opposed to bonding is still applicable because there is danger of the members of the neighborhood not working in those areas. Additionally, it would expand the area that is bridged and not solve for the real harm.

I agree with you. They put one of those neighborhoods about a mile from my house and NO ONE uses those porches. You don't see people sitting in wicker chairs sipping lemonade and shooting the breeze. I wonder why people are drawn to these neighborhoods if they aren't going to take full advantage of what they have. They pay more for a porch and, essentially, no yard and an alley, but they don't use it. It looks just like every suffocating suburban subdivision.