Greenleaf Terrace Neighborhood Envy

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.  

Greenleaf Terrace links Pleasant Street to Midland Street.  Buses stop here. Your feet can carry you to the coffee shop, the restaurants, yogurt place and convenient store on the corner of Richmond.  You can walk to Newton Square on a Tuesday evening to hear a summer concert.  You could even walk or bike to Price Chopper or Elm Park a bit further down the road.  

Greenleaf Terrace links Pleasant Street to Midland Street.  Buses stop here. Your feet can carry you to the coffee shop, the restaurants, yogurt place and convenient store on the corner of Richmond.  You can walk to Newton Square on a Tuesday evening to hear a summer concert.  You could even walk or bike to Price Chopper or Elm Park a bit further down the road.  

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.

The kids are little now. My husband wants to move when they are in middle school to the suburbs for the schools but I say,’how can I move away from this neighborhood? I count on my neighbors for everything’
— Greenleaf Terrace resident

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.

Greenleaf Terrace is not your usual street.  One can't drive down this "road".  It's actually a pedestrian way between two key streets (Midland and Pleasant).

Greenleaf Terrace is not your usual street.  One can't drive down this "road".  It's actually a pedestrian way between two key streets (Midland and Pleasant).

The front doors of the houses on both sides of Greenleaf Terrace face directly to the public pedestrian passageway.  All these houses have sociable front porches where neighbors hang out and greet the world.  Life is turned towards the walkway and the houses of the neighbors, encouraging conversation, engagement, community.  Neighbors are jointly responsible for keeping the passageway clear in the winter.  No city snow plow graces this little pedestrian way.

The front doors of the houses on both sides of Greenleaf Terrace face directly to the public pedestrian passageway.  All these houses have sociable front porches where neighbors hang out and greet the world.  Life is turned towards the walkway and the houses of the neighbors, encouraging conversation, engagement, community.  Neighbors are jointly responsible for keeping the passageway clear in the winter.  No city snow plow graces this little pedestrian way.

"We have our own gaslights here too!" mentioned every neighbor I spoke to at the community yard sale.

"We have our own gaslights here too!" mentioned every neighbor I spoke to at the community yard sale.

Jane Jacobs pointed to the importance of active sidewalks for street safety and vibrancy.  How do you encourage sidewalk life?  People need reasons to be out on the streets.  Those who live here are not the only ones to pass through this passageway.  Others in the neighborhood hit the pavement to get back and forth from their homes to the stores in the main square.  

Jane Jacobs pointed to the importance of active sidewalks for street safety and vibrancy.  How do you encourage sidewalk life?  People need reasons to be out on the streets.  Those who live here are not the only ones to pass through this passageway.  Others in the neighborhood hit the pavement to get back and forth from their homes to the stores in the main square.  

Unpaved narrow alleyway provides access to parking spaces for cars BEHIND THE HOUSES not in the front.

Unpaved narrow alleyway provides access to parking spaces for cars BEHIND THE HOUSES not in the front.

Paul selling some pots and pans at the community yard sale.  We talked for such a long time that he even invited me in for a tour of his craftsman house.  I sat on his porch for a bit and watched people walk down the pedestrian lane.  

Paul selling some pots and pans at the community yard sale.  We talked for such a long time that he even invited me in for a tour of his craftsman house.  I sat on his porch for a bit and watched people walk down the pedestrian lane.  

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.

See that line. If that line fails, we are all in the dark on this street. You see, we are all in this together and that’s why we share tools and shovel the snow together. This is a shared space!
— Paul, a new resident on Greenleaf Terrace

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!