I've passed the road sign, "Greenleaf Terrace" hundreds of times in the past fifteen years on my neighborhood walks but I have never, ever planted my feet on this particular pathway. What made me change my stride one morning to explore this road? Maybe I felt pulled in that direction because I was writing that particular day about neighborhood connections as a way to become place attached. Maybe I had an intuitive sense that this terrace was a model for a well-connected, loving street.
A woman, her toddler on a tricycle and a dog on a leash were hanging out in her front yard. I stopped to chat. She loved living here. Her kids played outside. The neighbors come over to take care of her kids if she ever has an emergency. The neighbors are her "emergency back-up." "Come back this Saturday," she invited me, "We are having our annual neighborhood yard sale and pizza party." I took her up on the invitation and returned a couple of days later on a sunny fall Saturday.
Why is this young mother so connected to her neighbors?
Street and building design can make or break our social ties.
The design of this street is the key reason why the neighbors are so connected.
Paul, a newbie on the street, moved to his corner house on Greenleaf Terrace last year. He and his wife felt lucky to have settled into this Craftsman style house with its intricate built-ins, stained glass windows, antique clawfoot tub and wrap-around porch, but another real plus is the camaraderie of the little neighborhood. He is an energy engineer by trade. He pointed out the shared electrical line behind the houses.
I have to admit it. After my long visit, I left the little terrace with a tinge of envy. I want to move to Greenleaf Terrace, sit on the porch and invite the neighbors over for a game of scrabble. It's always amazing to observe how something so simple as the orientation of a building, the placement of a parking space or the use of a shared passageway could make such an impact on how people relate to each other face-to-face. Design is key!